The Literary Maiden

A compendium of obscure 19th century writing.

Tag: literature

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.

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.

Elizabeth Oaksmith’s “The Acorn”

Called “one of her most imaginative and faultless productions” by Caroline May in American Female Poets, “The Acorn” stands out as being one of Elizabeth Oaksmith’s* especially significant and enjoyable poems.

Oaksmith’s poem follows the birth, transition, and demise of an acorn—simple. However, what the reader gains from the poem is a rich, omniscient viewpoint of an acorn’s environment, travels, and growth, as well as mystical elements and commentary on religion, a theme that frequently recurs in her works (see “The Sinless Child”).

In the beginning of her poem, we see these mystical elements take hold as “Fay” creatures are introduced: “For the woodland Fays came sweeping past / In the pale autumnal ray,/” (Stanza II, lines 1-2). They are reincorporated throughout the poem, paired beside “spirits” and “sprites” (Stanza 4). The incorporation of these mystical elements are important, as they add ethereal flesh to the story of this acorn. The elements lend realism, and possibly credence, to the slightly relatable, anthropomorphic features of the acorn, allowing the reader to not only believe, but also draw qualities, and therefore morals and themes, from the acorn.

Of these morals and themes, the aforementioned “religious” inclusion is especially dominant and worth discussing. Several phrases immediately jump out, including “holy mystery” and “blessed fate,” which undoubtedly imply a presence and higher workings beyond that of earth. Not only do these keywords give us clues of a Godly/godly presence, but also the following lines imply a higher, unearthly presence, “His [a schoolboy’s] hand was stay’d; he knew not why: / ‘Twas a presence breathed around— / A pleading from the deep-blue sky, / And up from the teeming ground” (stanza 11). Stanza 12 ends this brief interaction with a Higher Being by exclaiming, “There’s a deeper thought on the schoolboy’s brow, / A new love at his heart, / And he ponders much, as with footsteps slow / He turns him to depart.” The unearthly presence is now given a pronoun, “He,” which genders the presence which “breathed around,” pleaded, and teemed. Also, because this omniscient presence knows our acorn’s backstory, as it tells the schoolboy in these two stanzas “of the care that had lavish’d been / In sunshine and in dew— / Of the many things that had wrought a screen / When peril around it grew. / It told of the oak that once had bow’d, / As feeble a thing to see;”, we may infer this is a higher presence that is in accordance with the acorn’s fate, which unravels throughout the story.

As the story unfolds, a final theme, “nature,” makes itself blatantly apparent and quite literally embodies the poem. However, what is worth noting is the stunning and carefully woven imagery that solidifies our hero’s tale. Both forest and sea imagery fill the poem and add atmosphere to the piece. Regarding sea imagery, there is a fascinating article that I had stumbled across while researching “The Acorn,” (of which there is not much to be found) which you can find here. Miss Russell-Christie’s observations are astute and especially relevant. Although, I will quote a stanza that especially resonated with me, strictly regarding the maritime theme:

Thou wert nobly rear’d, O heart of oak!
In the sound of the ocean roar,
Where the surging wave o’er the rough rock broke
And bellow’d along the shore—
And how wilt thou in the storm rejoice,
With the wind through spar and shroud,
To hear a sound like the forest voice,
When the blast was raging loud!

I cannot help but especially hear Oaksmith’s voice echo within the first four lines of this stanza a personal, nostalgic time in her life. Having been born and raised in North Yarmouth, Maine, in its own respects a town significantly close to the ocean, it comes as no surprise that Oaksmith would have experienced this mariner life and heard the “sound of the ocean roar,” or have seen the “surging wave o’er the rough rock [as it] broke.” And, while we’re on the topic of her personal, potentially autobiographical touches in the stanza (and poem in general) is it any wonder that the species of tree used in this poem is none other than the “oak” tree? I digress.

Forest imagery makes up nearly three-fourths of the poem, and we are blessed with Oaksmith’s descriptions of seasonal variations. For example, in stanza six, she states, “The spring-time came with its fresh, warm air, / And its gush of woodland song; / The dew came down, and the rain was there, / And the sunshine rested long;” In turn,

The autumn came, and it stood alone,
And bow’d as the wind pass’d by—
The wind that utter’d its dirge-like moan
In the old oak sere and dry;
And the hollow branches creak’d and sway’d
But they bent not to the blast,
For the stout oak tree, where centuries play’d
Was sturdy to the last (stanza nine).

