Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Bryant, William Cullen
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BRYANT, William Cullen, poet and editor, b. in Cummington, Mass., 3 Nov., 1794; d. in New York, 12 June, 1878. His ancestry might have been inferred from the character of his writings, which reflect whatever is best and noblest in the life and thought of New England. The first Bryant of whom there is any account in the annals of the New World, Stephen, came over from England, and was at Plymouth, Mass., as early as 1632, of which town he was chosen constable in 1663. He married Abigail Shaw, who had emigrated with her father, and who bore him several children between 1650 and 1665. Stephen Bryant had a son Ichabod, who was the father of Philip Bryant, born in 1732. Philip married Silence Howard, daughter of Dr. Abiel Howard, of West Bridgewater, whose profession he adopted, practising in North Bridgewater. He was the father of nine children, one of whom, Peter, born in 1767, succeeded him in his profession. Young Dr. Bryant married in 1792 Miss Sarah Snell, daughter of Ebenezer Snell, of Bridgewater, who removed his family to Cummington, where the subject of this sketch was born. Dr. Bryant was proud of his profession; and in the hope, no doubt, that his son would become a shining light therein, he perpetuated at his christening the name of a great medical authority, who had died four years before, William Cullen. The lad was exceedingly frail, and had a head the immensity of which troubled his anxious father. How to reduce it to the normal size was a puzzle that Dr. Bryant solved in a spring of clear, cold water, into which the child was immersed every morning, head and all, by two of Dr. Bryant's students. William Cullen Bryant's mother was a descendant of John Alden; and the characteristics of his family included some of the sterner qualities of the Puritans. His grandfather Snell was a magistrate, and without doubt a severe one, for the period was not one that favored leniency to criminals. The whipping-post was still extant in Massachusetts, and the poet remembered that one stood about a mile from his early home at Cummington, and that he once saw a young fellow of eighteen who had received forty lashes as a punishment for theft. It was, he thought, the last example of corporal punishment inflicted by law in that neighborhood, though the whipping-post remained in its place for several years.
Magistrate Snell was a disciplinarian of the stricter sort; and as he and his wife resided with Dr. Bryant and his family, the latter stood in awe of him, so much so that William Cullen was prevented from feeling anything like affection for him. It was an age of repression, not to say oppression, for children, who had few rights that their elders were bound to respect. To the terrors of the secular arm were added the deeper terrors of the spiritual law, for the people of that primitive period were nothing if not religious. The minister was the great man, and his bodily presence was a restraint upon the unruly, and the ruly too, for that matter. The lines of our ancestors did not fall in pleasant places as far as recreations were concerned; for they were few and far between, consisting, for the most part, of militia musters, “raisings,” corn-huskings, and singing-schools, diversified with the making of maple sugar and cider. Education was confined to the three R's, though the children of wealthy parents were sent to colleges as they now are. It was not a genial social condition, it must be confessed, to which William Cullen Bryant was born, though it might have been worse but for his good father, who was in many respects superior to his rustic neighbors. He was broad-shouldered and muscular, proud of his strength, but his manners were gentle and reserved, his disposition serene, and he was fond of society. He was elected to the Massachusetts house of representatives several times, afterward to the state senate, and associated with the cultivated circles of Boston both as legislator and physician.
