The Materialistic Maiden

Where I sip coffee and judge everyone.

Category: 19th Century Writers

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

thomas_buchanan_read_age_28

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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“To***” by Henry William Herbert

It is always a treat to read Herbert’s poetry, for it is unlike his other work. As far as authorship is concerned, he was an outstanding and prolific sportswriter, essayist, translator of the classical languages, prose writer, and editor—he also wrote outstanding poetry. His poems are what really captured my interest in his work, aside from his tumultuous biography; and, although I am saving his especial treasures to feature after the conclusion of my biographical series—which I am tardy on updating—I wish to periodically share some of his other touching or captivating pieces until then. And thus, following “Sunset on the Hudson,” I present “To***”. -Ann Neilson 

To***
Henry William Herbert
The Magnolia of 1837 

WE are not parted—no!—Though never more
Thy cherished form may greet my watchful eye—
Nor thy soft voice speak welcome to mine ear,
Sweeter than summer music.—Seas may roll,
And realms unnumbered stretch their boundless width,
A wearisome gulf between!—Long years of wo
May lag above us, with their icy weight
Freezing the healthful current of our lives!—
Yea, death himself, with blighting fingers cold
May sunder us, not e’er to meet again
On this side immortality! Thy frame
May gently moulder to its natural dust—
Dewed by the tear-drops of lamenting friends—
Mine rot unhonored in a foreign soil,
Without a stone to mark the exile’s head,
Or blessed ministry of holy church
To smooth the sinner’s passage to his God.
Yet so we are not parted!—Souls like ours,
Knit by so strong a harmony of love,
With hopes, fears, sorrows, sympathies the same,
Still commune with each other, twin in one
Indissolubly joined, and yet more near,
When dies the clay, that dims the immortal spark.

On John Keats’ influence of Thomas Hood’s “Ode To Autumn”

I picked up a copy of English Romantic Poets a few years back, an anthology containing writers such as Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, Beddoes—the typical English poets. In accordance of keeping up with my Fall series, I took to it and found a delightful poem I would like to share, by Thomas Hood (whom I’d never heard of, egad). However, I felt the poem needed a little more substance, rather than slapping it on the page and calling it a day. Little did I know that poet John Keats, whose poetry I quite dislike, may have inspired Hood’s own poem. More on that now.

For convenience’s sake and due to the brief, albeit analytical nature of this discussion,  here is a link to Keats’ “To Autumn.”

The two never met, according to Alvin Whitley in Keats and Hood,” found in the Keats-Shelley Journal of Winter, 1956. They did, however, share friends, acquaintances, and professional contacts (33). After Keats’s death, Hood found himself immersed in the former’s circle and soon became close friends with John Hamilton Reynolds, who is considered to be Keats’s best friend (33-34). Not only was the connection formidable, but it was further cemented by Hood’s betrothal to Reynold’s sister, Jane (35). Although indirect, the familial and acquainted ties within the overarching group certainly interwove the connection between Hood and Keats.

Whitley states, “Though Keats and Hood never met in the flesh, they met in English poetic tradition. Lately it has been one of Hood’s major distinctions that he was the first English poet to react significantly to the stimulus of Keats. The tenor of his reaction is of some importance, for it was that of most of the nineteenth-century imitators of Keats, Hood retained, with considerable dilution, the mood, the music, the imagery, the diction, the atmosphere, the settings of Keats’s poems; he ignored…the philosophy of Keats” (39). This is significant to note as it will be the key to comparing Keats’s “To Autumn” and Hood’s own featured “Ode to Autumn.”

