William Cullen Bryant: Author of America
Proclaimed by James Fenimore Cooper to be “the author of America,” William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was one of nineteenth-century America’s foremost poets and public intellectuals. In this, the first major biography of Bryant in almost forty years, Gilbert H. Muller reintroduces a quintessential New Yorker who commanded the nation’s literary, cultural, urban, and political life for more than half a century.
A transplanted Yankee, Bryant arrived on the unpaved streets of Manhattan in the early 1820s and he would soon find himself at the locus of the many political and cultural transformations sweeping Manhattan and the nation. The bedrock of Bryant’s cultural authority was his reputation as “America’s first poet,” and he enthralled a nation and his peers—including Whitman, Poe, Longfellow, and Emerson—who praised the excellence of his verse. A literary celebrity for almost seventy years, Bryant served as the editor of the New-York Evening Post for five decades, and was a major force behind the establishment of Central Park, the National Academy of Design, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. Drawing on previously unavailable letters and nineteenth-century files of the New-York Evening Post, Muller creates a humanistic portrait of New York City’s “first citizen,” establishes him as a first-rate poet, and makes a convincing case for Bryant’s role in defining the idea of democratic culture in America.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - Schmerguls - LibraryThing
This is a biography composed as it should be. It tells the life chronolgically, discussing poems as Bryant wrote them and telling of his life as editor and traveller. I decided to read Bryant's ... Read full review
A quicker read than Charles Brown's book, and more accurate in most details. It is also superior in its treatment of the poetry.
Unfortunately (in my somewhat biased view), Muller, like Brown, gives no consideration at all to Bryant's seven and a half years of writing short stories. Though universally neglected, this was not a negligible part of his career --as I believe I demonstrate convincingly in my WCB: The Complete Stories. Irving had the greater impact,m of course, but Bryant was by far more innovative, and some of his stories rank among the very best written by an American before the Civil War
There is also much more to be said about Bryant's impact on American poetry (see my essay in WCB: An American Voice).
Nevertheless, Muller presents a significant contribution to what should be a major reexamination of one of our major figures. (And by the way, Mr. Rollyson, the subtitle is NOT an exaggeration. Bryant led the way in the establishment of a distinctively AMERICAN literature.)
2 Pedlar of Law and Poetry
3 The Delectable City of Gotham
4 Apprentice Editor
5 Jackson Democrat
6 Yankee Brawls
7 My Native Country
8 Leggetts Legacy