We have the authority of the poet himself that his father taught his youth the art of verse. His first efforts were several clever “Enigmas,” in imitation of the Latin writers, a translation from Horace, and a copy of verses written in his twelfth year, to be recited at the close of the winter school, “in the presence of the master, the minister of the parish, and a number of private gentlemen.” They were printed on 18 March, 1807, in the “Hampshire Gazette,” from which these particulars are derived, and which was favored with other contributions from the pen of “C. B.” The juvenile poems of William Cullen Bryant are as clever as those of Chatterton, Pope, and Cowley; but they are in no sense original, and it would have been strange if they had been. There was no original writing in America at the time they were written; and if there had been, it would hardly have commended itself to the old-fashioned taste of Dr. Bryant, to whom Pope was still a power in poetry. It was natural, therefore, that he should offer his boy to the strait-laced muses of Queen Anne's time; that the precocious boy should lisp in heroic couplets; and that he should endeavor to be satirical. Politics were running high in the first decade of the present century, and the favorite bugbear in New England was President Jefferson, who, in 1807, had laid an embargo on American shipping, in consequence of the decrees of Napoleon, and the British orders in council in relation thereto. This act was denounced, and by no one more warmly than by Master Bryant, who made it the subject of a satire: “The Embargo; or, Sketches of the Times” (Boston, 1808). The first edition was sold, and it is said to have been well received; but doubts were expressed as to whether the author was really a youth of thirteen. His friends came to his rescue in an “Advertisement,” prefixed to a second edition (1809), certifying to his age from their personal knowledge. They also certified to his extraordinary talents, though they preferred to have him judged by his works, without favor or affection, and concluded by saying that the printer was authorized to disclose their addresses.
The early poetical exercises of William Cullen Bryant, like those of all young poets, were colored by the books he read. Among these were the works of Pope, and, no doubt, the works of Cowper and Thomson. The latter, if they were in the library of Dr. Bryant, do not appear to have impressed his son at this time; nor, indeed, does any English poet except Pope, so far as we can judge from his contributions to the “Hampshire Gazette.” They were bookish and patriotic; one, written at Cummington, 8 Jan., 1810. being “The Genius of Columbia”; and another, “An Ode for the Fourth of July, 1812,” to the tune of “Ye Gentlemen of England.” These productions are undeniably clever, but they are not characteristic of their writer, nor of the nature that surrounded his birthplace, with which he was familiar, and of which he was a close observer.
He entered Williams college in his sixteenth year, and remained there one winter, distinguishing himself for aptness and industry in classical learning and polite literature. At the end of two years he withdrew, and began the study of law, first with Judge Howe, of Worthington, and afterward with William Baylies, of Bridgewater. So far he had written nothing but clever amateur verse; but now, in his eighteenth year, he wrote an imperishable poem. The circumstances under which it was composed have been variously related, but they agree in the main particulars, and are thus given in “The Bryant Homestead Book”: “It was here at Cummington, while wandering in the primeval forests, over the floor of which were scattered the gigantic trunks of fallen trees, mouldering for long years, and suggesting an indefinitely remote antiquity, and where silent rivulets crept along through the carpet of dead leaves, the spoil of thousands of summers, that the poem entitled ‘Thanatopsis’ was composed. The young poet had read the poems of Kirke White, which, edited by Southey, were published about that time, and a small volume of Southey's miscellaneous poems; and some lines of those authors had kindled his imagination, which, going forth over the face of the inhabitants of the globe, sought to bring under one broad and comprehensive view the destinies of the human race in the present life, and the perpetual rising and passing away of generation after generation who are nourished by the fruits of its soil, and find a resting-place in its bosom.” We should like to know what lines in Southey and Kirke White suggested “Thanatopsis,” that they might be printed in letters of gold hereafter.
When the young poet quitted Cummington to begin his law studies, he left the manuscript of this incomparable poem among his papers in the house of his father, who found it after his departure, “Here are some lines that our Cullen has been writing,” he said to a lady to whom he showed them. She read them, and, raising her eyes to the face of Dr. Bryant, burst into tears — a tribute to the genius of his son in which he was not ashamed to join. Blackstone bade his Muse a long adieu before he turned to wrangling courts and stubborn law; and our young lawyer intended to do the same (for poetry was starvation in America four-score years ago), but habit and nature were too strong for him. There is no difficulty in tracing the succession of his poems, and in a few instances the places where they were written, or with which they concerned themselves. “Thanatopsis,” for example, was followed by “The Yellow Violet,” which was followed by the “Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood,” and the song beginning “Soon as the glazed and gleaming snow.” The exquisite lines “To a Waterfowl” were written at Bridgewater, in his twentieth year, where he was still pursuing the study of law, which appears to have been distasteful to him. The concluding stanza sank deeply into a heart that needed its pious lesson:
“He who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.”
