The Materialistic Maiden

Where I sip coffee and tirelessly transcribe.

Category: 19th Century Historical Figures

“Records” by Henry William Herbert; and, on the Life of His Wife, Sarah Herbert (Barker)




Sarah Barker, wife of Henry William Herbert, from Poems of “Frank Forester” (Henry William Herbert)

The following is a raw and lovingly woven dedicatory piece written by nineteenth-century author and sportsman Henry William Herbert, in memory of his wife Sarah Barker. The tribute mourns the anniversary of her death, and is a moving commemoration of both Barker’s life and Herbert’s grief. Barker, from Bangor, Maine, was the daughter of the town’s mayor and ship captain, George Barker. Herbert, who had gone to Maine on a hunting trip with Barker’s former fiance, Joseph A. Scoville, attended to the home of Barker, where both Herbert and Barker fell in love. Barker called off her engagement with Scoville and she and Herbert married in 1839 (White, Henry William Herbert and the American Publishing Scene, 1831-1858). Herbert’s poem paints a portrait of a devoted wife and mother, one who eagerly anticipated the return of her husband after his long excursions; one who devoutly loved him, despite his turbulent nature; one who most likely filled Herbert’s household with warmth and light. The dream of a lifelong marriage spent alongside Sarah did not last, however, following her death on March 11, 1844. According to White, “After giving birth to a daughter in July 1843, Sarah Herbert developed tuberculosis. In desperation, her husband carried her from one health resort to another, but she grew steadily worse. She was twenty-two years old when she died in Philadelphia…” (40). The aforementioned daughter, Louisa, died shortly after Sarah, on August 19 of the same year. The couple also had a son, William George, who, after the death of his mother, was sent off to England to live with Herbert’s extended family.

Although Herbert later found love in an Adela Budlong (a fleeting actress who may or may not have been swayed to marry Herbert because of his ties to royalty), their marriage crumbled due to its superficiality and Budlong’s unhappiness (as well as possibly Herbert’s uncontrollable temper). Despite the years of toil and grief that Henry endured after Sarah’s death—the financial hardship and the pains of his irreconcilable second marriage to Budlong—it seems the immortal image of Sarah never left his side, for, according to David Judd in the Life and Writings of Frank Forester (Henry William Herbert), “He suspended his dead wife’s portrait, an excellent oil painting, a veritable masterpiece by his friend Inman, in the most prominent position in his study, that his stray glances might constantly rest upon her features,” and, on the night of his death by suicide, “finally carried it with him to the chamber he destined to be that of his own death, that her countenance might catch his closing eyes as the dearest object upon the face of the earth” (85). This portrait by Inman is the one featured at the beginning of this post. For a vague comparison of her “live” presence with that of this painting, you can see her post-mortem photo here.

I feel I cannot properly attribute any further words to the loving union of Herbert and Barker; therefore, please allow Herbert’s own words in “Records” speak as testament to their love.

