William Cullen Bryant
Cabinet card of Bryant, c. 1876
|Born||November 3, 1794|
Cummington, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||June 12, 1878 (aged 83)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Poet, journalist, and editor|
Bryant was born on November 3, 1794, in a log cabin near Cummington, Massachusetts; the home of his birth is today marked with a plaque. He was the second son of Peter Bryant (b. Aug. 12, 1767, d. Mar. 20, 1820), a doctor and later a state legislator, and Sarah Snell (b. Dec. 4, 1768, d. May 6, 1847). The genealogy of his mother traces back to passengers on the Mayflower: John Alden (b. 1599, d. 1687), his wife Priscilla Mullins and her parents William and Alice Mullins. The story of the romance between John and Priscilla is the subject of a famous narrative poem by Longfellow "The Courtship of Miles Standish".
He was also a nephew of Charity Bryant, a Vermont seamstress who is the subject of Rachel Hope Cleves's 2014 book Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America. William Cullen Bryant described their relationship: "If I were permitted to draw the veil of private life, I would briefly give you the singular, and to me interesting, story of two maiden ladies who dwell in this valley. I would tell you how, in their youthful days, they took each other as companions for life, and how this union, no less sacred to them than the tie of marriage, has subsisted, in uninterrupted harmony, for more than forty years." Charity and Sylvia Drake are buried together at Weybridge Hill Cemetery, Weybridge, Vermont.
Bryant and his family moved to a new home when he was two years old. The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, his boyhood home, is now a museum. After just one year at Williams College (he entered with sophomore standing), he hoped to transfer to Yale, but a talk with his father led to the realization that family finances would not support it. His father counseled a legal career as his best available choice, and the disappointed poet began to study law in Worthington and Bridgewater in Massachusetts. He was admitted to the bar in 1815 and began practicing law in nearby Plainfield, walking the seven miles from Cummington every day. On one of these walks, in December 1815, he noticed a single bird flying on the horizon; the sight moved him enough to write "To a Waterfowl".
Bryant developed an interest in poetry early in life. Under his father's tutelage, he emulated Alexander Pope and other Neo-Classic British poets. "The Embargo", a savage attack on President Thomas Jefferson published in 1808, reflected Dr. Bryant's Federalist political views. The first edition quickly sold out — partly because of publicity attached to the poet's young age. A second, expanded edition included Bryant's translation of classical verse. During his collegiate studies and his reading for the law, he wrote little poetry, but encounters with the Graveyard Poets and then Wordsworth regenerated his passion for "the witchery of song."
"Thanatopsis" is Bryant's most famous poem, which Bryant may have been working on as early as 1811. In 1817 his father took some pages of verse from his son's desk, and at the invitation of Willard Phillips, an editor of the North American Review who had previously been tutored in the classics by Dr. Bryant, he submitted them along with his own work. The editor of the Review, Edward Tyrrel Channing, read the poem to his assistant, Richard Henry Dana, who immediately exclaimed, "That was never written on this side of the water!" Someone at the North American joined two of the son's discrete fragments, gave the result the Greek-derived title Thanatopsis ("meditation on death"), mistakenly attributed it to the father, and published it. After clarification of the authorship, the son's poems began appearing with some regularity in the Review. "To a Waterfowl", published in 1821, was the most popular.
On January 11, 1821, Bryant, still striving to build a legal career, married Frances Fairchild. Soon after, having received an invitation to address the Harvard University Phi Beta Kappa Society at the school's August commencement, Bryant spent months working on "The Ages", a panorama in verse of the history of civilization, culminating in the establishment of the United States. As it would in all collections he subsequently issued, "The Ages" led the volume, also entitled Poems, which he arranged to publish on the same trip to Cambridge. For that book, he added sets of lines at the beginning and end of "Thanatopsis" that changed the poem. His career as a poet was now established, though recognition as America's leading poet waited until 1832, when an expanded Poems was published in the U.S. and, with the assistance of Washington Irving, in Britain.
His poetry has been described as being "of a thoughtful, meditative character, and makes but slight appeal to the mass of readers."
