William Cullen Bryant: Author of America

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SUNY Press, Mar 10, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 420 pages
4 Reviews
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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User 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

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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.)


1 Americas First Poet
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
12 Old Temples and Tombs
13 Tumults of theNoisy World
14 Lincoln
15 Days of Slaughter
16 Like One Shut Out of Paradise
17 A Centurys Space
Source Notes

9 Politics and Poetry
10 Among the First in the World
11 Kindred Spirits

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About the author (2010)

Gilbert H. Muller is Professor Emeritus of English at the City University of New York. He is the author of Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O’Connor and the Catholic Grotesque and New Strangers in Paradise: The Immigrant Experience and Contemporary American Fiction, and has also written critical biographies of the African American writers Chester Himes and John A. Williams. He lives in Port Washington, New York—close to William Cullen Bryant’s estate, Cedarmere.

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