Henry William Herbert
From Poems of “Frank Forester” (Henry William Herbert)
THIS was a happy day a year ago,
As now most wretched. This day I returned
From absence of one little month—one month
That seemed a year:—returned to feel her heart
Beat against mine, that ne’er shall beat with joy,
Or leap in ecstasy to those blue eyes
So bright and beautiful, or throb again
To mine responsive,
Oh! I see her now,
As she upstarted from her chair in haste
To greet me, with the eloquent warm blood
Flushing her fair white brow, the lips apart,
And radiant with that sunny smile that spoke
The joyous mirthfulness of her pure soul—
Most innocent and artless, and the eyes
That flashed affection out in dazzling beams
Electrical. I hear her soft, low voice
Say, “Dearest, dearest, have you come at last?
Long have I waited for you, and last night
Watched till nigh morning. Had you not come home
To-day, I should have sickened with the ‘hope Deferred.'”
But it is I that now am sick,
Past thought to be relieved; sick not with hope,—
For that disease hath still some saving touch
Of consolation in’t, that nerves the soul
To bear its tortures,—but for very lack
Of anything to hope on earth again.
For she is gone—aye, gone! and that rare form,
Which I see now as palpably as though
It stood there, glowing in the perfect grace
And glory of young womanhood;—a dream,
A trick of memory, lighter than a shade,
And by no sense of mind to be enjoyed
Or apprehended.
Yes, I see her now
As she upstarted, in her purple robe,
Graced by the fair proportions of her shape,
Not gracing them—her bosom of pure snow,
Translucent, with its thousand azure veins
Matchlessly beautiful; her glorious hair
Clustered in many ringlets of rich brown
Lit with a sunny lustre, down her neck
Falling profuse.
I feel her clasping arms
Wound close about my neck; her soft, thick curls
Fanning my cheek; and her sweet, lovely face,
Burning with blushes, hidden on my breast.
I hear her fond voice faltering in my ear
Glad tidings—that our little one—our boy,
Whom I left mute as yet, had found his tongue,
And learned to lisp her name.
It is but one year
Of the threescore and ten which sum the toil,
The lengthened weariness, and transient joy,
Of man’s allotted time, and all is changed—
Withered and cold forever, as my heart;
Which is alone, and desolate, and void,
And hopeless. She was all I had on earth;
The one rare treasure that enriched a life
Quite barren else; the only being that loved
And cherished, aye! and honored me, whose course
Has ever lain among the storms of the world,
The blight of evil tongues, and rancorous spite
Of who, not knowing, load with ill report
That which they comprehend not. She was all—
All that I had or wished. Love, happiness,
Ambition, hope—all, all in her
Were centred; and with her they are all gone,
Ne’er to come back to me.
I have nor home,
Nor country, nor companions; and the grave
Will be a resting-place, a distant end,
Not shunned, but longed for, as the pleasant bourn
Of suffering, and perchance the gate of joy;
Beyond the perishable, where immortal souls
May meet and love each other with a love
Transcending aught mortality has felt
Of best affections.
Oh that it were so!
Oh that I could believe, and in that trust
Be confident and strong, that even now
She looks upon me, and, in perfect bliss,
With something of affection still regards
The lost companion of her mortal joys,
The last attendant of her painful bed—
Him on whose breast her head was propped, on whom
Her glazing eyes were fixed, that yearned to see
When sight had left them; him whose hand yet thrills
At recollection of the entwined caress
Of those poor fingers, in their dying spasm,
Affectionate to the latest; him whose name—
Never, ’tis like, again to greet his ear
From any lips on earth—her lips strove hard
To syllable, but could not!
Life itself
Were not all weary, could I deem that she,
Marking my ways, might see each step more near
To heaven and her; and feel her very bliss
Something augmented by the unchanging love
Of him she loved so fondly; that one day
She might come forth to meet me, as of old,
But robed in beauty that will never fade,
And, radiant with eternal joy, again
Say, “Dearest, dearest, you have come at last;
Long have I waited you; and see your love
Constant and faithful, and fidelity
Hath its reward; and we are met again,
Never to sorrow more, or sin, or die:”
Oh! might I trust in this, I could go on,
In confident humility secure,
And fearless of the future.
But who knows,
Except the Father, and the Son who dwells
Forever in his glory? Who may dare
E’en to dream of that, which He hath left
Obscure, nor by a word of his illumed
The utter darkness that enshrouds the dead?
But thou art merciful, and knowest, Lord,
The weakness of the mortal: banish thou
The cruel thoughts which terrify my soul,
Whispering that she, whose early grave hath closed
Over the sweetest of thy daughters, lies
Forgetful of the life that lived for her,
Or, in her happiness, sees not the woe
That steeps in utter gloom the heart whose light
She was, and is no longer; the dark doubt,
Never to be enlightened till that day
When all shall be revealed—the dread, dark doubt
That we shall meet no more, when but to meet
Would make earth heave—as her sweet smile of old
And soothing voice could win a charm from pain,
Make poverty seem wealth, and sorrow bliss!
Gentlest and mirthfullest of living things,
And sweetest in thy purity of youth,
Thine artless innocence, thy charity
That thought no harm, thy love that knew not self—
To minister with the angels thou art gone,
And never shalt come back to me again,
As the light cometh with the morn, the leaves
With the glad spring-time.
Grant it, God, that I
May go to thee, and know thee, and be known,
There, where the wicked from their troubling cease,
The weary are at rest.
I ask but this:
Could I but think it, I could go my way
Rejoicing, and look forward to my goal
Happy, nor faint nor falter on the road.


Further Details Surrounding the Infamous Henry William Herbert Brawl of 1836

In my brief absence, I found a few more followup articles on the Henry Herbert/McLeod and Neale/Tompkins skirmish at the Washington Hotel during May of 1836. I will post the four new articles in two separate posts. If this is your first time seeing this series, feel free to catch up with it by checking out the first and second entries.

From the Spectator, May 9, 1836

THE WASHINGTON HOTEL AFFRAY.—The Courier & Enquirer of this morning publishes not only the particulars of the scene on Monday night, and the names of the parties, but also a brief history of the intended duel between Messrs. Neale and Tompkins, out of which it grew, and the certificates furnished to Mr. Neale by his second on Montreal, Mr. Campbell Sweeny, and a British officer whose experience in the duello was invoked by the latter gentleman. The whole affair is silly, childish, and any thing but creditable to all the parties engaged in it.
Apropos to this last remark, we hold it proper to state that the Mr. Staples who was concerned in the affair at the Washington Hotel is a merchant; partner in the firm of Staples & Clark, and in no way related to the family of Seth P Staples, Esq., the eminent counsellor of this city.

