The Letters of William Cullen Bryant - Vol. 1

By William Cullen Bryant II; Thomas G. Voss et al. | Go to book overview

instance, and commence the practice of Law there. 4 I do not relish this business of skulking about in holes and corners of the earth. 5

If you will obtain the January number of the N. A. Review for me, if it is not already sent by mail--and send it me by Gen. Whiting, you will oblige me much.--

I am, as ever,
Your affectionate Son
Wm. C. BRYANT

MANUSCRIPTS: NYPL-GR (final, and draft dated 9 January) ADDRESS: Hon. Peter Bryant / Boston / favd. by Hon. Jno. Whiting PUBLISHED (in part): Life, I, 152.

1.
Cullen's lung trouble, reported earlier (Letters 34 and 39), seems to have ceased soon after this time. In 1821 he wrote his sister Sally, then within three years of her death from consumption, "I myself, at your age, and all along since till within two or three years was occasionally affected with symptoms similar to those you describe." Letter 269.
2.
See Letter 44. Phillips had written on December 2, "Your 'Fragment' was exceedingly liked here; among others Mr. Channing the clergyman spoke very highly of it. All the judges here say that your fragment and your Father's Thanatopsis are among the very best poetry that has been published in this country." NYPL-BG. Phillips' supposition that Dr. Bryant had written "Thanatopsis" was shared by Edward Channing and Richard Dana. Their misunderstanding is accounted for in Peter Bryant's reply to this letter: "With respect to 'Thanatopsis,' I know not what led Phillips to imagine I wrote it, unless it was because it was transcribed by me; I left it at his house when he was absent, and did not see him afterward. I have, however, set him right on that subject!" Life, I, 152-153. The original fair copy of "Thanatopsis," in HEHL, is in Dr. Bryant's handwriting, while the accompanying manuscript "Fragment" ("Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood") is in Cullen's hand. The resulting confusion, perhaps the most notable of its kind in American letters, has provoked much discussion and embellishment. For the clearest account of the facts, see "Youth," pp. 205-209.
3.
These were '"Version of a Fragment of Simonides" and "To a Waterfowl," published in NAR, 6 ( March 1818), 382-384. Bryant's failure here to name the second poem caused much subsequent confusion in his biographers, and gave rise to the fanciful tale of its composition told in Life, I, 143-144. See William Cullen Bryant II, "The Waterfowl in Retrospect," New England Quarterly, 30 ( June 1957), 181-189.
4.
See Letters 9 and 11.
5.
Cf. The Winter's Tale I.ii.289.

47. To Miss Sarah S. Bryant

Great Barrington 17 Feb. 1818

Dear Sister

It gave me the more pleasure to receive a line from you as, from your delaying to write for so long, I had almost abandoned the hope of drawing you into correspondence. 1 You plead indolence--if you knew as well as I do the pernicious influence of this palsy of the faculties you would not call it by the soft name of an "apology" for any thing. When you have drunk as deeply of the cup of this enchanter as I have done you

-78-

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