William B. Cairns.

A history of American literature online

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but as his connection with Northern publishing houses was
broken off he printed only in Southern periodicals. The
close of the struggle left him in poverty and broken in health.
His wife had died during the war. His library and the rest
of the buildings on his estate had been burned. He could
support himself only by incessant writing. The kind of fie-



430 AMERICAN LITERATURE

tion which he produced was going out of fashion and he was
forced to contribute stories to cheap Northern periodicals, or
to send his work to ambitious Southern magazines which were
unable to pay. Soon after the war he renewed his friend-
ship with many of the Northerners whom he had known, and
some of them were able to make life easier for him without
wounding his pride.

As has been seen, Simms tried most forms of writing in
prose and verse. He began with verse, and it is said that he

always esteemed his poems more highly than
Simms's Poems ,. -a-. , ,. , . ' , . .

his prose. His readers disagreed with him,

however, and this fact, though it disappointed him, led him
to give more of his time to fiction. Most of his poetry was
written before 1850. His earliest verses show considerable
influence of Byron and Wordsworth. His longest poem,
Atalantis; a Story of the Sea, was evidently written after
reading Comus. The persons of the poem include the King
of the Sea-Demons, a Princess of. the Nereids, a Zephyr-
Spirit, and several flesh and blood Spaniards. The poem
opens with the princess enchanted upon a magical island
raised by the King of the Sea-Demons, but, like Milton's
heroine, resolute in mind. The plot is resolved when one of
the Spaniards, sole survivor of a shipwreck, becomes her
lover and rescues her magic wand. Interspersed throughout
the blank verse dialogue are some of the author's most melodi-
ous or most nearly melodious lyrics. The other poems show
considerable variety, but none of them is of great importance.
Simms's best work is his fiction. Even this varies greatly
in kind and quality. Some of the least known romances

are psychological studies influenced by God-
Fiction w * n * Pe ^ a y an< * Cunt Julian are based on

romantic incidents in Spanish history, and
The Damsel of Darien on the adventures of Balboa. The
short stories were also in a variety of manners and on a vfi-



THE CENTRAL PERIOD 431

riety of subjects. The two important groups of his romances
are those that deal with frontier life, and those that are
based on events in the colonial and revolutionary history of
the South. In these he was trying to do for his section of
the country what Cooper had done for the North. The border
romances are tales of outlawry and crime, exciting, but with
little artistic merit. The chief are Guy Rivers, Richard
Hardis, Border Beagles, Beauchamp, and Charlemont. The
scenes of the first four are laid in Georgia, Alabama, Mis-
sissippi, and Kentucky respectively. More important, on
the whole, are the 'colonial and revolutionary tales. These
include The Yemassee, The Partisan, Mellichampe, The
Kinsman (renamed The Scout), Katherine Walton, The
Sword and the Distaff (renamed Woodcraft), The Foray ers,
Eutaiv, and others, some of them published only in maga-
zines. The first of the series, The Yemassee, is usually con-
ceded to be the best. The scene is in South Carolina during
the colonial time, and the story is one of Indian warfare,
with the usual love incidents. The characters, especially the
Indians, are well portrayed, the descriptions of natural
scenery are true and sympathetic, and the fights are exciting.
Though the reader is many times reminded of The Spy and
The Last of the Mohicans the book is far more than an
imitation.

Simms's two dramas, "Norman Maurice" and "Michael
Bonham," and his "dramatic essay," "Benedict Arnold," are
far more crude than either his poems or his
Miscellaneous romances; at least their form makes their
Work crudities more noticeable. The blank verse

tragedy, "Norman Maurice," in which the
hero, a lawyer and politician, triumphs over all sorts of dia-
bolical enemies and becomes United States Senator from
Missouri, reads in parts like a burlesque on a melodrama, and
it is hard to realize that it is serious work, written when the



432 AMERICAN LITERATURE

author was in his prime. His miscellaneous works include popu-
lar biographies of Marion, Captain John Smith, the Chevalier
Bayard, and Nathanael Greene, and treatises on the history
and geography of South Carolina. He also edited several
apocryphal Shakespeare plays, and in 1867 a volume of
War Poetry of the South.

Temperament, lack of critical training, financial necessi-
ties, and indeed all circumstances conspired to make Simms
a hasty and careless writer. He had all the
Uterary faults of his Northern prototype,
Cooper, and much less of genius. Still, he
deserves a place among American writers of romance, not
merely as the leading representative of his class in the South,
but as the author of several works that show more than a
fair mastery of the difficult art of planning an exciting nar-
rative.