The lawyer-poet had a long way before him, but he did not tread it alone; for, after being admitted to the bar in Plymouth, and practising for a time in Plainfield, near Cummington, he removed to Great Barrington, in Berkshire, where he saw the dwelling of the Genevieve of his chilly little “Song,” his Genevieve being Miss Frances Fairchild of that beautiful town, whom he married in his twenty-seventh year, and who was the light of his household for nearly half a century. It was to her, the reader may like to know, that he addressed the ideal poem beginning “O fairest of the rural maids” (circa 1825), “The Future Life” (1837), and “The Life that Is” (1858); and her memory and her loss are tenderly embalmed in one of the most touching of his later poems, “October, 1866.”
“Thanatopsis” was sent to the “North American Review” (whether by its author or his father is uncertain), and with such a modest, not to say enigmatical, note of introduction, that its authorship was left in doubt. The “Review” was managed by a club of young literary gentlemen, who styled themselves “The North American Club,” two of whose members, Richard Henry Dana and Edward Tyrrel Channing, were considered its editors. Mr. Dana read the poem carefully, and was so surprised at its excellence that he doubted whether it was the production of an American, an opinion in which his associates are understood to have concurred. While they were hesitating about its acceptance, he was told that the writer was a member of the Massachusetts senate; and, the senate being then in session, he started immediately from Cambridge for Boston. He reached the statehouse, and inquired for Senator Bryant. A tall, middle-aged man, with a business-like look, was pointed out to him. He was satisfied that he could not be the poet he sought, so he posted back to Cambridge without an introduction. The story ends here, and rather tamely; for the original narrator forgot, or perhaps never knew, that Dr. Bryant was a member of the senate, and that it was among the possibilities that he was the senator with a similar name. American poetry may be said to have begun in 1817 with the September number of the “North American Review,” which contained “Thanatopsis” and the “Inscription for the Entrance of a Wood,” the last being printed as a “Fragment.” In March, 1818, the impression that “Thanatopsis” created was strengthened by the appearance of the lines “To a Waterfowl,” and the “Version of a Fragment of Simonides.”
Mr. Bryant's literary life may now be said to have begun, though he depended upon his profession for his daily bread. He continued his contributions to the “North American Review” in prose papers on literary topics, and maintained the most friendly relations with its conductors; notably so with Mr. Dana, who was seven years his elder, and who possessed, like himself, the accomplishment of verse. At the suggestion of this poetical and critical brother, he was invited to deliver a poem before the Phi Beta Kappa society at Harvard college an honor which is offered only to those who have already made a reputation, and are likely to reflect credit on the society as well as on themselves. He accepted, and in 1821 wrote his first poem of any length, “The Ages,” which still remains the best poem of the kind that was ever recited before a college society either in this country or in England; grave, stately, thoughtful, presenting in animated picturesque stanzas a compact summary of the history of mankind. A young Englishman of twenty-one, Thomas Babington Macaulay, delivered in the same year a poem on “Evening,” before the students of Trinity college, Cambridge; and it is instructive to compare his conventional heroics with the spirited Spenserian stanzas of Bryant. The lines “To a Waterfowl,” written at Bridgewater in 1815, were followed by “Green River.” “A Winter Piece,” “The West Wind,” “The Burial-Place,” “Blessed are they that mourn,” “No man knoweth his Sepulchre,” “A Walk at Sunset,” and the “Hymn to Death.” These poems, which cover a period of six busy years, are interesting to the poetic student as examples of the different styles of their writer, and of the changing elements of his thoughts and feelings. “Green River,” for example, is a momentary revealment of his shy temperament and his daily pursuits. Its glimpses of nature are charming, and his wish to be beside its waters is the most natural one in the world. The young lawyer is not complimentary to his clients, whom he styles “the dregs of men,” while his pen, which does its best to serve them, becomes “a barbarous pen.” He is dejected, but a visit to the river will restore his spirits; for, as he gazes upon its lonely and lovely stream,
|“||An image of that calm life appears|
|That won my heart in my greener years.”|
“A Winter Piece” is a gallery of woodland pictures, which surpasses anything of the kind in the language. “A Walk at Sunset” is notable in that it is the first poem in which we see (faintly, it must be confessed) the aboriginal element, which was soon to become prominent in Bryant's poetry. It was inseparable from the primeval forests of the New World, but he was the first to perceive its poetic value. The “Hymn to Death” — stately, majestic, consolatory — concludes with a touching tribute to the worth of his good father, who died while he was writing it, at the age of fifty-four. The year 1821 was important to Bryant, for it witnessed the publication of his first collection of verse, his marriage, and the death of his father.
