The Materialistic Maiden

Where I sip coffee and judge everyone.

Month: August, 2017

“Weel, Fitz, I’m here”—On Joseph Rodman Drake’s Scottish epistle, written for Fitz-Greene Halleck

For the past several weeks I have had a single poem running over and over through my mind. Because these lines have haunted me relentlessly, night and day, I feel compelled to share them. However, before we read the piece, I must provide context for the poem and its author.

“A Poet’s Epistle,” written by Joseph Rodman Drake, stems from an epistle written by Drake to his very good friend, Fitz-Greene Halleck, while abroad in Scotland. Drake, a young poet who died at age 25, acquainted himself with Halleck during Autumn of 1812, and the two “became devoted friends” very quickly, according to James Grant Wilson in his book, Life and Letters of Fitz-Greene Halleck (163). Their friendship was further solidified during the year 1813, “when Halleck, in the course of a conversation on the delights of another world, fancifully remarked that it would be heaven to ‘lounge upon the rainbow and read Tom Campbell.’ Drake was delighted with the thought, and from that hour the two poets maintained a friendship only severed by death” (163). Their friendship is furthermore evinced by the deep-rooted, brotherly love they shared, as, upon Drake’s untimely death, Fitz-Greene stated, “There will be less sunshine for me hereafter” (163). This weighted statement, paired with a poem written by Halleck and dedicated to Drake, entitled “On the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake”, showcases the profound grief that Fitz-Greene felt over the loss of Drake and provides for the reader a mere glimpse of their tragic and unabiding friendship.

Regarding “A Poet’s Epistle,” the poem seems to have made its public debut in volume 6 of the American Monthly Magazine, preceded by the following statement, “Not the least attractive pieces in this volume are those which record the intercourse of this ‘Castor and Pollux of Quizzers,’ as they were dubbed in those days when Croaker & Co. kept the town continually upon a broad grin. The ease, humour, and occasional flashes of true poetry which characterise the following epistle to Mr. Halleck, remind us of some of the happiest sallies of the Croakers…” (74). Wilson’s Life and Letters of Fitz-Greene Halleck provides even more context for the poem, as he explains, “In the spring of 1818, Dr. and Mrs. Drake, with DeKay, visited Europe….During their foreign tour, Halleck received the following poetical epistles, written by his friend Joseph Rodman Drake. The one dated May first is certainly remarkable as being the production of an American who had not been ten days in Scotland” (197-198).

Although both Wilson and the American Monthly Magazine provide slightly differing transcriptions of the poem, the one I have transcribed is borrowed from The New-York Book of Poetry, edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman, pp. 37-39.

A Poet’s Epistle.
[Written in Scotland to Fitz-Greene Halleck, Esq.]
By J. R. Drake.

Weel, Fitz, I’m here; the mair’s the pity,
I’ll wad ye curse the vera city
From which I write a braid Scots ditty
Afore I learn it;
But gif ye canna mak it suit ye,
Ye ken ye’ll burn it.

My grunzie’s got a twist until it
Thae damn’d Scotch aighs sae stuff and fill it
I doubt, wi’ a’ my doctor skill, it
‘ll keep the gait,
Not e’en my pen can scratch a billet
And write it straight.

Ye’re aiblins thinking to forgather
Wi’ a hale sheet, of muir and heather
O’ burns, and braes, and sic like blether,
To you a feast;
But stop! ye will not light on either
This time at least.

Noo stir your bries a wee and ferlie,
Then drap your lip and glower surly;
Troth! gif ye do, I’ll tell ye fairly,
Ye’ll no be right;
We’ve made our jaunt a bit too early
For sic a sight.

What it may be when summer deeds
Muir shaw and brae, wi’ bonnie weeds
Sprinkling the gowan on the meads
And broomy knowes,
I dinna ken; but now the meads
Scarce keep the cows.

For trees, puir Scotia’s sadly scanted,
A few bit pines and larches planted,
And thae, wee, knurlie, blastic, stuntit
As e’er thou sawest;
Row but a sma’ turf fence anent it,
Hech! there’s a forest.

For streams, ye’ll find a puny puddle
That would na float a shull bairn’s coble,
A cripple stool might near hand hobble
Dry-baughted ever;
Some whinstone crags to mak’ it bubble,
And there’s a river.

And then their cauld and reekie skies,
They luke ower dull to Yankee eyes;
The sun ye’d ken na if he’s rise
Amaist the day;
Just a noon blink that hardly dries
The dewy brae.

Yet leeze auld Scotland on her women,
Ilk sonzie lass and noble yeoman,
For luver’s heart or blade of foeman
O’er baith victorious;
E’en common sense, that plant uncommon,
Grows bright and glorious.