Among the younger men of letters who gathered about
Simms were Henry Timrod and Paul Hamilton Hayne.
Both were natives of Charleston of nearly the
same age, and though they differed widely in
social position they were friends from boyhood. Timrod
(1829-1867) was of German ancestry, the son of a book-
binder who sometimes made verses, and who achieved a lit-
tle military distinction in the Seminole War. The death
of the father left the family poor, and Henry was unable
to complete his course at the University of Georgia. He
studied law, but never practiced, and for some time served
as tutor in a private family. At the opening of the Civil War
he enlisted, but was obliged to leave the service on account
of ill health. He made an unsuccessful attempt to act as
war correspondent, and edited a paper at Columbia, South
Carolina. When this city was burned he lost all his property.
From this time until his death in 1867 his life was one of
privation and suffering. He was already afflicted with con-



THE CENTRAL PERIOD 433

sumption, and he seems to have been of an impractical turn
of mind, and unable to make the best of circumstances.

Timrod's first volume of verse was published in Boston in
1860, and was praised as a work of promise. In 1873 his

friend Hayne collected his works and pub-
Timrod's Poems v , , ,, .,, . ,-,,

lisned them with a memoir. The poems by

which he is best remembered were written during and after
the war. Several of them are of the emotional sort which
consists in praise of his state and objurgation of her enemies.
They have fire and lyric swing; but a comparison of his
"Carolina" and Whittier's "Massachusetts to Virginia/'
poems with about the same proportion of intellectual and
emotional elements, will show the lack of weight behind the
Southern fierceness. "The Cotton Boll," one of his best
poems, has fine melodious passages, but seems less success-
ful if it is read as a whole. Some of his personal poems
and poems of nature show an ear for verse harmonies and
a lyric gift. The bulk of his excellent work is, however,
small.

Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830-1886) came of an old South
Carolina family. He was educated at the College of South

Carolina In his native city, and then studied
amilt n law; but he soon abandoned his profession for

letters. He was connected editorially with
Charleston periodicals. Like Timrod, he served in the war
until his health failed; and like him, he lost his library and
his home by fire. He was left almost penniless, and removed to
a few acres of land in the pine barrens near Augusta, Georgia.
Here he remained until his death, supporting himself mainly
by writing. He published volumes of poems in 1855, 1857,
1859, 1872, and 1875, and a collected edition in 1882. In
prose he wrote the lives of his uncle, Eobert Young Hayne,
and of Hugh S. Lagare, and many magazine articles. At
the time of his death he left a romance unfinished. Ac a



434 AMERICAN LITERATURE

poet Hayne was influenced by the more musical English mas-
ters by Chaucer and Tennyson, and to some extent by Poe.
The bulk of his verse is considerable, and much of it gives
the impression of having been written too easily. When he
took pains and was at his best he attained to charming musi-
cal effects. Almost all his poems are short. During the war
he wrote patriotic lyrics that were intense, but not so bitter
as those of his friend Timrod. In later years he became
reconciled, in a manly and honorable way, to the new order,
and while he never lost his devotion to the South, he wrote
many poems that tended to a better understanding between
the sections of the country. His writings, like hjs life, show
the sweetness of his temper, his bravery in adversity, and his
loyalty to his principles and his friends. In feeling for the
subtle tones of verse he was inferior to Timrod, and he has
received less praise ; but it is doubtful if he was not as true a
poet, and a- better representative of what was best in the
South.

It is only by the fact of residence and choice of subjects
that Albion W. Tourgee (1838-1905) is classed with South-
ern writers. He was born in Ohio, attended
Rochester University, and served in the
Union army during the Civil War. In
1865 he settled in North Carolina, where he held various
offices, and as judge of the superior court was concerned in
breaking up the secret political organization known as the
Ku-Klux-Klan. After 1881 he lived in Pennsylvania and
New York, and held appointments in the United States con-
sular service. His first novel, Toinette, a study of social con-
ditions at the South, made little stir; but Figs and Thistles,
A. Fool's Errand, and Bricks Without Straw, all published
in 1879-80, and all dealing with Southern social and political
conditions, were widely read. Later works touching on the
same theme, among them Hot Plowshares, and An Appeal to



