1899 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Isaac McLellan

Anonymous, in National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1892-1906) 6:19-20.



Isaac McLellan, poet, was born at Portland, Me., May 21, 1806. When he was only six years old his parents removed to Boston, and in 119 he and Nathaniel P. Willis were sent together to Phillips' Academy, Andover. Mass., to prepare for college, Willis subsequently going to Yale College, while McLellan went up to Bowdoin College. Here he found himself in the next class to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with the latter of whom he struck up a friendship that endured until Longfellow's death in 1882. He was graduated in 1826, and returned to Boston, where he took up the practice of the law for a number of years, during which time he renewed his ties with Willis, who was then editing the "Monthly Magazine," and contributed many poems and prose articles to his friend's periodical. He became associate-editor of the "Daily Patriot," which was afterwards merged into the "Daily Advertiser," and a little later commenced the publication of a monthly magazine that was finally consolidated with the "Weekly Pearl." He was also a constant contributor to the "New England Magazine" and the "Knickerbocker." McLellan was a passionate lover of field sports and his leisure time was employed in wild-fowl shooting along the New England coast, and it was not long before his zeal for all kinds of out-door recreation stirred his muse to the outpouring of poems on sporting subjects, many of which attained wide popularity through their vigor and inspiring sentiment, and brought their author the sobriquet of the "poet-sportsman." In his writings he testifies that neither of his renowned classmates, Longfellow, Hawthorne, and Willis, had any taste for rod or gun, though they loved to roam along stream and through forest. Sargent Smith Prentiss, however, who was another former schoolfellow, shared his tastes, and the two would often ramble together through the woods on a Saturday afternoon in pursuit of game. In 1838 Mr. McLellan went on a sporting tour in Europe, and for two years fished and shot in nearly every country on that continent. On his return he abandoned the practice of the law as well as his editorial labors, and retired to the country, where he could give himself up unrestrainedly to his passion for sport. The shooting resorts most frequented by him were Plymouth, Cohasset, and Daniel Webster's rural retreat, Marshfield, Mass., where through the great statesman's generosity, he was able to spend two seasons as an occupant of one of the farm houses on the estate. In 1851, resolving to continue his literary pursuits once more, he took up his residence in New York City, where he became acquainted with many kindred spirits who used to congregate at the offices of the "Spirit of the Times." For years he made expeditions during the season along the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina for the purpose of wild-fowl shooting, and in later days went gunning along the Shinnecock and Great Smith Bay, L. I., finally settling near the latter resort at Greenpoint in 1870. Although on the verge of fourscore and ten years of age, Mr. McLellan is still to be found in the field as well as at the desk, his love of the sportsman's life being unquenchable, and as a poet of rod and gun has practically no rival to-day. Besides numerous contributions to sporting journals, he is the author of various works in book form: "The Fall of the Indian" (Boston, 1830); "The Year" (1832); "Journal of a Residence in Scotland," from the MSS. of H. B. McLellan (1834); "Mount Auburn" (1843), and "Poems of the Rod and Gun" (New York, 1886). He died at Greenport, L. I., Aug. 20, 1899.