Of our two poems in question, Whitley continues in his article with an excellent analysis. Using the tools quoted above—mood, music, imagery, diction, atmosphere, and setting—Whitley expertly analyzes and compares the two poems, which I feel I could not do as great of justice as he. He explains,

…”Ode: Autumn” affords the best possible example. The poem opens with a personification of Autumn—as a male figure—standing shadowless and silent. The poet asks and answers a series of similar questions: where are the songs, the birds, the blooms of summer? They have fled, following the seasons. Some of the creatures of nature are pictured as rejoicing in their hoards; others have flown. Here the Autumn-Melancholy—a female figure—dwells, weeping and reckoning up the dead, while the world looks on sadly. The poem ends with an apostrophe to go and join her; there are enough withered things to make her bower, enough sadness, sorrowing, fear, and despair. Keats, of course, saw and captured the quiet beauty of mellow fruitfulness and fulfilled ripeness; behind his poem is a pagan acceptance of the natural cycle. Hood gives us a moody description; behind his poem is the vague sentiment: the end of things is always sad, alas and farewell…

The translation of imagery corresponds to the translation of mood. The essence of Keatsian imagery, I take it, lies in original preciseness and immediacy, usually grounded in sensual perceptions—”With beaded bubbles winking at the brim.” Abstractions are either personified or qualified in a strikingly new and exact way—”aching Pleasure,” “embalmed darkness.” The imagery of “To Autumn” is as precise as the scope of the subject will allow: “barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,” and even a cliché such as “rosy hue” is linked with “touch the stubble-plains” (41-42).

To continue off of Whitley’s analysis, and to conclude this post before presenting Hood’s poem—the major difference I notice between these two pieces, what brings them absolute distinction, is indeed the tone of the poems. Keats begs to know, “Where are the songs of spring? / Ay, Where are they?,” before complacently waving away this melancholic yearning and concluding, “Think not of them, thou [Autumn] hast thy music too,—” He awaits the renewal of Spring with optimism, finding idealistic pleasure in Autumn’s gloom, “Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft / The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;  / And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” Hood contrastingly bemoans the autumnal changes, giving us his “moody description”: “There is enough of sorrowing and quite / Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,— / Enough of chilly droppings for her bowl;  / Enough of fear and shadowy despair.” Nothing seems to redeem the forlorn atmosphere consuming Hood, whereas sprightly Keats muses acceptingly over the changes and takes them in stride. Hood is immersed and static, momentum haesit; Keats willingly moves forward with hope.

ODE
Autumn
Thomas Hood
I
I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.

II
Where are the songs of Summer?—With the sun,
Opening the dusky eyelids of the south,
Till shade and silence waken up as one,
And Morning sings with a warm odorous mouth.
Where are the merry birds?—Away, away,
On panting wings through the inclement skies,
Lest owls should prey
Undazzled at noon-day,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.

III
Where are the blooms of Summer?—In the west,
Blushing their last to the last sunny hours.
When the mild Eve by sudden Night is prest
Like tearful Proserpine, snatch’d from her flow’rs
To a most gloomy breast.
Where is the pride of Summer,—the green prime,—
The many, many leaves all twinkling?—Three
On the moss’d elm; three on the naked lime
Trembling,—and one upon the old oak tree!
Where is the Dryad’s immortality?—
Gone into mournful cypress and dark yew,
Or wearing the long gloomy Winter through
In the smooth holly’s green eternity.

IV
The squirrel gloats on his accomplish’d hoard,
The ants have brimm’d their garners with ripe grain,
And honey been save stored
The sweets of summer in their luscious cells;
The swallows all have wing’d across the main;
But here the Autumn melancholy dwells,
And sighs her tearful spells
Amongst the sunless shadows of the plain.
Alone, alone,
Upon a mossy stone,
She sits and reckons up the dead and gone,
With the last leaves for a love-rosary;
Whilst all the wither’d world looks drearily,
Like a dim picture of the drownëd past
In the hush’d mind’s mysterious far-away,
Doubtful what ghostly thing will steal the last
Into that distance, gray upon the gray.

V
O go and sit with her, and be o’ershaded
Under the languid downfall of her hair;
She wears a coronal of flowers faded
Upon her forehead, and a face of care;—
There is enough of wither’d everywhere
To make her bower,—and enough of gloom;
There is enough of sadness to invite,
If only for the rose that died, whose doom
Is Beauty’s,—she that with the living bloom
Of conscious cheeks most beautifies the light:
There is enough of sorrowing, and quite
Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,—
Enough of chilly droppings from her bowl;
Enough of fear and shadowy despair,
To frame her cloudy prison for the soul!

