1856 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Pickering

George and Evert Duyckinck, in Cyclopedia of American Literature (1856; 1875) 1:713-14.



Henry, the third son of Colonel Timothy Pickering and Rebecca Pickering, was born on the 8th of October, 1781, at Newburgh, in the Hasbrouck house, memorable as having been the headquarters of General Washington. Colonel Pickering was at the time quartermaster-general of the army of the Confederated States, and was absent with the commander-in-chief at the siege of Yorktown.

In 1801, after a long residence in Pennsylvania, Colonel Pickering returned with his family to his native state, Massachusetts; and subsequently Henry engaged in mercantile pursuits in Salem. In the course of a few years he acquired a moderate fortune, which he dispensed most liberally; among other things, contributing largely towards the support of his father's family and the education of its younger members. In 1825, in consequence of pecuniary losses, he removed from Salem to New York, in the hope of retrieving his affairs; but being unsuccessful in business, he retired from the city, and resided several years at Rondout, and other places on the banks of the Hudson, devoting much of his time to reading, and finding in poetical composition a solace for his misfortunes. His writings take occasionally a sombre tint from the circumstances which shaded the latter years of his life, although his natural temperament was cheerful. He was a lover of the beautiful, as well in art as in nature, and he numbered among his friends the most eminent poets and artists of our country. An amiable trait in his character was a remarkable fondness for children, to whom he was endeared by his attentions. The affection with which he regarded his mother was peculiarly strong; and he deemed himself highly blest in having parents, the one distinguished for ability, integrity, and public usefulness, the other, beautiful, pure, gentle, and loving.

The following just tribute to his memory appeared in the Salem Gazette, in May, 1838:—

"Died in New York on the 8th instant Henry Pickering His remains were brought to this city on Friday last, and deposited at the side of the memorial which filial piety had erected to the memory of venerated parents — and amid the ancestral group which has been collecting since the settlement of the country.

"A devoted, affectionate, and liberal son and brother, he entwined around him the best and the warmest feelings of his family circle. To his friends and acquaintances he was courteous, delicate, and refined in his deportment. With a highly cultivated and tasteful mind he imparted pleasant instruction to all who held intercourse with him, while his unobtrusive manners silently forced themselves on the affections, and won the hearts of all who enjoyed his society."

The poems of Pickering are suggested by simple, natural subjects, and are in a healthy vein of reflection. A flower, a bird, a waterfall, childhood, maternal affection are his topics, with which he blends his own gentle moods. The Buckwheat Cake, which we print with his own corrections, first appeared in the New York Evening Post, and was published in an edition, now rare, in Boston, in 1831.