Fecks but my pen has skelp’d alang,
I’ve whistled out an unco sang
‘Bout folk I ha’ na been amang
Twa days as yet;
But, faith, the farther that I gang
The mair ye’ll get.

Sae sharpen up your lugs, for soon
I’ll tread the hazelly braes o’ Doon,
See Mungo’s well, and set my shoon
Where i’ the dark
Bauld Tammie keek’d, the drunken loon,
At cutty sark.

And I shall tread the hallowed bourne
Where Wallace blew his bugle-horn
O’er Edward’s banner, stained and torn.
What Yankee bluid
But feels its free pulse leap and burn
Where Wallace stood!

But pouk my pen! I find I’m droppin
My braw Scots style to English loppin;
I fear amaist that ye’ll be hoppin
I’d quit it quite:
If so, I e’en must think o’ stopping,
And sae, gude night.

*Note: Line one of stanza one states, “The mair’s the pity,” which may reference Sir Walter Scott’s The Black Dwarf, as the line is found verbatim here.

On Edward L. Carey, publisher and partner of Carey & Hart

The other day, I was curiously perusing the internet for photographic/painted/engraved evidence of publishers from the nineteenth-century—consider Ticknor and Fields and Baker and Scribner, two publishing houses well known for publishing such authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne (the former) and Charles Fenno Hoffman (latter). However, one other publishing house has stuck out to me as of late, being Carey & Hart; thus, I took to finding out what I could about these two men. However, while delving into my research, I stumbled across a portrait of Edward L. Carey, of Carey & Hart, which immediately piqued my curiosity about the gentleman.

Sully-Edward Carey (switch color image for black and white).jpg

After feeling inspired by this portrait to find more information about this mysterious publisher, I took to the internet and books to find what I could about Mr. Carey. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a significant amount of information to flesh out a biography-the biography he deserves-but I will do my best to relay everything I was able to find, here.

Edward Carey was born circa 1804-5 to Bridget Flahaven Carey and Philadelphian publisher Mathew Carey of “Carey & Lea.” Although there is not a lot of information regarding Carey’s childhood or young adulthood, it is surmised that he was built in preparation for the publishing scene, as, “When, on the retirement of Mr. Carey [Mathew], in 1824, the firm of Carey & Lea was established, provision was made for the admission of Edward L. Carey, a younger son, when he should attain his majority” (The Publisher’s Weekly, No. 678, January 24, 1885, pg. 70). In 1829, Carey obtained his portion of the publishing house and combined it with Abraham Hart to form the publishing partnership known as Carey & Hart. Thereafter, the company thrived well, publishing works by authors and editors familiar to readers today, including William Cullen Bryant, Rufus Wilmot Griswold (Edgar Allan Poe’s literary executor), and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Although Hart and Carey thrived well amongst the Philadelphia literary scene, the two were struck by immense tragedy with the decline in health and ultimate death of Carey in 1845. A Maine newspaper, the Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette of June 28, 1845, circulated a Philadelphia report on the death of Carey. According to the original Philadelphian article, Carey passed on June 16 at 11:00AM. Carey was only forty years of age, but he left behind a legacy that Hart would continue carrying on for several years thereafter.

Few news articles give brief, yet intriguing insight into Carey’s life and mind, which will now be discussed. For example, before his death, we learn from the Maine Cultivator that Carey had been elected President of the Academy of Fine Arts, although this was turned down due to ill health. We also learn from the Washington Reporter of June 28, 1845, that Carey was not only a lover of the fine arts, as presumed from my prior statement, but that he also collected art pieces:

…his encouraging voice has been an inspiration to our countrymen by whose creative genius life has been given to the marble and the canvas in foreign schools, and through whom Alleghania has been made one of the chosen homes of Art. Powers sent a few weeks ago his masterpiece from Rome…How much he will be grieved to learn that the very hour in which “Proserpine” reached Philadelphia witnessed the departure of his friend and patron to another world!

Of Carey, this same article continues, “For three years confined to his house by a local disease, Mr. Carey had lived among his paintings and his sculptures, in correspondence with men of genius, and in the society of friends who loved him as a brother.” Of his mind, “…[it] was cast in the finest mould of beauty. The atmosphere of beauty was his element.” Of his character, he is spoken in high regard, as the author of the article states, “When I remember how very warmly all who knew him loved him, I cannot doubt that many hearts will beat more slowly, like our own, at this public calamity.”

Although these insights are brief, they speak volumes of Carey’s character. Such keywords as “genius,” “beauty,” and “love” seem to surround this vague gentleman, giving us enough information to declare the type of man Edward Carey was, being a friend, a “brother,” and one simply too beautiful and endearing for this world.

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