Friday, October 30, 2009

William Cullen Bryant

William Cullen Bryant was a young lawyer when his poem "Thanatopsis" first appeared in the North American Review in 1817. Inspired by the romantic lyrics of William Wordsworth, Bryant found his subject in the American landscape, especially that of New England. By 1825, critics on both sides of the Atlantic called him the finest poet in the United States. But reputation alone could not support his family, and in 1826 Bryant joined the New York Evening Post. By 1840, Bryant had largely abandoned poetry to become one of the country's leading advocates for abolition. From 1856 on, the Evening Post was a Republican paper, supporting the arming of abolitionist settlers in Kansas, deriding the Dred Scott decision, and celebrating John Brown as a martyr. In 1860, Bryant introduced Abraham Lincoln before the audience at Cooper Union in New York. Later, Bryant and the Evening Post influenced Lincoln's decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Brady photographed the powerful editor in New York around 1860.

Imperial salted-paper print, ca. 1860
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums,
on deposit from Harvard College Library, bequest of Evert Jansen Wendell

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