From the Albany Argus, May 10, 1836

[From the New York Times.]
An affray occurred on Monday evening at the Washington Hotel, which from the nature of the events and the character of the parties excited very deep and general interest. It would be well if the affair could be buried in oblivion, but that is impossible; one newspaper has already published it, and will doubtless be followed by others who, unable to obtain accurate information, may give garbled or incorrect statements. It is but just therefore to all concerned that those who have the means should lay the facts truly before the community, however reluctant one might otherwise be to publish such an affair[.] The following is prepared from the accounts given almost unanimously shortly afterwards by the very large number of gentlemen who were present, and from other accurate sources of information.
For reasons sufficiently obvious, the narration can’t include events previous to those of Saturday last. The parties had been in controversy some time, and on that day, Mr. T. accompanied by Mr. S. called to demand of Mr. M. if he were responsible for a certain circular just put forth. Mr. M. declined to answer; Mr. T. said that he should then hold him to be the person, and therefore pronounced him a scoundrel. Mr. M. refused to notice any insult from Mr. T., alleging that Mr. T. was a disgraced man[.] During the afternoon he informed Mr. S. that he would notice any thing from him, if he (Mr. S.) chose to take Mr. T.’s place. Mr. S. replied that after the occurrences of that morning he could hold no communication with Mr. M., and so ended the campaign of the day.
On Sunday evening, Mr. H. a friend of Mr. M. referring to this reply, pronounced, in the public room of the Washington Hotel, Mr. S. to be a coward, and requested that Mr. T. might be told that he had done so.
On Monday evening, Mr. S. accompanied by Mr. T., and both unarmed, except that Mr. S. carried his usual walking stick which had a light sword within it, went to the Washington Hotel. Mr. H. coming in soon after, Mr. S. demanded whether it was true that he had pronounced him a coward. Mr. H. replied that he had; whereupon, Mr. S. waved his glove across the face of Mr. H., and pronounced him a liar.
Mr. H. drew out a pistol, but before he could fire it, his hand was arrested by Mr. T., who remonstrated against using such a weapon, and assured him he should have satisfaction. Mr. H. shook him off and retreated, presenting the pistol, and T. following to [?] it. They moved from the centre of the bar room across the hall into the reading room, H. threatening to shoot T. if he advanced, and T. defying him, and declaring he dare not fire. T. then dashed the pistol aside and struck H., when both were seized—T. by Capt. B. and H. by some young gentlemen. H. was directly released, however, and while T. was struggling with Capt. B. who held him against the door, and was nearly between the combatants, both barrels of the pistol were fired, the balls lodging in the door, above T. and the Captain.
The parties were separated, and for a few minutes the affray seemed to have ended. Mr. M. then ascended a chair in the front room, and proclaimed that Mr. S. and Mr. T. were both cowards and scoundrels; Mr. T. rushed upon him, and beat him severely before the by-standers could interfere—Those who seized Mr. T. forced him back across the room, he struggling to get free, when Mr. M. followed and struck him in the side with a dirk or knife. Upon that Mr. S drew the sword from his cane, and stabbed Mr. H. The effective hostilities were here arrested by the exertions of the gentlemen present, a second pistol being taken from Mr. H., and the parties soon separated, and retired for surgical aid.
Neither of the wounds are understood to be serious, or at all dangerous, and the parties have withdrawn from town.

“Winter” by Mrs. Mary Noel M’Donald, or Mary Noel Meigs

While looking through the 1853 volume of Graham’s Magazine, I was immediately presented with this Wintery poem, which served as the featured cover piece for January’s issue. Because the author’s name seemed unfamiliar, I took to researching. For those interested, here is what I found.

According to Initials and Pseudonyms: A Dictionary of Literary Disguises, Volume 1, by William Cushing (what a curious book!), the name “Mrs. Mary Noel (Bleecker M’Donald) Meigs” appears, with an allusion to a poetry book entitled “Poems by…N.Y. 1845” (179). A quick search for Mary Noel Meigs reveals several titles by this authoress, including Lays of a Lifetime, Cousin Bertha’s Stories, Fanny Herbert, and Other Stories: A Holiday Gift, as well as the aforementioned Poems. Her works may also be found in Rufus Griswold’s The Female Poets of America. However, as one may question, what other information is there to support the notion that M’Donald and Meigs are the same person, other than Cushing’s source? According to this page, it is indicated that M’Donald, or Meigs, was married to both Pierre Edward Flemming McDonald [erroneous spelling in Graham’s?] as well as Henry Meigs, Jr., with Bleecker being her maiden name. Therefore, it’s safe to say this Mary Noel M’Donald, the author of the poem featured in my post, is Mary Noel Meigs—a no longer mysterious and obscure poet, but one who was well-published and favored during her time.

