yours, and in the No. for March 1818--three more pair of varses from
the same hand--
MANUSCRIPT: NYPL-GR (draft) PUBLISHED (in part): Life, I, 155-156.
Bryant had last written his former law tutor nearly a year earlier (Letter 40),
and Baylies had replied on November 18, 1817. NYPL-BG.
Though still identifying himself as a Federalist, Bryant reflects here the growing doubts about his party's merits which would within a few years lead to his support
of Jacksonian Democracy.
Sympathy in this country for Spain's rebelling South American colonies led to
the introduction in Congress of a resolution recognizing their de facto governments.
This was defeated in the House of Representatives on March 30, 1818, by a vote of
115 to 45. Bailey, Diplomatic History, p. 168. Bryant's earlier hope for military "adventures" had earned him a belated commission in the Massachusetts militia in July
1816, which he resigned within six weeks, after deciding to enter law practice at Great
Barrington. "Youth," pp. 183-184.
There is a note of casual pride in this report of poetic recognition, for Bryant
had written Baylies, two years after composing these poems, "You ask whether I am
pleased with my profession-- Alas, Sir, the Muse was my first love and the remains of
that passion which not rooted out yet chilled into extinction will always I fear cause
me to look coldly on the severe beauties of Themis." See Letter 40. His pose of non-
chalance seems evident, too, in his professed uncertainty over when the first two
poems were published, in view of his remarks about them to his father in Letter 46. Bryrant's phrase, "pair of varses," suggests the anecdote he is said to have enjoyed repeating about a village rhymester who once exclaimed, "Well, Squire Bryant, they say
you are a poet like me; is that so? I've never heerd any of your varses; would you like
one of mine?" Life, I, 204.
51. [To George Downes]
Great Barrington 17 April 1818
I hardly know what apology to make for so long delaying to answer
your very agreeable favour of July last.
1 I might plead indolence but you
would not admit it-- [I] might offer the excuse, business, but it has the
misfortune of not being true--yet, perhaps, it might avail something to
tell you that for some months past my hours of leisure have been poisoned
by ill-health and depression of Spirits--
I did not expect that you would make the use you have done of my
remarks upon the subject of matrimony.
2 My object was to offer you comfort in your misfortunes-- I was influenced solely by the charitable motive of persuading [you] to be as contented as possible and I wished to
make your fetters sit light on you by telling you that they were bright
and tinkled delightfully-- Was it generous to turn the consolations with
which I was humanely endeavouring to save you from despair into weapons against me? Would you make your physician swallow the contents of
his own saddle-bags?