1857 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

David Humphreys

Samuel Griswold Goodrich, in Recollections of a Lifetime (1857) 2:115-16n.



Trumbull was, no doubt, this most conspicuous literary character of his day, in this country. I published a revised edition of his works in 1820, as elsewhere stated. His society was much sought, and he was the nucleus of a band of brilliant geniuses, including Dwight, Hopkins, Alsop, Humphries, &c. The latter I often saw at Hartford, usually on visits to Trumbull. He was then old, and living in his native town of Derby, where he had established a woolen manufactory. He had been one of the handsomest men of his time, and was now large, portly, powdered, with a blue coat and bright buttons, a yellow waistcoat, drab breeches, and white-top boots. His complexion was florid, showing a little more appreciation of Sherry than was orthodox in Connecticut — a taste he brought with his wife and her fortune from Lisbon, or Madrid, in both which places he had been ambassador. He was in truth a splendid mixture of the old Continental soldier, and the powdered and pomatumed diplomat. Though past sixty, he still affected poetry, and on one occasion — perhaps about 1810 — came in his coach-and-four, to get Trumbull to aid him in finishing his Fable of the Monkey, who, imitating his master in shaving, cut his own threat. He had nearly completed it, but wished a pointed, epigrammatic termination. Trumbull took it and read to the end, as it was written, and then added, without stopping—

Drew razor swift as he could pull it,
And cut, from ear to ear, his gullet!

This completed the fable, and it so stands to this day. This anecdote was told me by Trumbull himself, and I gave it to Kettell, who inserted it in the notice of the poet, in his Specimens of American Poetry. Humphries died in 1818; Trumbull in 18[3]1, having been a judge of the Superior Court from 1801 till 1819, when he was disqualified by age, under a law of the State.