Not only do these stanzas paint luscious scenes, but they also brilliantly drive the narrative of the story.**

Although regarded at the beginning of this article as being “imaginative and faultless,” writer and critic Edgar Allan Poe had the following to say about her poem:

“The Acorn” is perfect as regards its construction — although, to be sure, the design is so simple that it could scarcely be marred in its execution. The idea is the old one of detailing the progress of a plant from its germ to its maturity, with the uses and general vicissitudes to which it is subjected. In this case of the acorn the vicissitudes are well imagined, and the execution is more skilfully managed — is more definite, vigorous and pronounced, than in the longer poem. The chief of the minor objections is to the rhythm, which is imperfect, vacillating awkwardly between iambuses and anapæsts…(The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volumes 5 & 6, 211-212).

Editor Rufus Griswold, an associate of Oaksmith’s, exclaimed, “Mrs. Smith’s most popular poem is ‘The Acorn,’ which, though inferior in high inspiration to ‘The Sinless Child,’ is by many preferred for its happy play of fancy and proper finish” (The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Volumes 5 & 6, 202).

In regard to Poe’s criticism, I cannot discredit his opinion as his is of the grammatical and poetically mechanic nature, of which I am not an expert (nor do I claim to be regarding any of my opinions in this post, for that matter). I disagree with Griswold’s opinion of the poem lacking in “high inspiration,” at least in comparison with “The Sinless Child,” however, which may be evinced from my ideas presented earlier on in this blog post. The poem clearly contains several “high” qualities, or deeper qualities than Griswold seems to perceive, although I wish he had expanded upon his opinion. If his opinion be just as is, I find myself disappointed by his inequitable statement. Also, to compare Oaksmith’s prose-poem “The Sinless Child” with “The Acorn” is an unfair judgemental call in and of itself, as the two are incomparable in length and subject.

All of this being said, “The Acorn” deserves far greater credit and remembrance than it is given today, particularly because of its deeply rooted themes.

For convenience and the sake of scrolling through my blog page, I have included only a preview of the poem below. The rest of the poem can be found at the link provided at the end of my preview.

“The Acorn”

AN acorn fell from an old oak tree,
And lay on the frosty ground—
“O, what shall the fate of the acorn be!”
Was whispered all around,
By low-toned voices, chiming sweet,
Like a floweret’s bell when swung—
And grasshopper steeds were gathering fleet,
And the beetl’s hoofs up-rung—

For the woodland Fays came sweeping past
In the pale autumnal ray,
Where the forest leaves were falling fast,
And the acorn quivering lay;
They came to tell what its fate should be,
Though life was unrevealed;
For life is holy mystery,
Where’er it is conceal’d.

They came with gifts that should life bestow:
The dew and the living air—
The bane that should work its deadly wo—
Was found with the Fairies there.
In the gray moss-cup was the mildew brought,
And the worm in the rose-leaf roll’d,
And many things with destruction fraught,
That its fate were quickly told.

But it needed not; for a blessed fate
Was the acorn’s doomed to be—
The spirits of earth should its birth-time wait,
And watch o’er its destiny.
To a little sprite was the task assigned
To bury the acorn deep,
Away from the frost and searching win,
When they through the forest sweep.

[You can read the rest of this poem here.]

*She is more commonly referred to as Elizabeth Oakes Smith.

**I was unsure as to how and where to incorporate this particular stanza in this post; however, because I enjoy this particular stanza greatly, here is an honorable mention from the poem,

The stout old oak—! ‘Twas a worthy tree,
And the builder marked it out;
And he smiled its angled limbs to see,
As he measured the trunk about.
Already to him was a gallant bark
Careering the rolling deep,
And in sunshine, calm, or tempest dark,
Her way she will proudly keep.

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On Edward L. Carey, publisher and partner of Carey & Hart

The other day, I was curiously perusing the internet for photographic/painted/engraved evidence of publishers from the nineteenth-century—consider Ticknor and Fields and Baker and Scribner, two publishing houses well known for publishing such authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne (the former) and Charles Fenno Hoffman (latter). However, one other publishing house has stuck out to me as of late, being Carey & Hart; thus, I took to finding out what I could about these two men. However, while delving into my research, I stumbled across a portrait of Edward L. Carey, of Carey & Hart, which immediately piqued my curiosity about the gentleman.

After feeling inspired by this portrait to find more information about this mysterious publisher, I took to the internet and books to find what I could about Mr. Carey. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a significant amount of information to flesh out a biography-the biography he deserves-but I will do my best to relay everything I was able to find, here.

Edward Carey was born April 7, 1805 to Bridget Flahaven Carey and Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey of “Carey & Lea.” Although there is not a lot of information regarding Carey’s childhood or young adulthood, it is surmised that he was built in preparation for the publishing scene, as, “When, on the retirement of Mr. Carey [Mathew], in 1824, the firm of Carey & Lea was established, provision was made for the admission of Edward L. Carey, a younger son, when he should attain his majority” (The Publisher’s Weekly, No. 678, January 24, 1885, pg. 70). In 1829, Carey obtained his portion of the publishing house and combined it with Abraham Hart to form the publishing partnership known as Carey & Hart. Thereafter, the company thrived well, publishing works by authors and editors familiar to readers today, including William Cullen Bryant, Rufus Wilmot Griswold (Edgar Allan Poe’s literary executor), and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Although Hart and Carey thrived well amongst the Philadelphia literary scene, the two were struck by immense tragedy with the decline in health and ultimate death of Carey in 1845. A Maine newspaper, the Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette of June 28, 1845, circulated a Philadelphia report on the death of Carey. According to the original Philadelphian article, Carey passed on June 16 at 11:00AM. Carey was only forty years of age, but he left behind a legacy that Hart would continue carrying on for several years thereafter.