For further reading: an excellent literary analysis of Hood’s poem alone.

Elizabeth Oaksmith’s “The First Leaf of Autumn”

“…for the breath of autumn had passed over them changing their color, but as yet few were displaced. The distant hills, and slopes of the river, looked as if some gorgeous drapery had been drawn over the rich earth.”—The Western Captive and Other Indian Stories by Elizabeth Oakes Smith, pg. 139

How glorious is this time of transition? I never feel I can exhaust my delight with autumn and its artistic presentation. I am grateful for poets of the past who are able to adequately describe the rich beauty of the season and its fruitful splendor. Thus, Elizabeth Oaksmith is today’s spotlighted poet, due to her skillful representation of Fall. Was there no end to her other-worldly abilities as a writer?

However, before the poem—although I do not usually pair music with my transcriptions, I happened to be listening to this song by South Korean musician Yiruma whilst transcribing Oaksmith’s poem, and I feel it sonorously echoes her words.

“The First Leaf of Autumn”

I SEE thee fall, thou quivering leaf, of faint and yellow hue,
The first to feel the autumn winds, that, blighting, o’er thee blew—
Slow-parted from the rocking branch, I see thee floating by,
To brave, all desolate and lone, the bleak autumnal sky.

Alas! the first, the yellow leaf—how sadly falls it there,
To rustle on the crispéd grass, with every chilly air!
It tells of those that soon must drop all withered from the tree,
And it hath waked a sadder chord in deathless memory.

Thou eddying leaf, away, away, there’s sorrow in thy hue;
Thou soundst the knell of sunny hours, of buds, and liquid dew—
And thou dost tell how from the heart the blooms of hope decay;
How each one lingers, loath to part, till all are swept away.

Charles Fenno Hoffman’s “Indian Summer, 1828”

Although we are many months and several forecasts away from experiencing an “Indian Summer”—should mother nature bestow one upon us this year—I feel this poem is worthy of my “Autumn” series. (Regardless of my bias, being that this was written by my favorite author—) Charles Fenno Hoffman delicately and accurately spins golden worded-webs and autumnal threads throughout this romantic poem. Connecting with personal recollections of childhood, he paints nostalgic images of the woodlands, and strives to remind the reader of nature’s beauty and unchanging devotion. -Ann Neilson

“Indian Summer, 1828”

LIGHT as love’s smile the silvery mist at morn
Floats in loose flakes along the limpid river ;
The blue-bird’s notes upon the soft breeze borne,
As high in air he carols, faintly quiver ;
The weeping birch, like banners idly waving,
Bends to the stream, its spicy branches laving.
Beaded with dew the witch-elm’s tassels
shiver;
The timid rabbit from the furze is peeping.
And from the springy spray the squirrel gayly leaping.

I love thee. Autumn, for thy scenery, ere
The blasts of winter chase the varied dyes
That richly deck the slow declining year ;
I love the splendor of thy sunset skies,
The gorgeous hues that tint each failing leaf
Lovely as beauty’s cheek, as woman’s love too,
brief;
I love the note of each wild bird that flies.
As on the wind he pours his parting lay,
And wings his loitering flight to summer climes
away.

O Nature ! fondly I still turn to thee
With feelings fresh as e’er my chilhood’s were;
Though wild and passion -tost my youth may be,
Toward thee I still the same devotion bear ;
To thee — to thee — though health and hope no more
Life’s wasted verdure may to me restore —
Still — still, childlike I come, as when in prayer
I bowed my head upon a mother’s knee,
And deem’d the world, like her, all truth and purity.*

*It was indicated to me by Netherlands historian Ton F— that an alternative version of the last stanza exists, for which I thank him earnestly. Upon research, I found said stanza in the New York Mirror of September 22, 1832, on page 91, under the pseudonym “H,” a pseudonym (if it may be called one) used frequently by Hoffman in both the New-York Mirror and the American Monthly Magazine (which I will discuss in a later post).

