1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fitz-Greene Halleck

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 476.



Halleck (1795-1867) was a native of Guilford, Conn. While a boy of fourteen he began to versify. In 1813 he entered the banking-house of Jacob Barker in New York, and subsequently became the confidential clerk of New York's foremost millionaire, John Jacob Astor. In 1849 he retired to his native town on a competence. He made frequent trips to New York, however, where he had troops of friends. He remained a bachelor, and wrote little after giving up his clerkship. In 1819 he had been associated with Drake in the composition of some satirical poems called The Croaker Papers. In 1822, '23 he visited Europe, and as the fruits of his travels we have two fine poems, Alnwick Castle, and the lines on Burns, which last show the influence of Campbell, of whom Halleck was a great admirer.

The first collection of his poems appeared in 1827; the second in 1836; a third, with illustrations, in 1837; and a fourth in 1852. His flights were limited; his poetry is that of the emotions rather than of the meditative faculty; and a small volume will hold all that he wrote. But in his day Halleck was a conspicuous figure, and regarded with some local pride in the city of his adoption. He was an agreeable companion, scrupulously honorable in all his dealings; and his beaming countenance, the smile of which seemed to come from an affectionate nature, made him a welcome guest at all social gatherings. He had little ambition as an author, regarding himself as only an amateur, and having a keener consciousness than any of his critics of his own literary ambitions. His Life and Letters, edited by James Grant Wilson of New York, was published in 1869. Bryant, in vindicating Halleck from the charge of occasional roughness in his versification, says, "He knows that the rivulet is made musical by the obstructions in its channel."