The History of New York State
Book 12, Chapter 22, Part 2

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


G. P. Morris, song Writer.--George Perkins Morris (1802-64) is also to be numbered among the conspicuous literary figures of the earlier portion of the century in New York and is to be numbered among the most admired of American song writers. In early life he moved to New York, and at the age of fifteen was a contributor of verses to the newspapers of the city. At twenty-one, with Woodworth for a partner, he established the "Mirror," a literary weekly journal, which he continued until 1855, when, associated with Willis and Hiram Fuller, he began the publication of the "Evening Mirror." At the close of 1845 he established the "National Press," changed in November of the year following to the "Home Journal," a highly successful society weekly, which he edited with Mr. Willis until a short period before his death, at the age of sixty-two. General Morris edited a number of works, including "The song-Writers of America," and, in conjunction with Willis, "The prose and Poetry of Europe and America." In 1825 he wrote a successful drama, called "Briar Cliff," founded upon events of the American Revolution, from which he derived $3,500 royalty. He was the author of the libretto of Charles E. Horn's opera, "The Maid of Saxony," and a volume of prose sketches published in 1836, but it is chiefly as a song writer that Morris s best remembered. Some of his lyrics, such as "Woodman, Spare that Tree," and "Near the Lake Where Drooped the Willow," are compositions of which any poet might be proud. An evidence of the great popularity of Morris as a poet is the fact that for many years he could exchange one of his sons unread for $50, when none of the other literatti of New York could sell a poem for the fifth part of that amount. Between 1838, the year in which he published "the Deserted Bride and Other Poems," and 1860, when the last edition of his poetical writings appeared, several collections of his songs, ballads, and poems were issued by New York publishers, His military title came from his connection with the State militia.

Morris himself declared in 1862 that in his opinion the three most popular American sons were: Payne's "Home, Sweet Home," Sargent's " A Life on the Ocean Wave." And "Woodman, Spare that Tree"; and alluded to the pleasure he had received from hearing from the older Russell, who composed the music for his own an Sargent's poem, sing them, and also Sir Henry Bishop's arrangement of "Home, Sweet Home." "But," added the poet, "no one ever sang Payne's lines like Ann bishop." When Morris was asked if his song was founded on fact, he replied that it was, and the account given of it is contained in a published letter, written by the poet, dated New York, February 1, 1837.

Before the middle of the last century a member of the British House of Commons, closed a long speech in favor of protection by quoting "Woodman, Spare that Tree"; the "tree" according to the speaker from Yorkshire, being the "constitution," and Sir Robert Peel the "woodman," about to cut it down. The incident pleased Morris, for it showed the universality of the appeal in his verses. He lived usually at Undercliff, on the banks of the Hudson, near Cold spring; making trips to or from New York by the steamer "Powell."

Hoffman, Last of the "Knickerbocker" Authors.--Charles Fenno Hoffman, (1806-1884), thought he suffered for thirty-four years from a mental disorder that obliged him to live in retirement, was one of the most generally admired of the group of Knickerbocker authors. As a song writer he stands among Americans second only to Morris; and some writers have been of opinion that his lyric, "Sparkling and Bright," is unsurpassed by any similar production in the language. Few American martial poems, produced even during the War of the Rebellion, surpass Hoffman's spirited lines on the Mexican battle of Monterey, which was greatly admired by both Grant and Sherman. During the war these great soldiers sometimes called on a young cavalry officer to repeat them, and also to sing, at the siege of Vicksburg and elsewhere, Bayard Taylor's spirited "Song of the Camp."

Hoffman, as a boy of eleven, was seated one day on the Cortlandt Street dock, with his legs hanging over the wharf, as the ferry came in. The boat caught one of his legs and crushed it so badly as to render amputation above the knee necessary. At fifteen he entered Columbia college, after preparation at the Poughkeepsie Academy, and six years later was admitted to the bar. To his "Knickerbocker Magazine" he contributed a series of letters descriptive of a tour in the Northwest, which were collected and published in 1834, entitled "A winter in the West." This work was followed by "Wild Scenes in the Forest and Prairie," and in 1840 by the "Romance of Greyslaer," founded on the criminal trial of Beauchamps for the murder of Colonel Sharpe, of Kentucky, which also furnished the theme for Simm's novel of "Beauchamps." Hoffman also issued several volumes of poetry, and it is as a lyric poet that he is best known to the world. In this field he is admittedly entitled to take high rank. Among the favorites which made his name widely known may be mentioned "Rosalie Clare," "Tis Hard to Share her Smiles With Many," "The Myrtle and Steel," "Room, Boys, Room," and "Rio Bravo: A Mexican Lament."