The stanza is as follows,

“Oh, nature! still I fondly turn to thee,
With feelings fresh as e’er my boyhood’s were,
However cold my reckless heart may be,
To thee I still the same devotion bear.
In all life’s changes yet my feelings will
To thee be true, as to his office still
Is he who fixed by right prescriptive there—
(Though even thou shouldst break thy wonted order)—
In every party change yet finds himself “recorder.”

“Autumn” by Nathaniel Parker Willis

The following is a transcription of Nathaniel Parker Willis’ gorgeous article, entitled “Autumn,” taken from the September 30, 1837 issue of The New York Mirror. It was too stirring not to share. —Ann Neilson 

The first severe frost had come, and the miraculous change had passed upon the leaves, which is known only in America. The blood-red sugar-maple, with a leaf brighter and more delicate than a Circassian lip, stood here and there in the forest, like the Sultan’s standard in a host—the solitary and far-seen aristocrat of the wilderness; the birch, with its spirit-like and amber leaves, ghosts of the departed summer, turned out along the edges of the woods like a lining of the palest gold; the broad sycamore and the fan-like catalpa flaunted their saffron foliage in the sun, spotted with gold, like the wings of a lady-bird; the kingly oak, with its summit shaken bare, still hid its majestick trunk in a drapery of sumptuous dyes, like a stricken monarch, gathering his robes of state about him, to die royally in his purple; the tall poplar, with its minaret of silver leaves, stood blanched, like a coward, in the dying forest, burdening every breeze with its complainings; the hickory, paled through its enduring green; the bright berries of the mountain-ash, flushed with a more sanguine glory in the unobstructed sun; the gaudy tulip-tree, the Sybarite of vegetation, stripped of its golden cups, still drank the intoxicating light of noon-day in leaves, than which the lip of an Indian shell was never more delicately tined; the still deeper-dyed vines of the lavish wilderness, perishing with the noble things whose summer they had shared, outshone them in their decline, as woman, in her death, is heavenlier than the being on whom in life, she leaned; and, alone and unsympathising in this universal decay, outlaws from nature, stood the fir and hemlock, their frowning and sombre heads darker and less lovely than ever, in contrast with the death-struck glory of their companions.

The dull colours of English autumnal foliage give you no conception of this marvellous phenomenon. The change there is gradual; in America it is the work of a night—of a single frost!

Oh! to have seen the sun set on hills bright in the still green and lingering summer, and to wake in the morning to a spectacle like this!

It is as if a myriad of rainbows were laced through the tree-tops—as if the sunsets of a summer—gold, purple and crimson—had been fused in the alembick of the west, and poured back in a new deluge of light and colour over the wilderness. It is as if every leaf in those countless trees had been painted to outflush the tulip—as if, by some electrick miracle, the dyes of the earth’s heart had struck upward, and her crystals and ores, her sapphires, hyacinths and rubies, had let forth their imprisoned colours to mount through the roots of the forest, and, like the angels that, in olden times, entered the bodies of the dying, re-animate the perishing leaves, and revel an hour in their bravery.

Autumn’s Unabated Appearance

Today marks the Autumn Equinox—those two delightful words which bring a crisp taste of nostalgia to the tongue. Cozily blanketed evenings; effervescent leaves resignedly dropping to the earth, blanketing the world in gamboge and golden hues; warm fires snapping vivaciously amidst an atmosphere of dark cheer; these are merely a few of the memories I carry with me of Autumn from my younger years.

I must be candid, Autumn is debatably my favorite season, albeit being closely tied with Winter. Therefore, please look forward to a new Autumnal-themed poem every few days or so (or perhaps more frequently than that) throughout the rest of this month and into October. It is a season to be celebrated, and several of my dead literary friends certainly left us with substantial content to last us several more Falls to come. To begin, I want to share a poem that I have greatly enjoyed for a while; one which is now, I believe, transcribed for the first time here in cyberspace.