What more is to be known of her, though? According to The Cyber Hymnal online, she was born February 15, 1812 in New York, and died May 13, 1890 in New Jersey. Along with her published volumes of poetry and prose, she provided four notable hymns, which are posted on this website, including “Christmas Morning” and “Hark! A Burst of Heavenly Music.” Finally, in Griswold’s Female Poets, he states the following,

The father of Miss Bleecker (now Mrs. Meigs) was of the Bleecker family so long distinguished in the annals of New York, and among her paternal connexions were Mrs. Anne Eliza Blecker and Mrs. Faugeres, whose poems have been commented upon in an earlier part of this volume. Her maternal grandfather was the late Major William Popham, the last survivor of the staff of Washington. In 1834 Miss Bleecker was married to Mr. Pierre E. F. McDonald, who died at the end of ten years. In 1845 she published an octavo volume entitled Poems by M.N.M., and she has since written many poems and prose essays for the magazines, besides several volumes of stories for children, &c. In the autumn of 1848 she was married to Mr. Henry Meigs, of New York.

You may, therefore, find in the poem below a small example of the credence given to her work. However, if I may be critical, I find the following poem to be unorganized and messy. Sloppily displaced words and lack of punctuation in certain areas makes this a confusing and unnatural poem when read aloud. Perhaps her other works are nicer when read or spoken. Regardless, I hope others find enjoyment from this poem.


Mary Noel M’Donald

HID in the bosom of life-giving earth,
In darkness and in silence deep and still,
The buried seed to springing roots given birth,
That fix them in the mold with firmest will;
Strong hold have they below there in the soil
Before the leaves upshoot them to the light,
And beauty crowns the deep and hidden toil
With blossomed boughs that charm the gazer’s sight
So thou, oh soul, obscure and hidden long,
Uncared for and unknown must bide thy time,
And like the aspiring seed strike, deep and strong,
Roots that shall bear thee upward in thy prime,
So firm sustained, thou shalt the worthier be
For life’s fair flower that all men honor thee.


On That Time When Edward Carey of Carey & Hart Beat a Man With His Umbrella

In keeping up with published scandals of the 19th century, I am happy to provide the following account, copied from The Publishers’ Circular of August 08, 1891 (no. 1310, pg. 133). In this amusing article, we find two epistles recounting a time when Edward L. Carey of Carey & Hart, a 19th century American publishing company, involved himself in a scuffle while overseas in London. I find it amusing that this gentleman, whom I’d imagined to be genial and well-mannered, instigated the commotion! Check this obscure article out and feel free to comment. Who do you think was truly in the wrong here? I’m siding with Mr. Carey. -Ann

The Publishers’ Circular
The following correspondences regarding the series of articles on “Annuals of Sixty Years ago” explains itself, and is not, we think, without interest.
To the Editor of the PUBLISHERS’ CIRCULAR
SIR,—Your interesting article, “The Annuals of Sixty Years Ago,” in your June 27 number, revives graphically in my recollection a tradition in the history of our house.
Away back in the thirties my immediate predecessors, E. L. Carey and A. Hart, bought from the publishers in London, with the exclusive American market, 1,000 copies of one of the “Annuals” named in your list. For these books they paid cash with the order. At the time these books arrived in New York, they received a letter from a New York merchant, not a bookseller, stating that he had received by a certain ship—the same which had brought Carey & Hart’s one thousand copies—from the publishers of this book a certain number of copies of the book which they offered to Carey & Hart.
Finding themselves thus treated, and knowing that those London publishers had dealings with a bookseller in Philadelphia who was a large importer of English books, and ascertaining that this bookseller was indebted to the London house in a considerable sum, they employed a lawyer who took out a writ of foreign attachment of a debt due to the London house, and commenced legal proceedings under that writ. These whole proceedings in the premises, when the case came to be tried in the court in Philadelphia, proving to be irregular, Carey & Hart were non-suited.
In the meantime, the debtor of London publishers became bankrupt, and accordingly those publishers lost their claim, when in turn they brought suit against Carey & Hart for the amount of this lost claim, but after years of litigation, way into the forties, it having been proven that the debtor of the London home was bankrupt when the claim was attached by Carey & Hart, the London house was in turn non-suited. Thus this litigation of perhaps ten years, came to an end, and both Carey & Hart and the publishers of the London “Annual” lost their money.
Subsequently to this transaction by the London publishers, Edward L. Carey was in London, and, calling on the firm, had some pretty high words with one of the partners, which resulted in blows, which would probably have further resulted in an arrest, if Mr.Carey had not left London on the following morning, and sailed immediately thereafter for the United States.
Yours truly,
Philadelphia: July 15, 1891