The next four years of his life were more productive than any that had preceded them, for he wrote more than thirty poems during that time. The aboriginal element was creative in “The Indian Girl's Lament,” “An Indian Story,” “An Indian at the Burial-Place of his Fathers,” and, noblest of all, “Monument Mountain”; the Hellenic element predominated in “The Massacre at Scio” and “The Song of the Greek Amazon”; the Hebraic element touched him lightly in “Rizpah” and the “Song of the Stars”; and the pure poetic element was manifest in “March,” “The Rivulet” (which, by the way, ran through the grounds of the old homestead at Cummington), “After a Tempest,” “The Murdered Traveller,” “Hymn to the North Star,” “A Forest Hymn,” “Fairest of the Rural Maids,” and the exquisite and now most pathetic poem, “June.” These poems and others not specified here, if read continuously and in the order in which they were composed, show a wide range of sympathies, a perfect acquaintance with many measures, and a clear, capacious, ever-growing intellect. They are all distinctive of the genius of their author, but neither exhibits the full measure of his powers. The publication of Bryant's little volume of verse was indirectly the cause of his adopting literature as a profession. It was warmly commended, and by no one more so than by Gillian C. Verplanck in the columns of the New York “American.” He was something of a literary authority at the time, a man of fortune and college-bred. Among his friends was Henry D. Sedgwick, a summer neighbor, so to speak, of Bryant's, having a country-house at Stockbridge, a few miles from Great Barrington, and a house in town, which was frequented by the literati of the day, such as Cooper, Halleck, Percival, Verplanck, and others of less note. An admirer of Bryant, Mr. Sedgwick set to work, with the assistance of Mr. Verplanck, to procure him literary employment in New York in order to enable him to escape his bondage to the law; and he was appointed assistant editor of a projected periodical called the “New York Review and Athenæum Magazine.” The at last enfranchised lawyer dropped his barbarous pen, closed his law-books, and in the winter or spring of 1825 removed with his household to New York. The projected periodical was begun, as these sanguine ventures always are, with fair hopes of success. It was well edited, and its contributors were men of acknowledged ability. The June number contained two poems that ought to have made a great hit. One was “A Song of Pitcairn's Island”; the other was “Marco Bozzaris.” There was no flourish of trumpets over them, as there would be now; the writers merely prefixed their initials, “B.” and “H.” The reading public of New York were not ready for the “Review,” so after about a year's struggle it was merged in the “New York Literary Gazette,” which had begun its mission about four years earlier. This magazine shared the fate of its companion in a few months, when it was consolidated with the “United States Literary Gazette,” which in two months was swallowed up in the “United States Review.” The honor of publishing and finishing the last was shared by Boston and New York. Profit in these publications there was none, though Bryant, Halleck, Willis, Dana, Bancroft, and Longfellow wrote for them. Too good, or not good enough, they lived and died prematurely.
