[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors]


NATHANIEL PARKER WILLIS was born in Portland, Maine, January 20, 1807.1 After being fitted for college at Phillips Academy, Andover, he entered Yale, at sixteen years of age, and soon distinguished himself as a poet of true genius by writing a scries of pieces on scriptural subjects,-pieces which have not been surpassed by any thing he has subsequently written, and which gave him at once a wide-spread and enviable reputation. On leaving college, in 1827, he was engaged by S. G. Goodrich ("Peter Parley") to edit "The Legendary" and "The Token." In 1828, he established the "American Monthly Magazine," which he conducted for two years and a half, when it was merged in the "New York Mirror," and Mr. Willis went to Europe, and travelled through Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Turkey, and England, in which latter country he was married to Mary Leighton Stace, daughter of Commissary-General William Stace, then having charge of the arsenal at Woolwich. The letters he wrote while abroad were first published in the "New York Mirror," under the title of Pencillings by the Way. In 1835, he published Inklings of Adventure, a series of tales which appeared originally in a London magazine. In 1837, he returned home, and retired to a beautiful place on the Susquehanna, near Owego, New York, which he named Glenmary in compliment to his wife. In 1839, he became one of the editors of the "Corsair," a literary gazette in New York City, and towards the close of that year again went to London, where he published Loiterings of Travel, and two tragedies, Tortesa the Usurer and Bianca Visconti, under the united title of Two Ways of Dying for a Husband. In 1840 appeared an illustrated edition of his poems, and Letters from under a Bridge. In 1843, in conjunction with General George P. Morris, he revived the "New York Mirror," but withdrew from it upon the death of his wife in 1844, and again visited England. On his return home the next year, he issued a complete edition of his works, in an imperial octavo of eight hundred pages. In October, 1846, he was married to a daughter of the Hon. Joseph Grinnell, member of Congress from Massachusetts, and removed to his present country home of Idlewild. He is now associated with General Morris as editor of the "Home Journal," a weekly literary paper, which is always enriched, more or less, with pieces from his pen, and which is hailed by its numerous readers, every week, as a genial and instructive fireside companion.

Though Mr. Willis's prose writings are full of beauty and wit, of rich paintings of natural scenery, and delicate and humorous touches of the various phases of social life, it is by his poetry, especially by his sacred poetry, that he will be chiefly known and prized by posterity. There is a tenderness, a pathos, and a richness of description in it which give him a rank among the first of American poets.2

1 His father was Nathaniel Willis, who, a few years after the birth of Nathaniel, removed to Boston, and projected and edited the "Boston Recorder," the first religious journal established in this country.

2 No man has appeared in our literature, endowed with a greater variety

« ForrigeFortsett »