The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.

V. Bryant and the Minor Poets.

§ 22. Nathaniel Parker Willis.

Nathaniel Parker Willis, the most honoured among these literary editors of old New York, 37  began as a sentimental poetizer of Scripture for meek ladies, and then helped to establish a still existing journalistic tradition in our literature—that of the light, the pretty, the clever, the urbane negligee in prose and rhyme; while his Lady Jane, a story after Don Juan and Fanny, and his Melanie, after Byron’s Tales, only too well illustrate the now dead but once potent influence of Byron on our minor poets, even on poets utterly unlike Byron in temperament and in mode of life. 38  Yet Willis was a true poet in a half dozen lyrics where a human form, a bit of nature, or a moral insight is registered in sincere, graceful, dignified, and, at least once (Unseen Spirits), noble speech. These, with his brief prose obituary notice of Poe and its tribute to Mrs. Clemm, are higher things than conventional criticism now associates with the brilliant and versatile gentleman of provincial but polished Broadway.   33

Note 37. See also Book II, Chap. III. [ back ]
Note 38. See Leonard, W.E., Byron and Byronism in America (Columbia Univ. Diss.), 1905. [ back ]