Mr. Bryant's success as a metropolitan man of letters was not brilliant so far; but other walks than those of pure literature were open to him as to others, and into one of the most bustling of these he entered in his thirty-second year. In other words, he became one of the editors of the “Evening Post.” Henceforth he was to live by journalism. Journalism, though an exacting pursuit, leaves its skilful followers a little leisure in which to cultivate literature. It was the heyday of those ephemeral trifles, “Annuals,” and Mr. Bryant found time to edit one. with the assistance of his friend Mr. Verplanck and his acquaintance Robert C. Sands; and a very creditable work it was. His contributions to “The Talisman” included some of his best poems. Poetry was the natural expression of his genius, a fact he could never understand, for it always seemed to him that prose was the natural expression of all mankind. His prose was masterly. Its earliest examples, outside of his critical papers in the “North American Review” and other periodicals (and outside of the “Evening Post,” of course), are two stories entitled “Medfield” and “The Skeleton's Cave,” contributed to “Tales of the Glauber Spa” (1832), a collection of original stories by Paulding, Verplanck, Sands, William Leggett. and Catharine Sedgwick. Three years before (1828) he had become the chief editor of the “Evening Post.” Associated with him was Mr. Leggett, who had shown some talent as a writer of sketches and stories, and who had failed, like himself, in conducting a critical publication for which his countrymen were not ready. He made a second collection of his poems at this time (1832), a copy of which was sent by Mr. Verplanck to Washington Irving, who was then, what he had been for years, the idol of English readers, and not without weight with the trade. Would he see if some English house would not reprint it? No leading publisher nibbled at it, not even Murray, who was Irving's publisher; but an obscure bookseller named Andrews finally agreed to undertake it if Irving would put his valuable name on the title-page as editor. He was not acquainted with Bryant, but he was a kind-hearted, large-souled gentleman, who knew good poetry when he saw it, and he consented to “edit” the book. It was not a success in the estimation of Andrews, who came to him one day, by no means a merry Andrew, and declared that the book would ruin him unless one or more changes were made in the text. What was amiss in it? He turned to the “Song of Marion's Men,” and stumbled over an obnoxious couplet in the first stanza:
|“||The British soldier trembles|
|When Marion's name is told.”|
“That won't do at all, you know.” The absurdity of the objection must have struck the humorist comically; but, as he wanted the volume republished, he good-naturedly saved the proverbial valor of the British soldier by changing the first line to
and the tempest in a teapot was over, as far as England was concerned. Not as far as the United States was concerned, however, for when the circumstance became known to Mr. Leggett he excoriated Irving for his subserviency to a bloated aristocracy, and so forth. Prof. Wilson reviewed the book in “Blackwood's” in a half-hearted way, patronizing the writer with his praise.
The poems that Bryant wrote during the first seven years of his residence in New York (about forty, not including translations) exhibited the qualities that distinguished his genius from the beginning, and were marked by characteristics rather acquired than inherited; in other words, they were somewhat different from those written at Great Barrington. The Hellenic element was still visible in “The Greek Partisan” and “The Greek Boy,” and the aboriginal element in “The Disinterred Warrior.” The large imagination of “The Hymn to the North Star” was radiant in “The Firmament” and in “The Past.” Ardent love of nature found expressive utterance in “Lines on Revisiting the Country,” “The Gladness of Nature,” “A Summer Ramble,” “A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson,” and “The Evening Wind.” The little book of immortal dirges had a fresh leaf added to it in “The Death of the Flowers,” which was at once a pastoral of autumn and a monody over a beloved sister. A new element appeared in “The Summer Wind,” and was always present afterward in Mr. Bryant's meditative poetry — the association of humanity with nature — a calm but sympathetic recognition of the ways of man and his presence on the earth. The power of suggestion and of rapid generalization, which was the key-note of “The Ages,” lived anew in every line of “The Prairies,” in which a series of poems present themselves to the imagination as a series of pictures in a gallery — pictures in which breadth and vigor of treatment and exquisite delicacy of detail are everywhere harmoniously blended and the unity of pure art is attained. It was worth going to the ends of the world to be able to write “The Prairies.”
