Fitz-Greene Halleck, an Early Knickerbocker Wit and Poet

Fitz-Greene Halleck, an Early Knickerbocker Wit and Poet

Fitz-Greene Halleck, an Early Knickerbocker Wit and Poet

Fitz-Greene Halleck, an Early Knickerbocker Wit and Poet

Excerpt

The basis of the present biography of Fitz-Greene Halleck was a doctoral dissertation presented in 1925 to the faculty of the Yale Graduate School. Since then, the work has been fully revised and enlarged. No apology has been thought necessary for presenting thus minutely the personal and literary career of an American of letters who can claim but a minor place in the development of our literature. Believing with Longfellow that "a life that is worth writing at all is worth writing minutely," the author, from a careful and, as he believes, adequate examination of the sources of Halleck's life, has sought to re-create the picture of one of the most brilliant and charming literary amateurs that America has produced. The work may further be regarded as a study in early Knickerbocker letters. The writings of Halleck amply illustrate a local literary tradition set in motion by the Salmagundi (1807-8) and the Knickerbocker History of New York (1809), and persisting in New York literature for the next thirty years. We find in Halleck's work not only the inevitable contrast between the worlds of romance and reality, which the early New York writers felt so keenly; but also the spirit of good-fellowship which found expression through the channels of bonhomie, gallantry, and conviviality. It was of this spirit that New York literature was born in 1807; it was this spirit that gave it its vital force for the next three decades.

The sources of Halleck's biography are perhaps more numerous than one would at first suspect. An examination of the newspapers and periodicals of Halleck's day has yielded much authentic information which has frequently assisted the biographer to a marked degree in determining the state of the poet's reputation during his lifetime. The many references to Halleck's name to be met with in the magazines prior to 1835 have amply revealed the extent to which the poet endeared himself to the public both through his works and personality.

If the newspapers and periodicals of the period are the best means of throwing light upon Halleck's reputation as a writer, it is the poet's personal letters to which we must turn for the most . . .

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