From 1816 to 1825, Bryant depended on his law practice in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to sustain his family financially, but the strain of dealing with unsophisticated neighbors and juridical pettifoggery pushed him to trade his unrewarding profession for New York City and the promise of a literary career. With the encouragement of a distinguished and well-connected literary family, the Sedgwicks, he quickly gained a foothold in New York City's vibrant cultural life. His first employment, in 1825, was as editor of the New-York Review, which within the next year merged with the United States Review and Literary Gazette. But in the throes of the failing struggle to raise subscriptions, he accepted part-time duties with the New-York Evening Post under William Coleman; then, partly because of Coleman's ill health, traceable to the consequences of a duel and then a stroke, Bryant's responsibilities expanded rapidly. From assistant editor he rose to editor-in-chief and co-owner of the newspaper that had been founded by Alexander Hamilton. Over the next half century, the Post would become the most respected paper in the city and, from the election of Andrew Jackson, the major platform in the Northeast for the Democratic Party and subsequently of the Free Soil and Republican Parties. In the process, the Evening-Post also became the pillar of a substantial fortune. From his Federalist beginnings, Bryant had shifted to being one of the most liberal voices of the century. An early supporter of organized labor, with his 1836 editorials asserting the right of workmen to strike, Bryant also defended of religious minorities and immigrants, and promoted the abolition of slavery. He "threw himself into the foreground of the battle for human rights" and did not cease speaking out against the corrupting influence of certain bankers in spite of their efforts to break down the paper. According to newspaper historian Frank Luther Mott, Bryant was "a great liberal seldom done justice by modern writers".
Ironically, the boy who first tasted fame for his diatribe against Thomas Jefferson and his party became one of the key supporters in the Northeast of that same party under Jackson. Bryant's views, always progressive though not quite populist, in course led him to join the Free Soilers, and when the Free Soil Party became a core of the new Republican Party in 1856, Bryant vigorously campaigned for John Frémont. That exertion enhanced his standing in party councils, and in 1860, he was one of the prime Eastern exponents of Abraham Lincoln, whom he introduced at Cooper Union. (That "Cooper Union speech" lifted Lincoln to the nomination, and then the presidency.)
Although literary historians have neglected his fiction, Bryant's stories over the seven-year period from his time with the Review to the publication of Tales of Glauber Spa in 1832 show a variety of strategies, making him the most inventive of practitioners of the genre during this early stage of its evolution. He was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1855.
Bryant edited the very successful Picturesque America, which was published between 1872 and 1874. This two-volume set was lavishly illustrated and described scenic places in the United States and Canada.
In his last decade, Bryant shifted from writing his own poetry to a blank verse translation of Homer's works. He assiduously worked on the Iliad and The Odyssey from 1871 to 1874. He is also remembered as one of the principal authorities on homeopathy and as a hymnist for the Unitarian Church, both legacies of his father's enormous influence on him.
Bryant died in 1878 of complications from an accidental fall suffered after participating in a Central Park ceremony to honor Italian patriot Giuseppe Mazzini. He is buried at Roslyn Cemetery in Roslyn, Long Island, New York.
Poet and literary critic Thomas Holley Chivers said that the "only thing [Bryant] ever wrote that may be called Poetry is 'Thanatopsis', which he stole line for line from the Spanish. The fact is, that he never did anything but steal — as nothing he ever wrote is original." Contemporary critic Edgar Allan Poe, on the other hand, praised Bryant and specifically the poem "June" in his essay "The Poetic Principle":
The rhythmical flow, here, is even voluptuous — nothing could be more melodious. The poem has always affected me in a remarkable manner. The intense melancholy which seems to well up, perforce, to the surface of all the poet's cheerful sayings about his grave, we find thrilling us to the soul — while there is the truest poetic elevation in the thrill. The impression left is one of a pleasurable sadness.
Editor and children's writer Mary Mapes Dodge wrote that Bryant's poems "have wrought vast and far-reaching good in the world." She predicted, "You will admire more and more, as you grow older, the noble poems of this great and good man."