Of the large number of literary men present at the famous dinner given to authors at the City Hotel, March 30, 1837, by the booksellers of New York, Hoffman was the last survivor. During the forty-seven years he outlived that memorable evening, he saw pass away, among others who were present: Chancellor Kent, Colonel Trumbull, Albert Gallatin, Washington Irving, Fitz-Greene Halleck, James K. Paulding, William Cullen Bryant, George P. Morris, William l. Stone, Edgar A. Poe, John W. Francis, Orville Dewey, Matthew L. Davis, Charles King, and Lewis Gaylord Clark.

"Hoffman." remarked a London literary journal during his lifetime, "belongs to the front rank of American authors"; adding, "his plume waves above the heads of all the literary men of American a cubit clear." While filling a government position at Washington, he was in 1850 attacked by a serious mental disorder, from which he never recovered. He died in the Harrisburg Asylum, in Pennsylvania, of which he had been an inmate for thirty-four years, June 7, 1884. He was not a graduate of Columbia College, which he left in his junior year; but at the semi-centennial celebration of its incorporation, he received the honorary degree of A. M., conferred on him in company with Washington Irving, Fitz-Greene Halleck and William Cullen Bryant.

Nathaniel Parker Willis.--Nathaniel Parker Willis (1807-67), for many years the most talked of among American authors, was a native of Portland, Maine, the birth place of Seba Smith, John Neal and Henry W. Longfellow. His father and grandfather were publishers, the grand-father having been an apprentice in the office with Benjamin Franklin, and a member of the famous "Boston Tea-party." He was graduated from Yale College, and began his literary career by winning a prize of fifty dollars offered by the publishers, of an illustrated annual. Willis spent several years in Europe, where he wrote "Pencillings by he way," for his "New York Mirror," and before his return to New York in 1837, he married an English lady, and fought a duel with Captain Marryat. Having lost his wife, Willis, in 1843, married the only daughter of Joseph Grinnell, and soon after established, with Morris, the weekly, "The Home Journal." To its columns he contributed for nearly a quarter of a century, much of the material afterwards embodied in some two score of duodecimo volumes. He published, in 1856, "Paul Fane," a novel, and he was also the author of several plays and various volumes of poems, issued between the years 1827 and 1860. May of his sacred poems have found a place in the popular collections, some in hymn-books. Willis lived for the last twenty years of his active literary life, except for occasional health trips to the tropics, and to the southern and western States, at his place called Idlewild, a picturesque mansion admirably situation on a plateau north of the Highlands, and within sound of the guns of West Point. There it was that after battling bravely for existence for many years, he at length fell a victim to consumption, on the sixtieth anniversary of his birth, and was laid at rest by the side of his mother's grave in Mount Auburn.

Poe in New York.--Though a good deal of the literary life of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was spent in Philadelphia, and in other centres remote from New York, his later years were in large part spent in New York, where his wife died, and where he wrote some of his best-known compositions. He was born in Boston, the son of David Poe and his wife, Elizabeth, members of the theatrical profession, who both died in the South soon after Edgar was born. When a child Edgar was adopted by John Allan, a wealthy citizen of Richmond, who sent him to England to be educated. Poe afterwards entered the University of Virginia, where he excelled in his studies, but from which he was expelled for gambling. He was a year afterwards admitted into the Untied States Military Academy at West Point, from which he was also expelled at the expiration of ten months.