Sir,—I can give you a very clear answer to your inquiry respecting the firm of London publishers referred to by Mr. Henry Carey Baird in his letter of July 15.
One morning, it must have been in 1838 or 1839, I was in the front room of Mr. Charles Tilt’s office at 86 Fleet Street, when Mr. Carey, the Philadelphia publisher, came in, as he had been in the habit of doing for several days, and walked through to speak to Mr.David Bogue[?] (Mr.Tilt’s partner),in the counting-house. Soon afterwards, Mr. Fisher, of the firm of Fisher, Son & Co., of Newgate Street, the publishers of ‘The Drawing Room Scrap Book,’ followed and asked to speak to Mr. Carey, evidently by appointment. The two gentlemen met in my presence (I do not think they had ever seen one another before), and commenced an earnest conversation in a low voice; presently, however, words became higher, and I heard Mr. Fisher say, in a loud and emphatic tone ‘That’s a lie.’ The words had hardly escaped his mouth before I saw and heard a tremendous blow given by the American gentleman fall on the Englishman’s broad breast. I must tell you that Mr. Fisher was a burly man, six feet in height, and Mr. Carey a slim man not half his weight. Of course Mr. Fisher retaliated, and for a few seconds there was a free fight, Mr. Carey using his umbrella when he had a chance. Fortunately they were in a very narrow space between a high desk and a table, and could not do each other much harm. I got in between them as soon as I could, protesting against their unseemly [?] (not without receiving a blow from the umbrella), and very quickly three or four clerks came from the inner rooms, the strife was ended, and Mr. Fisher left. I remember that we took the part of the American, but, out of all who were then present, I am the only survivor, and it is a curious coincidence that you should have applied to me for information.
Yours obediently,
Wallington: Aug. 3, 1891


In Memoriam of Fitz-Greene Halleck, Along With “Fitz-Greene Halleck” by John Greenleaf Whittier

This day marks a significant milestone for writer Fitz-Greene Halleck, being the 150th anniversary of his death. He may go relatively unrecognized by today’s readership, which is truly a pity; however, this man was so celebrated and beloved by several 19th century social and literary circles of his day, that it makes one question why his name hasn’t stood the tests of time. A statue serves as reminder of this immortal writer—you can read more information about that statue here, as well as at the end of this post. But who or what does this statue represent–what purpose does it serve? Surely, it implies prominence, being the last statue to be dedicated and installed in the Literary Walk in Central Park (source). But what more to it is there, besides being a handsome, decorative lawn piece?

Halleck sits erect, his legs elegantly crossed, his foot alight in communication with his thoughtful, musing gaze. His right hand delicately pinches his quill, while his left is preoccupied with a manuscript or “tablet” of sorts; perhaps this is to signify that his thoughts are unceasingly flitting about the streets of New York. He is not merely a fleeting writer of yore—to say such would only besmirch the other writers on the lawn, including Scott and Burns—nor should it be given credence that he was only known for his sociable behaviour. Who he was, and where his legacy remains, is in that he helped mould American poetry into what it was. His poetic voice laid the groundwork for the American voice. His style inspired future writers, while he, himself, drew upon foregone poets. In fact, a descendant of his labeled him the “American Byron.”  William Cullen Bryant, quoted in The Poets and Poetry of Americahad this to say about Halleck’s writing,

His poetry, whether serious or sprightly, is remarkable for the melody of the numbers. It is not the melody of monotonous and strictly regular measurement. His verse is constructed to please an ear naturally fine and accustomed to a range of metrical modulation…He is familiar with those general rules and principles which are the basis of metrical harmony; and his own unerring taste has taught him the exceptions which proper attention to variety demands. He understands that the rivulet is made musical by obstructions in its channel. In no poet can be found passages which flow with more sweet and liquid smoothness; but he knows very well that to make this smoothness perceived, and to prevent it from degenerating into monotony, occasional roughness must be interposed (172).