Bryant's poetry is tender and graceful, pervaded by a contemplative melancholy, and a love of solitude and the silence of the woods. Though he was brought up to admire Pope, and in his early youth imitated him, he was one of the first American poets to throw off his influence. Bryant had an interest in science and in geology especially. Thomas Cole was a friend and both, at different times, considered the "geological structure" of Volterra in Italy. He met Charles Lyell in England in 1845. He had a high sense of duty, was a prominent and patriotic citizen, and enjoyed the esteem and even the reverence of his fellow-countrymen.
In 1884, New York City's Reservoir Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, was renamed Bryant Park in his honor. The city later named a public high school in Long Island City, Queens in his honor.
A park in East York, a suburb of Toronto, Canada, bears the name of Cullen Bryant Park as well.
Although he is now thought of as a New Englander, Bryant, for most of his lifetime, was thoroughly a New Yorker—and a very dedicated one at that. He was a major force behind the idea that became Central Park, as well as a leading proponent of creating the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was one of a group of founders of New York Medical College. He had close affinities with the Hudson River School of art and was an intimate friend of Thomas Cole. He defended immigrants and, at some financial risk to himself, championed the rights of workers to form labor unions.
As a writer, Bryant was an early advocate of American literary nationalism, and his own poetry focusing on nature as a metaphor for truth established a central pattern in the American literary tradition.
Some however, argue that a reassessment is long overdue. It finds great merit in a couple of short stories Bryant wrote while trying to build interest in periodicals he edited. More importantly, it perceives a poet of great technical sophistication who was a progenitor of Walt Whitman, to whom he was a mentor.
Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted Bryant in his speech "Give Us the Ballot", when he said, "there is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying: 'Truth crushed to earth will rise again.'"
The Seattle neighborhood Bryant is named after him.
Bryant House at Williams College is named for him.
Bryant Woods, one of the four original villages in Columbia, Maryland, is also named after him.
William Cullen Bryant Elementary School in Cleveland, Ohio is also named in his honor.
William Cullen Bryant High School in Long Island City, New York is also named in his honor.
Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).Bryant, Minneapolis
Bryant Neighborhood's boundaries are East 38th Street to the north, Chicago Avenue to the east, East 42nd Street to the south, and Interstate 35W to the west.
The neighborhood was named for William Cullen Bryant, an American poet who lived from 1794 to 1878.
The City of Minneapolis incorporated the neighborhood in 1887, and by 1930 it was fully developed. Today it is a residential neighborhood with mostly single-family dwellings. In 2000, is population was 2,789. Phelps Park, which is located within its boundaries, is home to a large Boys and Girls Club.
The Bryant Unity Development Garden (BUD Garden), is located at East 40th Street and 3rd Avenue South, on land owned by Saint Leonard's of Port Maurice Catholic Church. It was founded in 1994 by Bryant Residents Judy Anderson, local artist, and Sharon Parker, local artist, writer and editor. In 1997, Mixed Blood Theater Company produced a play called In the Garden..., which was performed at Phelps Park. The play, written by local playwright Syl Jones, was based on interviews of neighborhood residents and was centered on the BUD Garden as a source of community restoration.
Bryant Neighborhood is located entirely within the bounds of Minnesota Senate District 62. It is in the 5th Precinct of the 8th Ward.
