1856 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Grenville Mellen

George and Evert Duyckinck, in Cyclopedia of American Literature (1856; 1875) 2:62-63.



GRENVILLE MELLEN was born at Biddeford, Maine, June 19, 1799. He was the eldest son of the eminent Chief-justice Mellen, of the Supreme Court in that state. He was graduated at Harvard in 1818; studied law with his father, and settled at Portland, Maine. In 1823 he removed to North Yarmouth, in the same state, where he remained for five years. His poems of this period and subsequently to his death, appeared frequently in the periodicals, the magazines and annuals, of the time. In 1826 he pronounced before the Peace Society of Maine, at Portland, a poem, The Rest of Empires, and in 1828 an Anniversary Poem, before the Athenian Society of Bowdoin College, The Light of Letters. He wrote in the United States Literary Gazette, a well sustained journal published at Boston. In 1827 he published Our Chronicle of Twenty-Six, a satire, and in 1829, Glad Tales and Sad Tales, a volume in prose, from his contributions to the periodicals. The chief collection of his poems appeared in Boston in 1833, The Martyrs' Triumph, Buried Valley, and other Poems. From Boston he came to reside in New York. His health, which was always delicate, was now much enfeebled; he was lingering with consumption when he made a voyage to Cuba, from which he returned without benefit, and died in New York September 5, 1841, at the residence of his friend, Mr. Samuel Colman, for whose family he felt the warmest affection, and whose house he had called his home for the latter years of his life. Before his death he was engaged upon a collection of his unpublished poems, which still remain in manuscript.

A glance at his poems shows a delicate susceptibility to poetical impression, tinged with an air of melancholy. He wrote with ease, often carelessly and pretentiously — often with eloquence. With a stronger constitution his verse would probably have assumed a more condensed, energetic expression. With a consciousness of poetic power he struggled with a feeble frame, and at times yielded to despondency. The memory of his tenderness and purity of character is much cherished by his friends.