William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant (brī´ənt), 1794–1878, American poet and newspaper editor, b. Cummington, Mass. The son of a learned and highly respected physician, Bryant was exposed to English poetry in his father's vast library. As a boy he became devoted to the New England countryside and was a keen observer of nature. In his early poems such as "Thanatopsis," "To a Waterfowl," "Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood," and "The Yellow Violet," all written before he was 21, he celebrated the majesty of nature in a style that was influenced by the English romantics but also reflected a personal simplicity and dignity. Admitted to the bar in 1815 after a year at Williams and private study, Bryant practiced law in Great Barrington, Mass., until 1825, when he went to New York City. By that time he was already known as a poet and critic. He became associate editor of the New York Evening Post in 1826, and from 1829 to his death he was part owner and editor in chief. An industrious and forthright editor of a highly literate paper, he was a defender of human rights and an advocate of free trade, abolition of slavery, and other reforms. He also holds an important place in literature as the earliest American theorist of poetry. In his Lectures on Poetry (delivered 1825; published 1884) and other critical essays he stressed the values of simplicity, original imagination, and morality. During his later career Bryant traveled widely, made many public speeches, and continued to write a few poems (e.g., "The Death of the Flowers," "To the Fringed Gentian," and "The Battle-Field" ). His blank verse translation of the Iliad appeared in 1870, that of the Odyssey in 1872.

See biographies by P. Godwin (2 vol., 1883; repr. 1967), J. Bigelow (1890, repr. 1970), H. H. Peckham (1950, repr. 1971), and C. H. Brown (1971).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! William Cullen Bryant
John Bigelow.
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1890
FREE! Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant
William Cullen Bryant.
D. Appleton, 1878
Librarian’s tip: "Thanatopsis" begins on p. 21 and "To a Waterfowl" begins on p. 26
FREE! The Iliad of Homer
William Cullen Bryant; Sarah E. Simons; Homer.
Houghton Mifflin, 1916 (Abridged edition)
"But Bryant? What of Bryant in Bryan?": The Religious Implications of the Allusion to "A Forest Hymn" in the Sun Also Rises
Hurley, C. Harold.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring 2001
Under Open Sky: Poets on William Cullen Bryant
Norbert Krapf; John DePol.
Fordham University Press, 1986
Columbia Literary History of the United States
Emory Elliott; Martha Banta; Terence Martin; David Minter; Marjorie Perloff; Daniel B. Shea.
Columbia University Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: "William Cullen Bryant and the Fireside Poets" begins on p. 278
Return to the Fountains: Some Classical Sources of American Criticism
John Paul Pritchard.
Duke University Press, 1942
Librarian’s tip: "William Cullen Bryant" begins on p. 13
Nature and the American: Three Centuries of Changing Attitudes
Hans Huth.
University of Nebraska Press, 1990 (New edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of William Cullen Bryant begins on p. 30
The Environmental Debate: A Documentary History
Peninah Neimark; Peter Rhoades Mott.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Document 37 "William Cullen Bryant's Proposal for a Great Municipal Park (1844)"
The Literature of the American People: An Historical and Critical Survey
Arthur Hobson Quinn.
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of William Cullen Bryant begins on p. 248
A History of American Letters
Walter Fuller Taylor.
American Book, 1936
Librarian’s tip: "William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)" begins on p. 111
The Letters of William Cullen Bryant
William Cullen Bryant II; Thomas G. Voss; William Cullen Bryant.
Fordham University Press, vol.1, 1975
Power for Sanity: Selected Editorials of William Cullen Bryant, 1829-1861
William Cullen Bryant II; William Cullen Bryant.
Fordham University Press, 1994
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