THE CENTRAL PERIOD 435

Casar, were less successful. His best work, A Fool's Errand,
is based in part on his own experiences, and contains inci-
dents said to have been revealed in the investigation of the
Ku-Klux-Klan. It is the obviously partisan work of a man
who wished to be fair, but who could not overcome his preju-
dices. Some of the situations are strong and are told with
considerable power. Unlike Uncle Tom's Cabin, with which,
in the days of its popularity, it was sometimes compared, it
lacked the art and the insight necessary to give it perma-
nence. Dr. Frank 0. Ticknor (1822-1874), a physician and
? armer of Columbus, Georgia, is remembered as the author
of a number of smooth lyrics, with a faint touch of archaic
simplicity, and some restraint. His best known poem, "Little
Giffin of Tennessee," is said to be based on fact. Most of
lis best pieces were written during the war, but they deal
with home, friends, nature, and love of children, rather than
with military achievements. They were not published in
book form until 1879.

With the Southwestern states were associated several
writers of Northern birth who became Southerners both by
residence and by sympathies. William Wil-
berforce Lord (1819-1907), a native of New
York, was many years rector of an Episco-
Dalian church at Yicksburg, Mississippi, and during the war
was chaplain in the Confederate army. He published a
volume of Poems, Christ in Hades, and Andre, a tragedy.
His work is imitative, especially of Wordsworth. Albert
Pike (1809-1891) was born in Boston, attended Harvard
college, and taught for a time in New England. In 1831
he went to the far Southwest, and after various adventures
returned to Arkansas, where he became an editor and a law-
yer. He served in the Mexican War and in the Confederate
army. After the close of the Civil War he removed to
Memphis and then to Washington. His twelve "Hymns to



436 AMERICAN LITERATURE

the Gods/' eight of which were published in Black woods'
Magazine" in 1839, were written while he was still a school
teacher in New England. They are rhetorical apostrophes
to the heathen deities, and show the influence of Coleridge
and Keats, but are well sustained, and give promise of better
things. The author's removal from literary associations and
his interest in other activities probably account for his
failure to fulfill this promise. His Prose Sketches and
Poems, written in the Southwest, in the preface of which he
says, "It is some time since I have seen the works of any poet,"
are naturally more interesting for subject matter than for ar-
tistic excellence. He is best remembered as the author of
"Dixie" and a few other short poems, among them an "Ode
to the Mocking-Bird," modelled to some extent on Keats's
"Ode to the Nightingale." Mary Ashley Townsend (1832-
1901), born in New York, and after her marriage a resi-
dent of New Orleans, wrote under the pen name of Xariffa.
Her humorous sketches in prose are forgotten, but her mildly
sentimental poems hold for her a place in the anthologies.

VIII. WESTERN WRITERS

In the early years of the period under discussion, before

railroads had bound together the East and the West, the

Ohio valley continued to maintain a fairly

Western Writers definite S U P or sch o1 of writers. Like
Flint, Hall, and other pioneers who were
noticed in the preceding chapter, these men were most of
them born in the East, but entered enthusiastically into the
spirit of the West. They wrote on Western subjects, edited
and contributed to Western periodicals, and often had their
books printed by Western publishers.

George D. Prentice (1802-1870) was a precocious Con-
necticut boy who was graduated from Brown and became an
editor at Hartford. In 1830 he left his paper in charge of



THE CENTRAL PERIOD 437

a promising young contributor, John Greenleaf Whittier,
and went to Kentucky to gather material for a life of his
political idol, Henry Clay. He was induced
Prentice ' ^ rema ^ n ^ an ^ continued until his death as

editor of the "Louisville Journal," afterward
the "Courier-Journal." He was a clever newspaper writer in
a day when personalities and smart repartee were more the
fashion than now. A collection of his best paragraphs was
published in 1859 under the title Prenticeana. These are
mostly quick, humorous thrusts at opponents and their ideas,
and are not always characterized by delicacy. Of more im-
portance were the author's poems, published at intervals dur-
ing his life, and collected into a volume after his death. He
was strongly influenced by Bryant, and some of his most
popular pieces, such as "The Closing Year," are almost
imitations in both idea and versification. He also wrote
poems of lighter sentiment with the trite diction and imagery
so common in his day. Some of these are faintly suggestive
of Moore.

