William Cullen Bryant (November 3, 1794 - June 12, 1878) was an American Romantic poet and journalist.
He was born in Cummington, Massachusetts, the second son of Peter Bryant, a prominent doctor, and Sarah Snell; his birthplace and longtime summer home is now a museum. His ancestors on both sides came to America in the Mayflower. Educated at Williams College, he went on to study law at Worthington and Bridgewater and was admitted to the bar in 1815.
Bryant was interested in poetry ever since his childhood. His work, written in an English romantic style and celebrating the countryside of New England, was well received. His first book of verse, The Embargo, was published in 1808, his first published poem appearing at age ten. Bryant's first critically acclaimed work, "Thanatopsis", was published in the North American Review in 1817 at age 17, addressing the theme of death as a common uniting fate of humanity. Bryant refined and expanded this poem as the years passed. Thanatopsis was one of the most popular poems in circulation in its time. Among his best known poems are To A Waterfowl, The Rivulet, The West Wind, The Forest Hymn, and The Fringed Gentian.
Bryant worked as a lawyer in Northampton, Plainfield, and Great Barrington until 1825 when he married and moved to New York City and worked for the New York Review and then the New York Evening Post.
"Cedarmere", William Cullen Bryant's estate in Roslyn, NY
At first an associate editor, he became editor in 1829 and remained in that post until his death. As the driving force of this liberal and literate paper, he was strongly anti-slavery.
Bryant was a lifelong political activist, initially as a proponent of the Free Soil Party, and later in life as a founder of the Republican Party. He was a fervent supporter of Abraham Lincoln's presidential bid in 1860.
Also in 1860, Bryant founded New York Medical College. In 1865, Bryant re-purchased his family's homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts, and used it as a summer retreat for the remainder of his life.
In his later years, Bryant focused on translating and analyzing Ancient Greek and Latin works, such as The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer.
Bryant died in 1878 of complications from an accidental fall. In 1884, New York City's Reservoir Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, was renamed Bryant Park in his honor.
The house that he lived in is on 15th Street between 6th and 5th Avenues in Manhattan. That property is now owned by Xavier High School.
- ^ The poem Thanatopsis first appeared in the NAR in 1817, vol. 5. issue 13, pp. 338-339.
- This article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J.M. Dent & sons; New York, E.P. Dutton.
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