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MHE literary life of America dates from the beginning of the
German literature—with that, indeed, of Teutonic literature outside of England. For the first twenty-five or thirty years, however, but few great writers appeared in America.
The chief poets contemporary with Scott and Byron were DRAKE and HALLECK. Many of the poets of the present day were rising into notice. Bryant had published some of his best poems, and before 1840 Longfellow, Whittier, and Lowell had been recognized as poets of the first order; and Emerson, if he was not recognized as a sage, had uttered profoundest wisdom; but these poets we claim as belonging to our own day as well as to all time to come. PoE belongs to the age under consideration, but his literary career began about 1830. Other poets contemporary with Halleck and Drake existed, and most of them became famous by a single song. Hail Columbia was written by JOSEPH HOPKINSON (1770-1840), of Philadelphia, son of Francis Hopkinson, of Revolutionary memory. The Star-Spangled Banner was the production of FRANCIS S. KEY (1779-1843), of Maryland. ROBERT TREAT PAINE, JR. (17731811) is remembered by his patriotic poem of Adams and Liberty; and the beautiful song of the Old Oaken Bucket is the one remembered poem of SAMUEL WOODWORTH (1785–1842). Home, Sweet Home, the treasured song in all lands, will live as long
as the language endures, though its author, JOHN HOWARD PAYNE (1792-1852), may be forgotten.
WASHINGTON ALLSTON (1779-1843), poet and painter, wrote, in 1813, the Sylphs of the Seasons, and other Poems. Before 1830, RICHARD HENRY DANA (1787–1879) had written his chief poem, The Buccaneer, * and CHARLES SPRAGUE (1791–1875), in 1823, had written his Shakespearian Ode, which ranks with Gray's Progress of Poesy. MRS. MARIA BROOKS (1795–1845) received from Southey, whom she visited in England, the title of “Maria del Occidente.” Her chief poem was called Zophiel, or the Bride of Seven. The two sisters, LUCRETIA (1808– 1825) and MARGARET DAVIDSON (1823-1838), were precocious children of song.
The former died at the age of seventeen, and the latter at fifteen years, both having written creditable verses before their eleventh years. Mrs. LYDIA H. SIGOURNEY (1791-1865) was a popular writer of the early part of the century, and published both prose and poetry.
JOSEPH RODMAN DRAKE (1795–1820), whose birth and death exactly coincide with the English poet Keats, resembled, in some respects, that short-lived poet. His fancy, however, was more delicate in its play, and quite as luxuriant, as is evidenced in his exquisite poem, The Culprit Fay. He is best known by his patriotic poem, The American Flag, familiar to every reader. The Culprit Fay is a poem of some length, detailing with minuteness the punishment of the Fairy, whose offence was loving an earth-born maiden. The fairy court assemble to pass judgment on the tiny Ouphe. Delicately and consistently the habitat of fairydom is portrayed, and never more delightful interest could be aroused than that with which we follow the little “culprit” through his assigned tasks of penance, so exquisitely performed. The whole story, while maintaining its unity of diminutiveness, is invested with such
* Neither Dana nor Halleck wrote much after they were forty-five.
+" The Culprit Fay arose out of a conversation in the summer of 1819, in which Drake, Cooper, and Halleck were speaking of the Scottish streams and their adaptation to the uses of poetry by their numerous romantic associations. Cooper and Halleck maintained that our own rivers furnished no such capabilities, while Drake, as usual, took the opposite side of the argument, and, to make his position good, produced in three days The Culprit Fay.”
human interest, that it is truly one of the most delightful fairy stories in the language.
FITZ-GREENE HALLECK (1795–1867), the intimate friend and associate of Drake, won his literary renown within the period which this chapter covers. He wrote but little more than Drake. Like his contemporary Byron, his interests were warmly roused for the Greeks in their struggle to throw off the Turkish yoke, and his immortal lyric, Marco Bozzaris, commemorates the death of that hero in 1823. Halleck first drew public attention in 1819 by a series of humorous and satirical poems, published in conjunction with his friend Drake under the signature of “Croaker & Co.” These papers made their appearance in 1819 in the “Evening Post.” The chief poems of Halleck after Marco Bozzaris are his Lines on Burns, one of the finest of the many tributes to that poet: Alnwick Castle, celebrating “the Percy's high-born race;" Fanny, a satire on the fashionable literary and political enthusiasm of the day; Red Jacket and Twilight, the latter published in the “Evening Post” in 1818. His tribute to his friend Drake, two lines of which have become the current language of endearing praise, was written on the death of that poet. * Halleck wrote little or nothing after 1827, and thirty-two poems comprise his works. Born in Connecticut, he resided most of his life in New York, and becoming clerk in a banking-house, was afterwards associated with John Jacob Astor.