Confiding in the discretion of his associate, Mr. Leggett, and anxious to escape from his daily editorial labors, Bryant sailed for Europe with his family in the summer of 1834. It was his intention to perfect his literary studies while abroad, and devote himself to the education of his children; but his intention was frustrated, after a short course of travel in France, Germany, and Italy, by the illness of Mr. Leggett, whose mistaken zeal in the advocacy of unpopular measures had seriously injured the “Evening Post.” He returned in haste early in 1836, and devoted his time and energies to restoring the prosperity of his paper. Nine years passed before he ventured to return to Europe, though he visited certain portions of his own country. His readers tracked his journeys through the letters that he wrote to the “Evening Post,” which were noticeable for justness of observation and clearness of expression. A selection from his foreign and home letters was published in 1852, under the title of “Letters of a Traveller.”
The last thirty years of Bryant's life were devoid of incident, though one of them (1865) was not without the supreme sorrow, death. He devoted himself to journalism as conscientiously as if he still had his spurs to win, discussing all public questions with independence and fearlessness; and from time to time, as the spirit moved him, he added to our treasures of song, contributing to the popular magazines of the period, and occasionally issuing these contributions in separate volumes. He published “The Fountain and Other Poems” in 1842; “The White-Footed Deer and Other Poems” in 1844; a collected edition of his poems, with illustrations by Leutze, in 1846; an edition in two volumes in 1855; “Thirty Poems” in 1864; and in 1876 a complete illustrated edition of his poetical writings. To the honors that these volumes brought him he added fresh laurels in 1870 and 1871 by his translation of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” — a translation which was highly praised both at home and abroad, and which, if not the best that the English language is capable of, is, in many respects, the best that any English-writing poet has yet produced.
There comes a day in the intellectual lives of most poets when their powers cease to be progressive and productive, or are productive only in the forms to which they have accustomed themselves, and which have become mannerisms. It was not with Mr. Bryant. He enjoyed the dangerous distinction of proving himself a great poet at an early age; he preserved this distinction to the last, for the sixty-four years that elapsed between the writing of “Thanatopsis” and the writing of “The Flood of Years” witnessed no decay of his poetic capacities, but rather the growth and development of trains of thought and forms of verse of which there was no evidence in his early writings. His sympathies were enlarged as the years went on, and the crystal clearness of his mind was colored with human emotions. To Bryant the earth was a theatre upon which the great drama of life was everlastingly played. The remembrance of this fact is his inspiration in “The Fountain,” “An Evening Revery,” “The Antiquity of Freedom,” “The Crowded Street,” “The Planting of the Apple-Tree,” “The Night Journey of a River,” “The Sower,” and “The Flood of Years.” The most poetical of Mr. Bryant's poems are, perhaps, “The Land of Dreams,” “The Burial of Love,” “The May Sun sheds an Amber Light,” and “The Voice of Autumn”; and they were written in a succession of happy hours, and in the order named. Next to these pieces, as examples of pure poetry, should be placed “Sella” and “The Little People of the Snow,” which are exquisite fairy fantasies. The qualities by which Bryant's poetry are chiefly distinguished are serenity and gravity of thought; an intense, though repressed, recognition of the mortality of mankind; an ardent love for human freedom; and unrivalled skill in painting the scenery of his native land. He had no superior in this walk of poetic art — it might almost be said no equal, for his descriptions of nature are never inaccurate or redundant. “The Excursion” is a tiresome poem, which contains several exquisite episodes. Bryant knew how to write exquisite episodes and omit the platitudes through which we reach them in other poets.