Poe entered upon his literary career by winning two prizes of $100 each, offered by a Baltimore publisher in 1833. Five years before he had published in Boston, "Tamerlane and other Poems," a copy of which was sold in 1892 for $1,850, and later for $2,500. Through the influence of John P. Kennedy he obtained the editorship of the "Southern Literary Messenger." While in this position he marred his cousin, Miss Virginia Clemm, with whom he moved to New York. Here he made a precarious living by writing for the magazines, and published "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," and created he modern school of short story writing. The following year he became editor of "Burton's Gentleman's Magazine"; in 1840, of "Graham's Magazine,' published in Philadelphia; and in 1845, having returned to New York, he published his poem, "The Raven," which made him famous. He next became editor of the "Broadway Journal," but was so poor that public appeals were made in his behalf by the newspapers. A letter addressed at this time to Fitz-Greene Halleck by Poe shows his position very clearly:

New York, December 1, 1845.

My dear Mr. Halleck:--On the part of one or two persons who are much embittered against me, there is a deliberate attempt now being made to involve me in ruin by destroying the "Broadway Journal." I could easily frustrate them but for my total want of money and of the necessary time in which to procure it; the knowledge of this has given my enemies the opportunity desired. Emergency--without the leisure to think whether I an acting improperly--I venture to appeal to you. The sum I need is one hundred dollars. If you can loan me for three months any portion of it, I will not be ungrateful.

Truly yours,


In 1849 Poe's wife died, after which he went to Richmond and there formed an engagement with a lady of fortune; but before the day appointed for their marriage Poe became ill, was taken to the hospital, and died there. His grave remained unmarked till 1875, when the school teachers of Baltimore placed a monument over it. On May 4, 1885, the Poe Memorial was unveiled in the Poet's Corner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies, in the presence of a notable gathering of authors, actors, and artists. It is a curious fact that Fitz-Greene Halleck, chiefly through the efforts of his biographer, and Edgar A. Poe, by the liberality of the members of the theatrical profession, to which his parents belonged, secured their memorial statutes and bas-reliefs in Central Park before Bryant, Cooper and Irving.

Poe's works in prose and verse were collected after his death and published with a memoir by Dr. Griswold. Afterwards his life was written by Mrs. Whitman, to whom he is said to have been engaged, and by Richard Henry Stoddard, William F. Gill, John H. Ingram, and George E. Woodberry, all of whom viewed his character more favorably than did Griswold.

Figures of Our Augustan Literary Age.--These were some of the representative figures in a notable age of American literature. A high English authority mentions Bryant as one of the most eminent of English-speaking poets, who has written one of the noblest poems in the language. Dana, Halleck, and Longfellow looked up to Bryant as to a master. Whitman placed Bryant at the head of American poets. Dickens admired Halleck above all other American poets, with the exception of Irving. Samuel Rogers declared that two or three of Halleck's productions surpassed anything that the had seen from the New World, and Alfred B. Street asserted that he would rather have been the author of Halleck's six best poems than of any other half dozen written by an American. Poe, the next of the Knickerbocker trio of poets, is placed by competent authorities among the greatest. To quote one critic: "In the regions of the strangely terrible, remotely fantastic, and ghastly, Poe reigns supreme."

It might be doubted whether the prediction will be verified that few American writers of the first fifty years of the nineteenth century were destined to last another fifty years, wrote General James Grant Wilson, towards the close of the century. We do not believe that the productions of Bryant and Cooper, of Halleck and Irving, of Drake and Edgar A. Poe, and the other principal Knickerbockers, will be forgotten in the year 1943. On the contrary, we have the faith believe that at least a portion of their writings, together with those of Bancroft and Emerson, of Hawthorne and Holmes, of Longfellow and Lowell, of Prescott and Whittier, will successfully endure the test of a much longer period; that "upon the adamant of their fame, the stream of Time beats without injury."

A few of the many minor authors who, in prose and verse, contributed to the "Knickerbocker Literature," during the first half of the present century, are still among us wit their "locks of grey"; but the great majority, crowded with years and honors, have passed away to join the "dead but sceptered sovereigns who still rule over out spirits from their urns." These writers were the brilliant pioneers of American literature; for the only professional authors of the New World who preceded them were Joseph Dennis and Charles Brockden Brown. Many voices have followed Bryant and Cooper, Halleck and Irving, Paulding and Verplanck' but we shall not forget the forerunners who rose in advance of their welcome in what Bacon beautifully calls "the great ship of Time."