Noted residents include Civil Rights Lawyer Larry Blackwell, Angela Conley, and Andrea Jenkins.Bryant, Saskatchewan
Bryant is an unincorporated community in Benson Rural Municipality No. 35, Saskatchewan, Canada. The community is located on Highway 702, approximately 20 km (12 mi) west of Lampman and 20 km (12 mi) north of Estevan. Bryant gets its name from Quaker poet, journalist, and editor William Cullen Bryant.Bryant, Seattle
Bryant is a residential neighborhood in northeast Seattle, Washington. According to the City of Seattle's neighborhood maps (as pictured), it is bounded by 35th Avenue NE and NE 45th Place on the west, beyond which is Ravenna; Sand Point Way NE and 45th Ave NE on the east, beyond which are Laurelhurst and Windermere; and NE 75th Street and NE 65th Street on the north, beyond which are View Ridge and Wedgwood.The neighborhood is sometimes known as Ravenna-Bryant, due to its proximity to Ravenna Park. The Burke-Gilman Trail runs along the southern and eastern margins of the neighborhood, paralleling Blakeley Street, Union Bay Place, 45th Street, and Sand Point Way. Bryant Park is located on NE 65th Street at 40th Avenue NE. In late 2012 the Ravenna-Bryant association incorporated a small neighborhood bounded by 35th Avenue NE on the west, 40th Avenue NE on the east, NE 75th Street on the north, and NE 65th Street on the south. The area had previously been a 'donut hole' between the neighborhood belonging to the Ravenna-Bryant association and those of Wedgwood and View Ridge.Bryant Elementary School is located at 33rd Avenue NE and NE 60th Street. The school was named after William Cullen Bryant. Bryant School has an event called the Bryant Blast, now in the fall, that offers many games and food, including bouncy toys, cake walks, raffles, and more. On the 4th of July, an annual block party takes place along the two streets west of the elementary school. The neighborhood fire fighters take part (if they're not called away for an emergency) by leading the parade down the street, complete with kids pulling red wagons, decked out pets, adults dressed as historical figures and the annual Statue of Liberty lady. The neighborhood is also home to the Nathan Eckstein Middle School with one of the best music and jazz programs in the region for students.
The North East branch of the Seattle Public Library, is located at 35th Avenue NE and NE 68th Street. Bryant is also the home to Assumption Catholic Church, University Unitarian Church, Ravenna Methodist, which houses a local preschool cooperative, and three synagogues, Congregation Beth Shalom (Conservative) at 35th Avenue NE and NE 68th Street, Emmanuel Congregation (Modern Orthodox) on NE 65th Street and 35th Avenue NE, and Congregation Shaarei Tefilah–Lubavitch (Orthodox) on NE 65th Street and 43rd Avenue NE.
Bryant Elementary School, the Nathan Eckstein Middle School, and the North East Library all have status as Seattle city landmarks, as does Fire Station #38 at 5503 33rd Avenue N.E.Cullen, Saskatchewan
Cullen is a former hamlet in Benson Rural Municipality No. 35, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Cullen and the nearby community of Bryant are named after Quaker poet, journalist, and editor William Cullen Bryant.Cullen Bryant
William Cullen Bryant (May 20, 1951 – October 13, 2009) was a professional American football player who spent thirteen seasons in the National Football League (NFL) as a running back and return specialist for the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks. He played college football at Colorado.Cummington, Massachusetts
Cummington is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 872 at the 2010 census, down from 978 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.Fitz-Greene Halleck (sculpture)
Fitz-Greene Halleck is an outdoor bronze sculpture of Fitz-Greene Halleck by James Wilson Alexander MacDonald, located in Central Park in Manhattan, New York. Commissioned by William Cullen Bryant and James Grant Wilson following Halleck's death in 1867, the statue was cast in 1876 and installed in 1877, becoming the first in Central Park depicting an American. An estimated 10,000 people attended its dedication on May 15, 1877.Giuseppe Mazzini (sculpture)
Giuseppe Mazzini is an outdoor bronze bust of Giuseppe Mazzini by Giovanni Turini, overlooking Sheep Meadow in Central Park in Manhattan, New York. The sculpture was commissioned by a group of Italian-Americans and was dedicated in 1878 with a speech by American Poet William Cullen Bryant. It sits on a granite pedestal, which includes two inscriptions that translate to "thought and action" and "God and the people". In 1994, the bust was restored by the Central Park Conservancy.Kaaterskill Falls
Kaaterskill Falls is a two-stage waterfall on Spruce Creek in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York, between the hamlets of Haines Falls and Palenville in Greene County. The two cascades total 260 feet (79 m) in height, making Kaaterskill Falls one of the highest waterfalls in New York, and one of the Eastern United States' tallest waterfalls.
