1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Grenville Mellen

Charles D. Cleveland, in Compendium of American Literature (1858) 267-68.



GRENVILLE MELLEN, the son of the late Chief Justice Prentiss Mellen, LL.D., of Maine, was born in the town of Biddeford, in that State, on the 19th of June, 1799, and graduated at Harvard University in 1818. He entered the profession of the law, but, finding it not suited to his feelings, abandoned it, as others before and since have done, for the more congenial attractions of poetry and general literature. He resided five or six years in Boston, and afterwards in New York. His health had always been rather delicate, and in 1840, in hopes of deriving advantage from a milder climate, he made a voyage to Cuba. But he was not benefited materially by the change, and learning, the next spring, of the death of his father, he returned home, and died in New York on the 5th September, 1841.

Mr. Mellen wrote for various magazines and periodicals. 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 Martyr's Triumph, Buried Valley, and other Poems, appeared in 1834. The first named poem is founded on the history of Saint Alban, the first Christian martyr in England. In The Buried Valley, he describes the terrible avalanche at the Notch in the White Mountains, in 1826, by which the Willey family was destroyed.

Of the merits of Grenville Mellen's poetry, a living critic thus speaks: "There is in these poems no unusual sublimity to awaken surprise — no extreme pathos to communicate the luxury of grief — no chivalrous narrative to stir the blood to adventure — no high-painted ardor in love to make us enraptured with beauty. Yet we were charmed; for we love purity of sentiment, and we found it; we love amiability of heart, and here we could perceive it in every stanza. The muse of Mellen delights in the beauties, not in the deformities of nature; she is more inclined to celebrate the virtues than denounce the vices of man" [American Quarterly Review 22:195.