It is not given to many poets to possess as many residences as Bryant, for he had three — a town-house in New York, a country-house, called “Cedarmere,” at Roslyn, Long Island, and the old homestead of the family at Cummington, Mass. The engraving on page 424 represents the house in Cummington; that on this page is a view of his home in Roslyn. He passed the winter months in New York, and the summer and early autumn at his country-houses. No distinguished man in America was better known by sight than he.
rose unbidden to one's lips as he passed his fellow-pedestrians in the streets of the great city, active, alert, with a springing step and a buoyant gait. He was seen in all weathers, walking down to his office in the morning, and back to his house in the afternoon — an observant antiquity, with a majestic white beard, a pair of sharp eyes, and a face that, when observed closely, recalled the line of the poet:
Bryant had a peculiar talent, in which the French excel — the talent of delivering discourses upon the lives and writings of eminent men; and he was always in request after the death of his contemporaries. Beginning with a eulogy on his friend Cole, the painter, who died in 1848, he paid his well-considered tributes to the memory of Cooper, Irving, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and Verplanck, and assisted at the dedication in the Central park of the Morse, Shakespeare, Scott, and Halleck statues. His addresses on these and other occasions were models of justice of appreciation and felicity of expression. His last public appearance was at the Central park, on the afternoon of 29 May, 1878, at the unveiling of a bust of Mazzini. It was an unusually hot day, and after delivering his address, which was remarkable for its eloquence, he accompanied Gen. Jas. Grant Wilson, a friend of many years' standing, to his residence, No. 15 East Seventy-fourth street. Gen. Wilson reached his door with Mr. Bryant leaning on his arm; he took a step in advance to open the inner door, and while his back was turned the poet fell, his head striking on the stone platform of the front steps. It was his death-blow; for, though he recovered his consciousness sufficiently to converse a little, and was able to ride to his own house with Gen. Wilson, his fate was sealed. He lingered until the morning of 12 June, when his spirit passed out into the unknown. Two days later all that was mortal of him was buried at Roslyn, L. I., beside his wife, who died 27 July, 1865.
Since the poet's death the name of one of the city pleasure-grounds has been changed (in 1884) to Bryant park, where there will be soon unveiled a noble bronze statue of the poet, to be erected by his many friends and admirers. In the Metropolitan museum of art may be seen a beautiful silver vase, presented to Bryant in 1876, and an admirable bronze bust of heroic size, executed from life by Launt Thompson. Among the many portraits of Bryant, painted by prominent American artists, the poet preferred Inman's and Durand's; but these were supplanted in his estimation by photographs of later days, from one of which was taken the fine steel portrait that accompanies this article. A complete edition of his poetical and prose works (4 vols., 8vo) was published in 1883-'4. See “Homes of American Authors” (New York, 1853); “The Bryant Homestead Book” (1870); “Presentation to Bryant at Eighty Years” (1876); “Bryant Memorial Meeting of the Goethe Club” (1878); Symington's “Biographical Sketch of Bryant” (1880); Godwin's “Life of Bryant” (1883); Wilson's “Bryant and his Friends” (1886, two editions, one on large paper and illustrated). A new life of Bryant, by John Bigelow, was issued three years later.
His brother, John Howard, b. in Cummington, Mass., 22 July, 1807. He studied at the Rensselaer polytechnic institute in Troy, N. Y., but was never graduated. He removed to Illinois in 1831, became justice of the peace for Putnam co. in 1834, and in 1837 was elected first recorder of deeds for the newly organized Bureau co. He was twice a member of the legislature, frequently served on the board of supervisors, and was for fifteen years a member of the board of education, and most of the time its chairman. President Lincoln made him collector of internal revenue in 1862, and he held the office till 1864. Until his sixtieth year Mr. Bryant took charge of the farm on which he has always lived, laboring on it with his own hands for the greater part of the time. He is the author of “Poems,” a small volume (New York, 1855); “Poems written from Youth to Old Age; 1824-1884” (printed privately, Princeton, Ill., 1885); and several addresses.