The Letters of William Cullen Bryant - Vol. 1

By William Cullen Bryant II; Thomas G. Voss et al. | Go to book overview
2.
Col. John Stevens ( 1749-1838, King's [later Columbia] College 1768), pioneer steamboat and railroad builder, lived at Castle Point in Hoboken, where his son Edward A. Stevens later founded the Stevens Institute of Technology.

268. To Richard H. Dana

New York Oct. 2, 1833.

My dear sir.

I had received your volume of poems--for which I thank you much --before writing the notice you speak of, in the Evening Post. 1 It was a hasty article--hasty I mean for a subject to which I was so desirous to do justice; and I saw on reading it over, after it was printed, that I had not been very happy in speaking of the merits of the poem entitled Factitious Life. I had neglected to say any thing of the satire of the piece which was happy and well directed. I have seen the notice of your book in the Christian Register. It was not written by a person capable of judging of your writings, but I thought that the writer meant his article to be a friendly one. By the way, I have to make amends for what I said about a critic of my poems in the Foreign Quarterly Review, before I had seen his article. 2 You may remember what I wrote to you on that subject. Since that time I have seen the review, and have not the slightest doubt that the writer meant to be exceedingly kind, condescending, and patronizing, and all that--the misfortune was that he did not know how to criticize poetry. I have no right to complain, for he wrote in a friendly spirit, and praised me enough I believe, though not in the right places. What is the reason that none of the critics in England or America except Channing, in noticing my things, have said a word about "The Past"?

After all, poetic wares are not in the market of the present day. Poetry may get praised in the newspapers, but no man makes money by it, for the simple reason that nobody cares a fig for it. The taste for it is something old fashioned, the march of the age is in another direction-- mankind are occupied with politics, rail roads and steamboats. Hundreds of persons will talk flippantly and volubly about poetry and even write about it, who know no more of the matter and have no more feeling of poetry than the old stump I write this letter with. I see you predict a change for the better in your new preface to the Idle Man. May it come, I say with all my heart, but I do not see the proof of it--or rather if I were called upon to point out any signs of its approach, I could mention no other than the change which criticism has undergone in speaking of your writings. Beyond this I discern no favorable indication.

I believe I have not acknowledged the receipt of your Essay on the Past. I looked for the number of the Quarterly Observer containing it-- but the agent here would not sell single numbers, and I was not quite ready to subscribe for the work. I liked your article so well that I was sorry not to see it with the other prose pieces in your volume.

-380-

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