Bryant William Cullen

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), 5th cousin 5x removed

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

William Cullen Bryant was an American romantic poet, journalist, and long-time editor of the New York Evening Post.

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 the publicity earned by the poet’s young age — and a second, expanded edition, which included Bryant’s translation of classical verse, was printed.  The youth wrote little poetry while preparing to enter Williams College as a sophomore, but upon leaving Williams after a single year and then beginning to read law, he regenerated his passion for poetry through encounter with the English pre-Romantics and, particularly, William Wordsworth.

Poetry:
Bryant’s father took some pages of verse from his son’s desk and submitted them, along with his own work, to the North American Review in 1817.  The editor of the Review, Edward Tyrrel Channing, read the poem to his assistant, 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.  With all the errors, it was well-received, and soon Bryant was publishing poems with some regularity, including “To a Waterfowl” in 1821.

Editorial career:
Writing poetry could not financially sustain a family, and from 1816 to 1825, he practiced law in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.  He supplemented his income with work such as the service of the town’s hog reeve.  Distaste for pettifoggery and the sometimes absurd judgments pronounced by the courts gradually drove him to break with the legal profession.  With the help of a distinguished and well-connected literary family, the Sedgwicks, he gained a foothold in New York City, where, in 1825, he was hired as editor, first of the New York Review, then of the United States Review and Literary Gazette.  But the magazines of that day usually enjoyed only an ephemeral life-span.  After two years of fatiguing effort to breathe life into periodicals, he became Assistant Editor of the New York Evening Post under William Coleman, a newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton that was surviving precariously.  Within two years, he was Editor-in-Chief and a part owner.  He remained the Editor-in-Chief for half a century (1828–78).  Eventually, the Evening Post became not only the foundation of his fortune but also the means by which he exercised considerable political power in his city, state, and nation.  An early supporter of organized labor, with his 1836 editorials the right of workmen to strike, Bryant also became known as a defender of religious minorities and immigrants, and an outspoken critic 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, with  a speech that lifted Lincoln to the nomination, and then the presidency.

William Cullen Bryant Memorial by Herbert Adams (1858-1945), Bryant Park, New York City,

William Cullen Bryant Memorial by Herbert Adams (1858-1945), Bryant Park, New York City,

Legacy:
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.  Martin Luther King, Jr quoted Bryant in his speech “Give Us the Ballot”, when he says: There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”

 

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 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.

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 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 (1794 – 1878), 5th cousin 5x removed -Sarah Snell (1768 – 1847) – Ebeneezer Snell (1738 – 1813) – Zachariah Snell (1704 – 1768) – Anna Alden (1678 – 1705) – Abigail Hallett (1644 – 1725) – Andrew Hallett (1607 – 1683) – John Hallett (1650 – 1726) – Mercy Hallett (1689 – 1773) – Ruth Gibbs (1715 – 1754) – Nathaniel Hamlin (1738 – 1818) – Loren Hamlin (1784 – 1843) – Fayette B Hamlin (1812 – 1866) – Henry Fayette Hamlin (1834 – 1901) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom 

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