1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Philip Freneau

Charles D. Cleveland, in Compendium of American Literature (1858) 218-19.



PHILIP FRENEAU was a celebrated poet in the period of the American Revolution, for most of his pieces were written between the years 1768 and 1793. He was of French extraction, his grandfather, a Huguenot, having come to this country, soon after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantz, 1598. He was born in New York in the year 1752, and after the usual preparatory studies, in which he distinguished himself, he entered Princeton College, New Jersey, and graduated there in 1771, at the age of nineteen. Before leaving college, he had not only written many fugitive pieces, but had planned an epic poem on the life and discoveries of Columbus, which, however, was never executed, though we doubtless have, in some of his detached pieces, portions which he intended to interweave into the body of the work. After leaving college, he went to Philadelphia, and spent his time chiefly in writing upon public political characters and events, taking strong ground for the Republican side, and holding the "Tories," as the favorers of Great Britain were called, up to ridicule and contempt. He enjoyed the friendship of some of the first men of the day — of Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Francis Hopkinson, and others; and Mr. Jefferson, on coming to the Presidency, gave him a place in the Department of State. He soon, however, resigned his post, not finding its duties agreeable to him, and removed to Philadelphia, to conduct a paper entitled the Freeman's Journal. Finding this unprofitable, he took the command of a merchant ship, in 1793, and made several voyages to Madeira, the West Indies, and other places.

Of his subsequent history, we know but little. The latter part of his life he lived at Mount pleasant, and then at Freehold, in New Jersey, at which latter place he died on the 18th of December, 1832.