Few news articles give brief, yet intriguing insight into Carey’s life and mind, which will now be discussed. For example, before his death, we learn from the Maine Cultivator that Carey had been elected President of the Academy of Fine Arts, although this was turned down due to ill health. We also learn from the Washington Reporter of June 28, 1845, that Carey was not only a lover of the fine arts, as presumed from my prior statement, but that he also collected art pieces:

…his encouraging voice has been an inspiration to our countrymen by whose creative genius life has been given to the marble and the canvas in foreign schools, and through whom Alleghania has been made one of the chosen homes of Art. Powers sent a few weeks ago his masterpiece from Rome…How much he will be grieved to learn that the very hour in which “Proserpine” reached Philadelphia witnessed the departure of his friend and patron to another world!

Of Carey, this same article continues, “For three years confined to his house by a local disease, Mr. Carey had lived among his paintings and his sculptures, in correspondence with men of genius, and in the society of friends who loved him as a brother.” Of his mind, “…[it] was cast in the finest mould of beauty. The atmosphere of beauty was his element.” Of his character, he is spoken in high regard, as the author of the article states, “When I remember how very warmly all who knew him loved him, I cannot doubt that many hearts will beat more slowly, like our own, at this public calamity.”

Although these insights are brief, they speak volumes of Carey’s character. Such keywords as “genius,” “beauty,” and “love” seem to surround this vague gentleman, giving us enough information to declare the type of man Edward Carey was, being a friend, a “brother,” and one simply too beautiful and endearing for this world.

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

Frank Forester was not an uncommon name during the mid nineteenth-century. Forester, a dignified sportsman, known to his friends as being full of vitality and exuberance, published several accomplished volumes of literature, including manuals about Horsemanship and guides about the Warwick woodlands and field sports. Behind this steadily growing literary star, however, was the primary source of the Forester character-nay, pseudonym-an ambivert with a penchant for sorrow and cynicism—Henry William Herbert.

By the time Herbert’s Forester alter-ego began to emerge, Henry had faced several hardships, which had forced him, albeit slowly, into a sedentary life in New Jersey, eventually nearly being confined to the tranquil, morose solitude of his home, The Cedars. Life had been vastly different for the Englishman just two years before, especially more than a decade before; and although this turbulent figure had a temper to be unsurpassed, our sympathies lie with Henry—fate’s unscrupulous, demanding hold confined him to a prison of the mind and soul from which he never escaped.

Born in London, United Kingdom, April 7, 1807, young Henry found himself swathed and nurtured in the wealth of his aristocratic lineage, being the grandson of Henry Herbert, the 1st Earl of Carnarvon. According to Luke White, Jr., author of Henry William Herbert and the American Publishing Scene, Herbert, during his early years, “acquired that twin enthusiasm for books and the out-of-doors…” (5). Henry commenced with receiving a classical education, was enrolled at Caius college, Cambridge, and graduated with honors in 1830 (5). Upon graduation, he carried with him proper knowledge of the classical languages-which he would put to use while completing an eleven-year professorship as a teacher of Greek and Latin at the Reverend R. Townsend Huddart’s Classical Institute-as well as several debts due to gambling and spending lavishly, a habit that would follow him to the grave (5, 20). These overwhelming debts may have caused concern for his family, for between just 1830 and 1831 it is recorded that Henry left his home in London. It is also recorded, according to White, that “in answer to an inquiry, ‘the Herbert family, the late Earl of Carnarvon speaking through his secretary, said they were not aware of any Henry William Herbert in their family'” (6). This statement alone seems to lend credence and severity to the notion that Henry had brought shame to the family due to his erratic indulgences, and may have affected an implied estrangement from the family—let it be noted that Henry never returned to England, nor did he seem to remain close with his family, as far as lack of correspondences prove.

After his departure from London, he stayed briefly in France, either to take in the culture and language, as exaggeratedly evinced by Henry, or to (most likely) escape the debtors on his tail. France did not seem to provide either the security or needs that Henry needed however, and he set sail for America in 1831, carrying at his side money and letters of introduction for a gentleman in Canada. Thus began the beginning of Henry’s hopeful new life, and climb to literary fame—thus also began the downfall to his unforeseen and tragic demise.