The brief and fitful life of EDGAR ALLAN POE (1811-1849) had in it some points of resemblance to Byron's. Left an orphan at an early age, he was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Allan, of Richmond, Va., who bestowed upon him their name and affection. Petulant, self-willed, and proud, he early wrested himself from all control. His wandering, dissipated life presents few attractive features. His genius was of a high and rare order, and his productions weird and unnatural. He was a master of melody, but while his poems pleased the ear and fancy they seldom touched the heart, except to call forth pity
*Green be the turf above thee,
Friend of my better days!
Nor named thee but to praise.
for a gifted mind, "like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh." His stories are more weird even than his poetry, and possess a peculiar fascination. Poe also wrote literary criticisms, but they were frequently marred with petty jealousies. His principal poems are The Raven, The Bells, Ulalume, Annabel Lee, The Haunted Palace, etc. Among his tales are The Gold Bug, A MS. Found in a Bottle, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, The Murder in the Rue Morgue, etc., etc. Poe also edited “ The Southern Literary Messenger," ” “The Gentleman's Magazine,” “Graham's Magazine,” etc.
Among the poets of this time was N. P. WILLIS (1806-1867), whose smoothness of versification somewhat resembles Moore's. His Scriptural poems contain his finest strains, He represented in himself a certain phase of society that existed at the time in New York, which his minor poems also reflect. GEORGE P. MORRIS (1802–1864), “the song writer of America," was associated with N. P. Willis. Together they edited the “Home Journal” and the New York Mirror.” Morris's songs are familiar to all, especially My Mother's Bible; Woodman, Spare that Tree; Long Time Ago, The Rock of the Pilgrims, Near the Lake where drooped the Willow, etc. He also wrote a drama, Briar Cliff, and an opera, The Maid of Saxony.
ALFRED B. STREET (1811 —-) has hardly been excelled in his pictures of forest life. He has written much prose and poetry, but is best known by his Gray Forest Eagle and the Lost Hunter. Frontenac is a metrical romance. A later work, published in 1864, Forest Pictures in the Adirondacs, shows his great love for forest trees.
MRS. FRANCES OSGOOD (1812-1850), of Massachusetts, and MRS. AMELIA B. WELBY (1811-1851), of Louisville, Ky., were highly praised by Poe. The Labor song of Mrs. Osgood deserves to live; so, also, does The Rainbow by Mrs. Welby. MRs. HANNAI F. GOULD (1789-1865), of Vermont, wrote some excellent poems, among them The Frost, A Name in the Sand, etc. For one poem, Milton's Prayer for Patience, ELIZABETH LLOYD HOWELL, of Philadelphia, deserves mention.
JOHN PIERPONT (1785-1866) is less known by his longest poem, The Airs of Palestine, than by his shorter lyrics, Passing Away, My Child, The Battle-Field, etc. Many of his poems
are on the leading topics of the day, Temperance, War, and Slavery. JAMES GATES PERCIVAL (1795–1856), a scholar and poet, was remarkable for his descriptive power, and for a peculiar richness and delicacy of fancy. His Coral Grove is a fine example.
The Drama and Novel.
The drama has never taken distinct root upon American soil. Too much of earnest reality surrounded the settlers of this country for them to embody in a play the great drama they were themselves enacting. A few plays were, however, written. MRS. MERCY WARREN, already mentioned in the Revolutionary period, wrote satirical tragedies ; and Mrs. SUSANNA Rowson (1761-1824), author of the once popular novel, Charlotte Temple, wrote several comedies.*
JAMES A. HILLHOUSE (1789-1841) published in 1820 his Percy's Masque, a Drama in Fire Acts. His best known drama is Haulud, the story of a Syrian prince contemporary with King David. He also wrote Demetria, a Tragedy in Five Acts, founded on an Italian story of love and jealousy.
Join HOWARD PAYNE, the author of Home, Sweet Home, wrote a number of plays, having at an early age gone upon the stage. JOHN NEAL (1793 — -), besides tales, novels, etc., wrote several Plays.
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN (1771-1810), born in Philadelphia, was the first novelist of any note in America ; the first writer, also, who made literature a profession. His novel, Wieland, made its appearance in 1798, and was followed in rapid succession by Ormond, Arthur Mervyn, Edgar Huntley, Clara Howard, Jane Talbot, Sky-Walk, or the Man Unknown to Himself. His novels are of the “terrific school.” Arthur Mervyn, said to be his best, contains scenes descriptive of the terrible year of the yellow fever in Philadelphia, 1793.
JAMES FENNIMORE COOPER (1789-1851) will hold a perma
* This lady was of English birth, but came to America when seven years of age. Three years of her life she was an actress in Boston and Philadelphia. She wrote a great number of novels and plays.