Notwithstanding the prevailing fashion among many recent writers to underrate and sneer at the "Knickerbocker Literature," it would seem, in the writer's judgment, that Irving, Bryant, Poe, Cooper, and their comrades certainly contributed at least no less to the literary glory of their native land than have Prescott, Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, and their New England contemporaries. When a very great man was asked by the author for his opinion on this point he answered" "They cannot be compared, any more than you would compare the commerce of the city of Boston tot hat of your great metropolis."

The Civil War, of course, involved a cessation of literary activity, but upon its close, there were many who dropped the sword to resume the pen, among the most useful of the New Yorkers being James Grant Wilson, from whose history an excerpt has just been quoted. It was not until 1865 that William Dean Howells returned from his consulate at Venice to join the staff of "The Nation,' where he remained until tempted to Boston by an offer from the "Atlantic Monthly" a year later. The Bohemianism o New York's literary set did not appeal to Mr. Howells, who none the less described it fairly, contrasting it with his associations in New England, where Longfellow was still in his prime, though Emerson had entered upon his twilight. The New Yorkers were, in fact, given too much beer and talk at places like Pfaff's, while the New Englanders gave tea parties, although there was always good wine at Mr. Longfellow's dinners. There was no acknowledged rivalry for literary supremacy between New York and Boston, rather a frank attitude on the part of the transcendentalists of superiority at which the New Yorkers professed amusement.

But Mr. Howells in shaking the dust of New York from off his feet did not burn his bridges. A decade later he was contributing to "Harper's Magazine," preparing the way for his brief editorship of the "Cosmopolitan," and his long occupancy of the "Editor's Easy Chair" in "Harper's." With his return to New York, New England's rivalry was at an end. The greater part of Mr. Howells vast array of books were written in New York, and before he had become known as "the Dean of American letters," he was the Nestor of New York's literati.

Brander Matthews, who had come from New Orleans, to Columbia and was admitted to the bar in 1873 in New York, turned to literature immediately thereafter. Alone comparable to Mr. Howells in the volume of his literary output, his association with Columbia as one of the professors of literature from 1892 gave him a formative influence as great as Mr. Howells exerted through his editorships. Although his original works might fall short of those of either Howells or Matthews, if measured on a five foot shelf, Rossiter Johnson, who had been associate editor of the Rochester "Democrat" before coming to New York was destined to become New York's foremost editor of books and encyclopedias. In 1869 he was made associate editor of the American Cyclopedia, and he has been responsible for more sets of books ranging up to forty volumes than nay other American.

But while the commanding position of New York as a publishing center eventually made it as attractive to authors as the candle to the moth, not all were content to look upon it as an abiding place. Bret Harte, greatest master of the short story after Poe, preferred to live in London. Mark Twain, although a resident of the city off and on for many years, liked Hartford, Connecticut, best of the many places in which he lived and worked. In spite of all temptations, James Branch Cabell remains a Virginian. On the other hand, Theodore Dreiser has lived in New York by choice for more than half his life, and could not be pried away.

It is not possible to list al the authors who have regarded New York as their home, or who have tried, with more or less success, to limn in words certain phases of its teeming life. Among the writers who made New York their home in the early eighties were Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen, George Cary Eggleston, Edwin Lawrence Godkin, Parke Goodwin, John R. G. Hassard, Charlton C. Lewis, Jonas M. Libbey, William S. Mayo, Richard Grant White, Edward L. Youmans, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Henry James, Henry A Beers, George H. Booker, Charles Dudley Warner, Frank R. Stockton, Irving Bacheller, Edmund Clarence Stedman, Laurence Hutton, Bronson Howard, Samuel S. Conant, Hamilton Wright Mabie, John Hay, General Horace Porter, Charles de Kay, Edward Eggleston.

Among the more recent authors who have sought to portray New York life are to be noted H. C. Bunner, long one of the editors of the now defunct "Puck"; Robert Chambers, Richard Harding Davis, David Graham Phillips, Ray Stannard Baker, Kathleen Norris, Burgess Johnson, Edith Wharton, Arthur Train, Ernest Poole, Abraham Cahan, O. Henry (Sidney Porter), Anne Nichols.

