1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Francis Hopkinson

Anonymous, in Review of Kettell, Specimens of American Poery; American Quarterly Review [Philadelphia] 6 (September 1829) 260.



Again — "Joseph Hopkinson; — we have no knowledge of this author. The popular national air which follows, (Hail Columbia,) appeared first, we believe, in Philadelphia." Very few men living out of Boston, are better or more advantageously known to most of the distinguished members of that community, than the son of that eminent writer, the deceased Francis Hopkinson, of whose poetry Mr. Kettell has given a specimen. We are so malicious as to leave the editor to add to those laborious researches which he emblazons in his preface, by ascertaining definitively how long Joseph Hopkinson flourished at the bar as a most eloquent advocate and principal counsellor; what part he took at Washington in the defence of Judge Chase and Commodore Stewart; how many years he represented the city of Philadelphia in Congress, with signal ability and influence; how he fills the bench of the District Court of the United States in the same city; what prose compositions he has published; where, and how, positively, Hail Columbia first appeared, and what circumstances caused or accompanied its birth; all which is worth determining for the second edition of the Specimens, or some new biographical and bibliographical dictionary. We can divine no better reason for his remissness in these instances, than the fear of experiencing the same treatment as that which he relates with naivete in his notice of Philip Freneau.

"We had always been accustomed to hear this gentleman spoken of as deceased, and a late writer in one of our most distinguished literary journals has classed him among the departed poets. But on making inquiries respecting him, a few months since, we learned that he was still living, near Middletown Point, in New-Jersey. We hope he regrets the very splenetic tone of the letter which he took the trouble to write about us on the occasion."

This venerable poet, — who stands to the country in nearly the same relation as Trumbull, for his revolutionary strains, — was unwilling, we may suppose, to be disturbed in his peaceful retreat, or distrusted the designs or ability of the inquirer. "Nunc veterum libris, nunc somno et inertibus horis."