William D. Gallagher (1808-1894) was born in Phila-
delphia, but removed to Ohio at the age of ten. He edited
several newspapers and short-lived magazines
GaWTer ' * n Cincinnati and other Ohio cities, and after-
ward in Louisville. His interest in "Western
literature was always strong. Besides encouraging the
writers of his section in the journals that he edited, he com-
piled in 1841 Selections from the Poetical Literature of the
West. He wrote many poems, of which the most ambitious
was "Miami Woods." This contains sympathetic nature de-
scriptions, and moralizings, mostly commonplace, on subjects
suggested by the forest. The rather halting blank verse is at
times reminiscent of Bryant, and perhaps of Byron and
Cowper, and is interspersed with stanzas in unrhymed metres.
Gallagher's miscellaneous poems are on various themes; some



438 AMERICAN LITERATURE

preach the democratic idea of the dignity of labor, and others,
on the whole his best, picture various aspects of nature as
seen in the West.

Among the literary proteges of Prentice was Amelia B.
Welby (1819-1852), born Coppuck, a native of Maryland who

removed to Kentucky in childhood. She
Minor Writers , , . ,, A , .

wrote over the signature of Amelia pas-
sionate sentimental verses which went through many editions,
and won for her a share of the praise which Poe was fond of
distributing among poetesses. A writer of a very different
sort, and one not so closely connected with the Kentucky-
Cincinnati school, was Eobert Dale Owen (1801-1877). He
was the son of the noted Scotch reformer Robert Owen, and
came to the United States in 1825 to aid in the establishment
of a communistic colony at New Harmony, Indiana. After
this failed he served in congress from Indiana, and held other
political offices. Though somewhat erratic in his ideas he was
a forceful writer on social and educational questions, and in
his later years published several works on spiritualism. He
also attempted a drama on the subject of Pocahontas, and in
1874 published Threading my Way, an interesting though
rambling autobiography covering his life until he settled in
America. Among native Western writers was Henry M.
Brackenridge (1786-1871), son of H. H. Brackenridge, the
versatile author of Modern Chivalry. He was born in Pitts-
burg and spent a considerable portion of his life in that city.
As early as 1812 he published an account of Louisiana, and
followed this by other miscellaneous historical and descrip-
tive writing. His more important works are Recollections
of Persons and Places in the West, 1834, and a History of
the Western Insurrection, written to vindicate his father.
His prose is pleasant and readable, without his father's erratic
humor.

To the West of this time also belongs Abraham Lincoln



THE CENTRAL PERIOD 439

(1809-1865), whose qualities as a statesman have tended to
distract attention from his ability as a writer and a speaker.
In simplicity, candor, and pleasing directness
Lincoln 11 ^ ex P ression nis P r <>se has probably been

equalled by that of no other American publicist
except Franklin; and he far excels Franklin when he mixes
an emotional element with the intellectual. Even when he
is slightly rhetorical, as in the "Second Inaugural Address/'
and to a lesser exent in the "Gettysburg Address," he seems
perfectly genuine. In acquiring this prose style Lincoln
probably owed fully as much to the frankness and vigor of
pioneer life in Kentucky and Illinois as to the frequently
mentioned study of Shakespeare and the Bible.

In the later years of the period the writers of the middle
West were less closely associated. After railroads were
opened they were more likely to publish their
Writers 1 books and to form their literary friendships

in the East. As the region to which they
belonged became less isolated their writings lost many of
the distinctively Western characteristics. Moncure D. Con-
way (1832-1907) was active in the anti-slavery agitation in
Ohio, and wrote on a variety of subjects while pastor of a
Unitarian church in Cincinnati. He was born of a slaveholding
family in Virginia, studied law, entered the Methodist minis-
try, became a Unitarian, attended Harvard divinity school, and
Breached as a Unitarian in Washington, Cincinnati, and
London, England. He wrote on many things and was the
'riend of many distinguished men of letters in England and
America. He cannot be associated definitely with any section
of the country, but his career as an author virtually began
n Cincinnati. J. J. Piatt (1835- ) has continued, in
)oetry, some of the traditions of the Ohio valley school. In
Michigan Will Carleton (1845- ) has written simple bal-
ads of domestic life. These men are still living.



