Monday, April 19, 2010

Gotham Yankee cont...

during a 1842 visit to the states, Charles Dickens declared that next to the incomparable Washington Irving, Bryant was the one man in America that he had most desired to meet. And he went on to describe a cherished volume of Bryant's poems that he had thumbed and fondled so much as to wear the gilt inscription almost completely off the cover. and Bryant avowed that he had few greater pleasures than the reading of good novels...particularly those of the greatest living English novelist.
off the record, Bryant & Dickens did not altogether approve of each other in later days, Dickens reported to an intimate friend that he had found Bryant to be 'a little sad & very reserved.' Bryant confided to a few cronies that Dicken's dandyism was too obviously Cockney, his waistcoat too flashy, his jewelry too profuse.

Bryant pointed out in a Post editorial Nov. 9 that there was a modicum of truth in the unpleasant things Dickens wrote about America.

in summer 1842 Cullen was unhappy with the cottage at Hoboken. seated on the east verenda with Fanny, he would complain about Hoboken & the whole Jersey shore. either there was not a breath of air stirring, or there was a sultry breeze from the south-a breeze that brought the stench of the Jersey City slaughter houses. when Fanny would protest that they had a lovely view from pu there on Castle Point, Cullen would grudgingly admit the view was good enough. the little village house had not been a bad place to bring up young ones. Fan had married Parke Godwin that spring-the cottage seemed cramped for the 3 Bryants that remained.
he wanted to go to Long Island. on a tour of western Long Island they found the house they wanted, spring 1843 they moved into a large Dutch colonial with dormer windows & a 2 story front verenda, built in 1787 by a well to do Quaker. they christened the farm Cedarmere. he loved the rose bushes & wrote about them in his autobiographical poem A Lifetime. Cedarmere was 23 miles from lower Broadway, a few minutes walk from the village & the RR station. the village was new, and Bryant named it Roslyn.

they did a lot of entertaining there. despite a natural reserve, even a cold formality in his greeting of strangers, Cullen had a surprisingly large circle of intricate friends. Fanny became accustomed to haveing guests come on short notice.

mid summer 1843 Fan & Godwin came to visit bringing Edwin Forrest the most celebrated American tragidian of the day & his brilliantly accomplished English wife & co star, Catherine Sinclair. Fanny smiled. when Cullen offered a penny for her thoughts, she wondered what poor mother Bryant would have thought of her soon playing host to actors.
Sarah Snell, he reminded his wife, had spent her life living in an age & a place that obviously had no use for plays or play houses. of course she never saw a theater-inside or outside. all she ever knew about the theater was that good people said it was a work of the devil. Mother Bryant had lived according to her lights; Cullen & Fanny were living according to theirs.

the thing about Ahser Brown Durand that appealed to Cullen was his appreciation of distinctive beauties of American scenery. Bryant was the first American poet to record this, Durand was the first American painter to paint it.

the happiest of all functions at Cedarmere was the annual pear party. children of the village were invited to romp about the grounds, play all manner of games, and eat as many of the wind fallen Cedarmore pears they could hold.

every one who ever ate at Cedarmere agreed the cuisine was excellent. most of the food came from the farm itself...Cullen always insisted the cider be made from handpicked apples.

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