THE LAST DAYS OF AUTUMN
By James Gates Percival

Now the growing year is over,
And the shepherd’s tinkling bell
Faintly from its winter cover
Rings a low farewell:—
Now the birds of Autumn shiver,
Where the wither’d beech-leaves quiver,
O’er the dark and lazy river,
In the rocky dell.

Now the mist is on the mountains,
Reddening in the rising sun;
Now the flowers around the fountains
Perish one by one:—
Not a spire of grass is growing,
But the leaves that late were glowing,
Now its blighted green are strowing
With a mantle dun.

Now the torrent brook is stealing
Faintly down the furrow’d glade—
Not as when in winter pealing,
Such a din is made,
That the sound of cataracts falling
Gave no echo so appalling,
As its hoarse and heavy brawling
In the pine’s black shade.

Darkly blue the mist is hovering
Round the clifted rock’s bare height—
All the bordering mountains covering
With a dim, uncertain light:—
Now, a fresher wind prevailing,
Wide its heavy burden sailing,
Deepens as the day is failing,
Fast the gloom of night.

Slow the blood-stain’d moon is riding
Through the still and hazy air,
Like a sheeted spectre gliding
In a torch’s glare:—
Few the hours, her light is given—
Mingling clouds of tempest driven
O’er the mourning face of heaven,
All is blackness there.

John Greenleaf Whittier’s “The Angel of Patience”

Being in need of healing poetry once more—a trend I seem to be taking on lately—I turned to no one other than Whittier for solace. I know I have been sharing but all of his poetry as of late; however,  is it no wonder he is considered one of our greatest American poets?

“The Angel of Patience”
A Free Paraphrase of the German

TO weary hearts, to mourning homes,
God’s meekest Angel gently comes:
No power has he to banish pain,
Or give us back our lost again;
And yet in tenderest love our dear
And heavenly Father sends him here.

There ’s quiet in that Angel’s glance,
There ’s rest in his still countenance!
He mocks no grief with idle cheer,
Nor wounds with words the mourner’s ear;
But ills and woes he may not cure
He kindly trains us to endure.

Angel of Patience! sent to calm
Our feverish brows with cooling palm;
To lay the storms of hope and fear,
And reconcile life’s smile and tear;
The throbs of wounded pride to still,
And make our own our Father’s will!

O thou who mournest on thy way,
With longings for the close of day;
He walks with thee, that Angel kind,
And gently whispers, “Be resigned:
Bear up, bear on, the end shall tell
The dear Lord ordereth all things well!”

John Greenleaf Whittier’s “To—, with a Copy of Woolman’s Journal”

I have found myself returning to my copy of Whittier over and over again as of recent, and I cannot begin to sincerely express the fullness I feel in my heart after reading his poems. His gentle, poetic voice and non-rebuking messages are currently healing and restorative for me. Below is another newfound favorite from amongst his vast works. I hope it may touch you, as well.

To—. 
with a Copy of Woolman’s Journal

MAIDEN! with the fair brown tresses
Shading o’er thy dreamy eye,
Floating on thy thoughtful forehead
Cloud wreaths of its sky.

Youthful years and maiden beauty,
Joy with them should still abide,–
Instinct take the place of Duty,
Love, not Reason, guide.

Ever in the New rejoicing,
Kindly beckoning back the Old,
Turning, with the gift of Midas,
All things into gold.

And the passing shades of sadness
Wearing even a welcome guise,
As, when some bright lake lies open
To the sunny skies,

Every wing of bird above it,
Every light cloud floating on,
Glitters like that flashing mirror
In the self-same sun.

But upon thy youthful forehead
Something like a shadow lies;
And a serious soul is looking
From thy earnest eyes.

With an early introversion,
Through the forms of outward things,
Seeking for the subtle essence,
And the bidden springs.

Deeper than the gilded surface
Hath thy wakeful vision seen,
Farther than the narrow present
Have thy journeyings been.

Thou hast midst Life’s empty noises
Heard the solemn steps of Time,
And the low mysterious voices
Of another clime.

