Jessie Belle Rittenhouse


Biography of Jessie Belle Rittenhouse

Jessie Belle Rittenhouse Scollard (1869–1948), daughter of John Edward and Mary (MacArthur) Rittenhouse, was a literary critic, compiler of anthologies, and poet. After graduating in 1890 from Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima, New York, Rittenhouse taught school in Cairo, Illinois and Grand Haven, Michigan. Her literary career began with book reviews in Buffalo and Rochester, New York, and led to a year as a reporter for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in 1894. In 1899 she moved to Boston to begin her literary career in earnest. From 1905 to 1915 Rittenhouse lived in New York City, where she was poetry reviewer for the New York Times Review of Books. From 1914 to 1924 she conducted lecture tours. In 1914 Rittenhouse helped to found the Poetry Society of America, of which she was secretary for 10 yrs.

Rittenhouse married fellow poet Clinton Scollard in 1924.

In the course of her career, Rittenhouse corresponded with numerous contemporary poets, such as John Myers O'Hara, Margaret Widdemer, and Arthur Guiterman. Her poems were set to music by many composers, including Samuel Barber, Noble Cain, Alice Reber Fish, Ethel Glenn Hier, Kirke Mechem, Frederick W. Vanderpool, Wintter Watts, and especially David Wendel Guion.

Late in her career, Rittenhouse moved to Winter Haven, Florida and became associated with Rollins College, where she was a lecturer in poetry.

The Poetry Society of America presented Rittenhouse the first Robert Frost Medal in 1930.

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Debt

My debt to you, Belovéd,
Is one I cannot pay
In any coin of any realm
On any reckoning day;

For where is he shall figure
The debt, when all is said,
To one who makes you dream again
When all the dreams were dead?

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