1856 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Elihu Hubbard Smith

George and Evert Duyckinck, in Cyclopedia of American Literature (1856; 1875) 1:623-24.



ELIHU HUBBARD SMITH was born at Litchfield, Conn., Sept. 4, 1771. He was eductated at Yale College, and completed his course at so early an age that he was placed by his father in charge of Dr. Dwight, at Greenfield, to continue his literary studies, until sufficiently matured to commence the study of medicine. This he prosecuted with his father, a physician of eminence, and completed at Philadelphia, where he became acquainted with Charles Brockden Brown. He established himself in New York, keeping bachelor's hall with his friend William Johnson, the lawyer, in genial and hospitable style, in a house in Pine street, the head-quarters of the Friendly Club. He wrote a play, a number of sonnets and essays for the magazines of the day, an operatic version of the ballad of Edwin and Angelina, played with indifferent success at the John Street Theatre in 1794, and established in connexion with his friends, Doctors Samuel L. Mitchill and Edward Miller, a professional periodical entitled the Medical Repository.

In 1793 he edited the first collection ever made of American poetry. In 1798, during the horrors of the yellow fever, he was unremitting in the discharge of the duties of his profession. He escaped the infection for a long time, but finally fell a victim, under circumstances which do honor to his humanity as well as intrepidity. A young Italian, Joseph B. Scandella, who had during his brief sojourn in America endeared himself to all whose acquaintance he had formed, fell sick of the fever, and was removed from the Tontine Coffee-House by Smith to his own apartments. The disease speedily proved fatal, not only to the patient but to the physician, who died Sept. 21, 1798.

Smith prefixed to the American edition of Darwin's Works an Epistle to the Author of the Botanic Garden, and also wrote an irregular poem, somewhat after the manner of Gray's Bard, descriptive of Indian character and manners. It was never printed, and accidentally destroyed, with the author's other manuscripts, after his death. It was pronounced by a competent judge to be the author's best production.