But to what standard of proclamation are these words given? Observe a stanza from Halleck’s poem, “Twilight,” being that a passage of “sweet and liquid smoothness,”

In youth the cheek was crimson’d with her glow;
Her smile was loveliest then; her matin song
Was heaven’s own music, and the note of wo
Was all unheard her sunny bowers among.
Life’s little world of bliss was newly born;
We knew not, cared not, it was born to die.
Flush’d with the cool breeze and the dews of morn,
With dancing heart we gazed on the pure sky,
And mock’d the passing clouds that dimm’d its blue,
Like our own sorrows then—as fleeting and as few. (source)

The impetus of this lyric is Hope, which is, at first, seemingly swayed through life’s progress. However, Halleck argues, through painted imagery, that Hope remains formidable and shines from Heaven with an “angel-smile of tranquil loveliness,” being “A moon-beam in the midnight cloud of death” (lines 33, 40). In the stanza especially extracted, we see Halleck describe Hope, in youth, as being the “crimson’d” glow that concealed life’s “passing clouds [which] dimm’d [the pure sky’s] blue.” The musicality of the piece brings it a dreamy, ethereal quality, which is sure to enchant the reader of any age.

The stanza above serves as only one example of Halleck’s masterful hand, though. Reading through the few, yet golden pieces which stemmed from his pen, a few other poems stick out for these same notable qualities. For example, “On the Death of Joseph Rodman Drake”* is a touching eulogy, which, albeit short and succinct, being comprised of six quatrains, evocatively imbues sentiment through such lines as, “Green be the turf above thee, / Friend of my better days! / None knew thee but to love thee, / Nor named thee but to praise” and “Tears fell, when thou wert dying, / From eyes unused to weep, / And long where thou art lying, / Will tears the cold turf steep” (lines 1-8). Another poem of high regard is Fanny, which is notably Halleck’s greatest piece. Fanny satirizes American culture and politics of the 19th century, and is undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek whilst doing so. Consider stanzas 28 and 29, which are, humorously, as follows,

“He struggled hard, but not in vain, and breathes
The mountain air at last; but there are others
Who strove, like him, to win the glittering wreaths
Of powers, his early partisans and brothers,
That linger yet in dust from whence they sprung,
Unhonour’d and unpaid, though, luckily, unhung.

‘Twas theirs to fill with gas the huge balloon
Of party ; and they hoped, when it arose,
To soar like eagles in the blaze of noon,
Above the gaping crowd of friends and foes.
Alas! like Guillé’s car, it soar’d without them,
And left them with a mob to jeer and flout them.”

This successful poem, first published in 1819, found its place in several subsequent volumes of Halleck’s poetry, and was eventually given fifty extra appended verses by the author. According to James Grant Wilson in The Life and Letters of Fitz-Greene Halleck, “The Popularity of ‘Fanny’ was so great, that the publisher offered Halleck five hundred dollars for another canto, an offer which he accepted,” and thus came the extra canto (234). Halleck, in a letter to his sister Maria, however, remarked, “The popularity of ‘Fanny’ is far above my expectations, and certainly far above its merits; but the great secret is, that it is fashionable to admire it, and, fortunately for its author, the general class of readers does not know good from bad” (236). Regardless of its “merits,” whether they be perceived by readers who “know good from bad” or not, the poem represents to modern readership an insightful, humorous perception of American culture during the early 1800s.

Therefore, whether it be for his witty tongue and praised pen, or his friendly demeanour and sociable conversation, Halleck more than deserves that high throne on which he rests. “Personally,” exclaims Edgar Allan Poe in his article entitled “Fitz-Greene Halleck,” “he is a man to be admired, respected…With his friends he is all ardor, enthusiasm and cordiality…He is a good modern linguist, and an excellent belles lettres scholar…”

But what was Halleck to his other peers? The viewpoints of Bryant, Poe, and Drake have been presented (see footnote for Drake); however, famed poet John Greenleaf Whittier excellently bids warm wishes and praise to his friend in the poem, “Fitz-Greene Halleck: At the Unveiling of His Statue.” This poem, as may be inferred, was a companion piece to the unveiling of the Halleck statue—thus, I present this poem. Perhaps, if you have not been convinced of Halleck’s notability as a poet, or the significance of this statue, Whittier’s words may convince you.

Fitz-Greene Halleck
John Greenleaf Whittier


AMONG their graven shapes to whom
Thy civic wreaths belong,
O city of his love, make room
For one whose gift was song.

Not his the soldier’s sword to wield,
Nor his the helm of state,
Nor glory of the stricken field,
Nor triumph of debate.

In common ways, with common men,
He served his race and time
As well as if his clerkly pen
Had never danced to rhyme.

If, in the thronged and noisy mart,
The Muses found their son,
Could any say his tuneful art
A duty left undone?

