Number of page: 420
Publisher: SUNY Press
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Proclaimed by James Fenimore Cooper to be “the author of America,” William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was one of nineteenth-century America’s foremost poets and public intellectuals. In this, the first major biography of Bryant in almost forty years, Gilbert H. Muller reintroduces a quintessential New Yorker who commanded the nation’s literary, cultural, urban, and political life for more than half a century.A transplanted Yankee, Bryant arrived on the unpaved streets of Manhattan in the early 1820s and he would soon find himself at the locus of the many political and cultural transformations sweeping Manhattan and the nation. The bedrock of Bryant’s cultural authority was his reputation as “America’s first poet,” and he enthralled a nation and his peers—including Whitman, Poe, Longfellow, and Emerson—who praised the excellence of his verse. A literary celebrity for almost seventy years, Bryant served as the editor of the New-York Evening Post for five decades, and was a major force behind the establishment of Central Park, the National Academy of Design, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. Drawing on previously unavailable letters and nineteenth-century files of the New-York Evening Post, Muller creates a humanistic portrait of New York City’s “first citizen,” establishes him as a first-rate poet, and makes a convincing case for Bryant’s role in defining the idea of democratic culture in America.