All the mystery of Being
Hath upon thy spirit pressed,–
Thoughts which, like the Deluge wanderer,
Find no place of rest:

That which mystic Plato pondered,
That which Zeno heard with awe,
And the star-rapt Zoroaster
In his night-watch saw.

From the doubt and darkness springing
Of the dim, uncertain Past,
Moving to the dark still shadows
O’er the Future cast,

Early hath Life’s mighty question
Thrilled within thy heart of youth,
With a deep and strong beseeching
What and where is Truth?

(I have included an excerpt only. You may find the rest here.)

The Tragic Case of Henry William Herbert, America’s Unruly “Forester”-Part Two

After a month long hiatus of this series, I have decided to finally raise it from the dead and commence with the tragic tale of Henry William Herbert. Before we continue, please feel free to either acquaint or reacquaint yourself with the first part of this biographical tale.

Before his arrival in Canada, it is noteworthy that Herbert spent a couple of months in New York, where he became acquainted with the sporting crowd and was “admired [as being a] Byronic young Englishman for his horsemanship and for the cavalier boots and King Charles spurs that he affected” (White 20). White continues, “The earliest recorded incident of his life in the new world is a horse race in which he defeated a professional jockey” (20).

The United States seemed promising to Henry, despite any prejudiced sneers he may have received due to his British lineage. Author Luke White explains this in a thorough manner,

Into the hard, hostile environment of New York in the spring of 1831 stepped the twenty-four-year-old Henry William Herbert, a tall, muscular young man, fashionably dressed, who was a charming gentleman when he wanted to be, but an arrogant, overbearing brawler when opposed. He was aggressively proud of his aristocratic background, extremely sensitive to any criticism of himself or his country, and quick to take offense (19).

Ultimately, after two months in the States, he left to find prospects in Canada. Upon his arrival in Canada, Herbert took advantage of the warm summer climate to familiarize himself with the woodlands and wilderness of this new foreign country. Although it is surmised that he wanted to establish himself amongst the Canadians of the region, he ultimately left to return to the United States. He did not leave in vain, for David Judd, editor of Frank Forester: Life and Writings Volume 1, states, “Despite his short sojourn, the future sporting author gleaned much valuable information with regard to the game and field sports of British America,” information that would be pertinent in his future sport and nature writings (13).

His return to the United States fared seemingly well, for, although initially harboring ill feelings towards his new job prospect, he accepted a position in New York City as a Greek and Latin preceptor in the Reverend Townsend Huddart’s Classical Institute, a school established to “operate as a rival to the Grammar School of Columbia College” (14). Regardless of Herbert’s resentment towards his new position, it is said his students praised their professor and his elocutionary skills, especially when reading translations from various texts. Not only did Herbert inspire literature, language, and translation in the minds of his students, but his pupils would progressively follow in his steps, and he would form especial bonds with a few, namely Philip Hone Anthon.

Not only did this position favor Herbert in the way of allowing a passage to establish himself in New York and alongside what would be future peers, but it also placed him in contact with the head of Huddart’s English department, A. D. Patterson [sometimes spelled “Paterson,” which is how it will thus be spelled in these articles]. This connection was a pivotal point for Herbert in his literary and editorial career, for Paterson was “an elderly gentleman of superior education, whose popularity as a journalist commanded universal respect among the mercantile classes…” (14). While completing a total of eight years at Hudart’s, Henry was introduced by Paterson to the literary publishing world, where he found budding success in submitting theatrical criticisms to The Courier and Enquirer, a rival newspaper of The Herald in New York.

Although this will be discussed in my next post, it is worth noting ahead of time that the latter newspaper is of importance, for Henry would find both humiliation and an enemy in the editor of The Herald, James Gordon Bennett, a ruthless gentleman with great intolerance for anything that walked or breathed. Not only will my next post discuss how their rivalry, a shocking encounter, and public humiliation are connected between Herbert and Bennett, but we will emphasize how 1832 and 1833 proved to be both pivotal and slightly degrading years for Henry. Finally, I will discuss, in depth, the deep-rooted, respected partnership between Herbert and Paterson and their creation of the American Monthly Magazine in 1833.

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