440 AMERICAN LITERATURE

Edward Eggleston (1837-1902) was born in Indiana of
Virginia ancestry. He attended school but two years and
was mainly self-educated. He served as a
Methodist preacher and agent of a Bible
society in Indiana and Minnesota, and after-
ward edited juvenile papers in Illinois. In 1870 he removed
to New York. His first novel, The Hoosier Schoolmaster,
was published in 1871. This was followed by several others,
the most important being The Circuit Eider, Boxy, The
Hoosier Schoolboy, The Graysons, and The Faith Doctor;
and by some collections of short stories. In his later years
Eggleston gave much attention to the history of the United
States and wrote several popular historical works. He had
a high ideal of the duties and the importance of the novelist,
and in his stories of Western life he endeavored to paint ac-
curately the scenes and the types of character which he knew
in his boyhood. This painful sense of duty was fatal to artistic
excellence. His attempt to show both the good and the bad
sides of pioneer life and pioneer character interfered with the
romantic effect of his stories, and yet did not assure realism.
Nevertheless, the intrinsic interest of the life described and
the author's moral earnestness secured great popularity for
The Hoosier Schoolmaster, The Circuit Eider, and their
successors; and they are still valuable for the glimpses they
give of pioneer times.

Another Indiana novelist, Lewis, or Lew Wallace (1827-
1905), was a lawyer, who also served with distinction in both
the Mexican and the Civil Wars. His career
as a writer began late in life. The Fair God,
1873, a story of the conquest of Mexico, is full of vivid de-
scriptions, highly colored after Prescott, and shows consider-
able archaeological research. Both this and Wallace's most
successful novel, Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ, 1880, are
somewhat crude and melodramatic, but show a remarkable



THE CENTRAL PERIOD 441

power of realizing and picturing the details of unfamiliar
scenes. His later works were The Boyhood of Christ, The
Prince of India, a novel, The Wooing of MalJcatoon, a long
poem in prosaic blank verse, and Commodus, a blank verse
drama. These have all the faults of Ben-Hur and fewer
excellences.

John Hay (1838-1905) was born in Indiana, was gradu-
ated from Brown University, and studied and practiced law
in Illinois until 1861. He was private sec-
retary to President Lincoln, and held diplo-
matic positions abroad until 1870. For a time he was edi-
torial writer on the "New York Tribune." After 1875 his
residence was in Ohio, but he was much of the time in the
public service. Under President McKinley he was ambassa-
dor to England, and later secretary of state. The Pike
County Ballads were published while he was engaged on the
"Tribune," as was Castilian Days, the result of studies of
Spanish life made while he was attached to the legation at
Madrid. The Breadwinners, an anonymous novel of which
he is generally conceded to be the author, appeared in 1883.
In 1890 were published another volume of poems and the
monumental work of Nicolay and Hay on Lincoln's adminis-
tration. The PiTce County Ballads present the rough lan-
guage and crude but intense ideas usually associated with
the West. Some of the "Ballads" were wholly humorous,
but the most popular, "Jim Bludsoe" and "Little Breeches,"
combine humor and pathos. Hay was not a great writer,
but both his verse and his prose show that in addition to his
capabilities for statesmanship and diplomacy he had the
instincts of a man of letters.

Another Western verse writer, whose work, if not his name,
is most widely known of all, was Stephen C. Foster (1826-
1864). He was born in Pittsburg and spent most of his life
in that city and in Cincinnati. He was always devoted to



442 AMERICAN LITERATURE

music, and finally relinquished business to become an author
and composer of songs. He wrote "Old Black Joe," "Old

Folks at Home/' "Nellie was a Lady," "Old
Foster Kentucky Home," and many more songs in

negro dialect, and also sentimental pieces,
among them "Come where my Love Lies Dreaming." Though
none of these belongs to the higher order of poetical or musi-
cal composition, they are free from the cheapness and vul-
garity of many of their class, and the popularity of some
of them, notably "Old Folks at Home," has been almost
universal.

A geographical classification of authors makes no place for
a wanderer like Richard Realf (1834-1878), but he was

associated with the West, and his longest
Richard Realf . , . .

residence in one place, five years, was at

Pittsburg. He was born in England, where his precocity
secured the patronage of Lady Byron and others. At eighteen
he published a volume of poems entitled Guesses at the
Beautiful. An intrigue with a woman older and of higher
social rank than himself ruined his prospects and led him to
come to America in 1854. He worked in the Five Points
'mission in New York, then went to Kansas, where he became
associated with John Brown. Subsequently he visited Eng-



Online LibraryWilliam B. CairnsA history of American literature → online text (page 35 of 41)