He toiled and sang; and year by year
Men found their homes more sweet,
And through a tenderer atmosphere
Looked down the brick-walled street.

The Greek’s wild onset Wall Street knew;
The Red King walked Broadway;
And Alnwick Castle’s roses blew
From Palisades to Bay.

Fair City by the Sea! upraise
His veil with reverent hands;
And mingle with thy own the praise
And pride of other lands.

Let Greece his fiery lyric breathe
Above her hero-urns;
And Scotland, with her holly, wreathe
The flower he culled for Burns.

Oh, stately stand thy palace walls,
Thy tall ships ride the seas;
To-day thy poet’s name recalls
A prouder thought than these.

Not less thy pulse of trade shall beat,
Nor less thy tall fleets swim,
That shaded square and dusty street
Are classic ground through him.

Alive, he loved, like all who sing,
The echoes of his song;
Too late the tardy meed we bring,
The praise delayed so long.

Too late, alas! Of all who knew
The living man, to-day
Before his unveiled face, how few
Make bare their locks of gray!

Our lips of praise must soon be dumb,
Our grateful eyes be dim;
O brothers of the days to come,
Take tender charge of him!

New hands the wires of song may sweep,
New voices challenge fame;
But let no moss of years o’ercreep
The lines of Halleck’s name.

Edit: I found this newspaper clipping in my personal collection and thought it may be of interest for those further interested in the unveiling of the Halleck statue. It is from Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine, Vol. II, pg 226.


*For more about Halleck and Drake’s relationship


“November” by Hartley Coleridge, With a Brief Sketch of the Author


David Hartley Coleridge, known commonly as Hartley Coleridge, was a nineteenth century poet, critic, biographer, essayist, and, for a brief time, teacher. Born in England in 1796, he was the eldest son of the well-known Samuel Taylor Coleridge (source.) Although Coleridge struggled with maintaining a unique image and reputation from that of his father’s, the culmination of his work up until his death in 1849 left him certainly accomplished enough to separate himself from his father’s esteemed legacy.

Of his skill as a writer and generally regarding the character of Hartley Coleridge, his brother, Derwent, explains,

A resemblance in kind is discernable, more especially if the comparison [between Hartley and their father, Samuel] be made with the earlier productions of the elder Coleridge, though this is not so striking as the contrast exhibited on the whole. A wit and a humorist, a keen observer,  and a deep but not a sustained or comprehensive thinker; intensely subjective, or at least introspective, yet not disposed to dwell in pure abstractions; seeing the universal in the individual, yet resting in the individual rather than the universal; acute and sagacious, often under the disguise or paradox; playful and tender, with a predominance of the fancy over the imagination, yet capable of the deepest pathos; clear, rapid, and brilliant, the qualities of his mind may almost be regarded as supplemental to those by which his father’s later and more elaborate productions are distinguished (Coleridge xx).

During his impressionable boyhood years, Hartley acquainted himself with figures such as Sir Walter Scott and Wordsworth, which,

…made an indelible impression upon his mind, the effect being immediately apparent in the complexion of those extraordinary day-dreams in which he passed his visionary boyhood, and to which he was wont to transfer whatever struck his fancy or stimulated his intellect in actual life. Nothing remained for him upon the earth to which it belonged. The scenery at his feet he beheld mirrored a floating cloud, when it became for him more real and important than the matter-of-fact world in which he had to live (xl-xli).

Although the poem I have transcribed for this post does not fully display the unique, seemingly eccentric and dreamy qualities of this gentleman, it provides a keyhole to peer into scattered hints of sombre and mournful imagery, characteristic of the mystical world Coleridge had created for himself.

Hartley Coleridge

The mellow year is hasting to its close;
The little birds have almost sung their last,
Their small notes twitter in the dreary blast—
That shrill-piped harbinger of early snows;
The patient beauty of the scentless rose,
Oft with the morn’s hoar crystal quaintly glass’d,
Hangs, a pale mourner for the summer past,
And makes a little summer where it grows.
In the chill sunbeam of the faint brief day
The dusky waters shudder as they shine;
The russet leaves obstruct the straggling way
Of oozy brooks, which no deep banks define;
And the gaunt woods, in ragged, scant array,
Wrap their old limbs with sombre ivy twine.


On the Life of Thomas Buchanan Read, alongside his poem, “The Withering Leaves”


Thomas Buchanan Read is one of my favorite 19th century personalities. A poet and artist, he’s best known today for Sheridan’s RideHowever, his poetic repertoire definitely expands beyond that of this often studied poem; and although virtually unknown otherwise, his life is worth exploring, if even briefly.