The waterfalls are one of America's oldest tourist attractions, being depicted or described by many books, essays, poems and paintings of the early 19th century. Long before Alexis de Tocqueville's famous essay on America, Kaaterskill Falls was lauded as a place where a traveler could see a wilder image, a sort of primeval Eden. Beginning with Thomas Cole's first visit during 1825, they became a subject for painters of the Hudson River School, setting the wilderness ideal for American landscape painting. The Falls also inspired "Catterskill Falls", a poem by William Cullen Bryant.Kindred Spirits (painting)
Kindred Spirits (1849) is a painting by Asher Brown Durand, a member of the Hudson River School of painters. It depicts the painter Thomas Cole, who had died in 1848, and his friend, the poet William Cullen Bryant, in the Catskill Mountains. The landscape painting, which combines geographical features in Kaaterskill Clove and a minuscule depiction of Kaaterskill Falls, is not a literal depiction of American geography. Rather, it is an idealized memory of Cole's discovery of the region more than twenty years prior, his friendship with Bryant, and his ideas about American nature.Knickerbocker Group
The Knickerbocker Group was a somewhat indistinct group" of writers, notably Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and William Cullen Bryant, who were American pioneers in the literary fields of general literature, novels, and poetry and journalism, respectively. Other talented poets, playwrights, writers, novelists, journalists, and editors joined this writer's club, dubbed the "Knickerbocker Group" after Irving's Knickerbocker's History of New York and pen name, "Diedrich Knickerbocker".
Other members of this group included James Kirke Paulding, Fitz-Greene Halleck, Joseph Rodman Drake, Robert Charles Sands, Lydia Maria Child, Gulian Crommelin Verplanck, and Nathaniel Parker Willis. Many were frequent contributors to the literary magazine The Knickerbocker under editor Lewis Gaylord Clark.
This group's characteristic was to write in a sophisticated way about heroic or epic stories. They used parody, satire and loved beauty of landscapes which inspired them. The Knickerbocker Group lived in New-York City.Sea Cliff, New York
The Incorporated Village of Sea Cliff is a village located within the Town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County, New York. According to the United States 2010 Census, the village population was 4,995. The village is part of the North Shore School District.
Notable residents include poet, journalist and editor William Cullen Bryant, inventor and entrepreneur LaMarcus Adna Thompson (who established Sea Cliff's Thompson Park residential development), poet and journalist Alfred Lansing, author of Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, Pulitzer Prize–winning short story writer Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Dan Fagin, actress Natalie Portman, Emmy-award-winning comedian Kate McKinnon, John Rzeznik, frontman of the rock band Goo Goo Dolls, and cartoonist Arnold Levin.Thanatopsis
"Thanatopsis" is a poem by the American poet William Cullen Bryant. Meaning 'a consideration of death', the word is derived from the Greek 'thanatos' (death) and 'opsis' (view, sight).The Embargo
"The Embargo" is a historical poem written by the American poet William Cullen Bryant in 1808, when he was thirteen years old. Bryant was a critic of Jeffersonian political philosophy, and the work was his attempt to satirize a widely unpopular shipping embargo imposed by Thomas Jefferson at the time. Jefferson's embargo failed, ultimately helping precipitate the War of 1812.To a Waterfowl
"To a Waterfowl" is a poem by American poet William Cullen Bryant, first published in 1818.William Cullen Bryant High School
William Cullen Bryant High School, or William C. Bryant High School, and Bryant High School for short, is a secondary school in Queens, New York City, United States serving grades 9 through 12.William Cullen Bryant Homestead
The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is the boyhood home and later summer residence of William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878), one of America's foremost poets and newspaper editors. The 155-acre (63 ha) estate is located at 205 Bryant Road in Cummington, Massachusetts, currently operated by the non-profit Trustees of Reservations, and open to the public on weekends in summer and early fall. An admission fee is charged.William Cullen Bryant Memorial
The William Cullen Bryant Memorial is an outdoor sculpture of William Cullen Bryant, located at Bryant Park in Manhattan, New York. The bronze statue was created by Herbert Adams and installed in 1911, the year the New York Public Library Main Branch building was completed.