Born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on March 12, 1822, he grew up in a financially modest household. Unable to acquire formal education, according to The Knohl Collection online, he left home at the age of ten to remove himself to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he partook in various jobs that only benefited and catered to his growing artistic skill. He thus began painting and sculpting here, especially under the influence of Shobal Veil Clevenger, and with the aid of Nicholas Longworth (source). According to A Compendium of American Literature by Charles Dexter Cleveland, although starting as a sculptor, Read took to painting, which gained him success as an artist, and he removed to Boston, where he remained for five years in this profession (738).

Between the years 1841 and 1861, he wrote and painted prolifically, submitting to journals such as Graham’s Magazine and the Boston Courier, and moved back and forth between the United States and Europe, namely Italy, where he found beauty and conversation to inspire his profound mind (738). However, according to the History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, he was met with two majorly impactful blows, the first being the death of his first wife, Mary J. Pratt, and child, Lilian, due to a choleric epidemic while living in Florence in 1853; and the second being the outbreak of the Civil War, for which he volunteered under General Lew Wallace (Futhey, 707). Futhey states, “[Read’s] voice and pen, in patriotic addresses and poems, gave hearty encouragement to his countrymen in the great work of saving the national life. In this heroic struggle none surpassed Read in patriotic ardor….” (707). Following the Civil War, Read remarried to Harriet Dennison and moved to Italy in 1867 (The Knohl Collection). Four years later, he was critically injured by the overturning of his carriage, and he died that next year, on May 11, 1872, at the age of 50, just a few days after his arrival to New York. His death was due to complications of the carriage accident, and pneumonia. In the Poetical Works of T. Buchanan Read: New Revised Edition of 1894, it is stated in his memoir that “[he died] calmly on the evening of Saturday, May 11, in the arms of those who loved him best. ‘Your kisses are very sweet to me,’ were among his last words” (XX).*

Futhey imparts an effective passage describing Read’s character, stating the following:

The distinguishing characteristics of Read’s nature were purity of thought, refinement of feeling, gentleness of manner, generosity of disposition, geniality and unselfish devotion to others, and the possession of all those qualities of mind and character which attract and attach friends. Tenderness of feeling and delicacy in treatment were marked traits in all his work, whether with the pen or the pencil. Gifted with an extraordinary genius, Read was unlike many other men thus formed by nature. He relied for success not upon sudden, uncertain, and spasmodic impulses, but was a faithful, diligent, and conscientious worker by turns in the two distinct yet congenial fields of labor to which his talents were devoted, finding his only rest and recreation in the alternate use of his pen or pencil (707).

In the span of his life, Read saw 17, if not more, publications of his literary works, and was met with publicly celebrated reactions to both his literary and artistic pursuits. Some of his artistic works can be found between the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, in the Knohl Collection, and the Harvard University Art Museum, to name a few places.

In the spirit of my Autumnal poetry series, and after “painting” (pun intended) a “portrait” (pun intended once more) of this poet, I thus want to present a newfound favorite work by Read that I, regrettably, just stumbled across whilst finding works to share on this blog.

Without further ado—

The Withering Leaves
Thomas Buchanan Read

The summer is gone and the autumn is here,
And the flowers are strewing their earthly bier;
A dreary mist o’er the woodland swims,
While rattle the nuts from the windy limbs:
From bough to bough the squirrels run
At the noise of the hunter’s echoing gun,
And the partridge flies where my footstep heaves
The rustling drifts of the withering leaves.

The flocks pursue their southern flight—
Some all the day and some all night;
And up from the wooded marshes come
The sounds of the pheasant’s feathery drum.
On the highest bough the mourner crow
Sits in his funeral suit of woe:
All nature mourns—and my spirit grieves
At the noise of my feet in the withering leaves.

Oh! I sigh for the days that have passed away,
When my life like the year had its season of May;
When the world was all sunshine and beauty and truth,
And the dew bathed my feet in the valley of youth!
Then my heart felt its wings, and no bird of the sky
Sang over the flowers more joyous than I.
But Youth is a fable, and Beauty deceives;—
For my footsteps are loud in the withering leaves.

And I sigh for the time when the reapers at morn
Came down from the hill at the sound of the horn:
Or when dragging the rake, I followed them out
While they tossed the light sheaves with their laughter about;
Through the field, with boy-daring, barefooted I ran;
But the stubbles foreshadowed the path of the man.
Now the uplands of life lie all barren of sheaves—
While my footsteps are loud in the withering leaves!

*For a more in depth biographical read about T. B. R., consider The Poetical Works of T. Buchanan Read: New Revised Edition

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