The two most important literary organizations ion New York in 1927 were the Authors' League of America, an offshoot of the Incorporated Society of Authors, Playwrights and Composers, founded in London by Sir Walter Besant; and the Authors' Club. The Authors' League, which has a membership of several thousand, devoted itself to the problems arising between author and publisher, ethical matters, and copyright. It has made continuous efforts for several years to force the enactment of a copyright law which would enable the Untied States to enter the Berne Convention, by extending to foreign authors the rights sought for American authors abroad, and to correct other defects in the faulty copyright law of 1909. The Authors' Club, founded in 1882, with a membership of nearly 300 in 1927 established itself in that year in its own home. It is custodian of an endowment of $250,000 created by Andrew Carnegie, the income of which is devoted to the relief of needy authors or their dependents. In 1927 the president was John Erskine, professor literature at Columbia, poet and author of "The Private Life of Helen of Troy," and "Sir Galahad."

It seems essential before closing this chapter on New York as a Literary center, to review in brief the periodical press, in which, and in daily and weekly newspapers, most of the best work of New York's authors appeared prior to book publication. It is also well to bear in mind that a majority of the editors named in connection with these magazines were also authors, and often journalists as well. The first attempt at periodical literature in New York was that of Charles Brockden Brown, in 1799, who then issued the "New York Monthly Magazine." Its life was brief, but in 1822 the "New York Monthly Review" made its appearance, under conditions more favorable to success. Its early issues were called the "Atlantic Magazine," a title which was to be made use of later in Boston. Both Robert C. Sands and William Cullen Bryant were contributors to the "New York Monthly Review," which soon found lively competition from "The New York Mirror," of which Nathaniel P. Willis was editor from 1823 to 1842. C. F., Hoffman founded the "Knickerbocker Magazine" in 1830, which continued until 1860.

The oldest New York magazine, which has survived is "Harper's Monthly," which began publication in 1850. From 1869 until his death in 1919, this magazine was dominated by Henry Mills Alden. Mr. Alden, who was a descendent of John Alden, had been managing editor of "Harper's Weekly" from 1863 until he accepted well earned promotion. Of the thousands of literary men and women with whom his life's work brought him into intimate contact, it is probably that his wisdom and his kindliness were never questioned save by one--Lafcadio Hearn.

"Scribner's Monthly" was first issued in 1870, but upon a disagreement between the editors and publishers, quickly became "the Century," and as such prospered under the joint editorship of Richard Watson Gilder and Robert Underwood Johnson for many years. In 1887 Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons revived the title of "Scribner's Magazine," and these three publications with the "Atlantic Monthly," edited by William Dean Howells, in Boston, known in the publishing trade as "the Big Four,' probably did more to encourage authorship and to inculcate a love for good reading in the American public than any of their epoch. All were profusely and expensively illustrated except the "Atlantic," giving rise to a school of engraving referred to in the chapter on Art and Architecture. Al in the New York group were, because of their liberality toward art, injured for a time by the invention of the photo-engraving process for reproducing illustrations.

This revolutionary process, by which it ultimately became possible to place before the public pictures of news events within an hour of their occurrence, was utilized fist by Frank A. Munsey in "Munsey's Magazine." A page illustration in a magazine by this process cost less then the composition of a page by type, and the public liked it. "Munsey's" reached a circulation in excess of 600,000, soon after its establishment in 1891, and "McClure's," which was to undertake "muckraking" on an elaborate scale, proved a close rival from 1893, and was illustrated in the same manner. Under the editorship of Robert Hobart Davis, from 1904, "Munsey's" became the patent of a group of fiction magazine devoted to the genre of the happy ending, which exerted such power that Rudyard Kipling was obliged to devise a sweetly pretty final chapter of the "Light That Failed."

"McClure's" not only published Ida M. Tarbell's "History of the Standard Oil Company," but by its success brought about the establishment in 1906 of the "American Magazine," of which she was associate editor, and to which most of the radical group of writers contributed; and "Ridgeway's," which ran up to a million circulation during the publication of Tom Lawson's "Frenzied Finance." The "American," which had hard sledding as an exponent of radical reform, prospered as the creator of the "success" type of biographical articles, to which Dr. Marden devoted his magazine called " Success"; but finance declined to carry "Ridgeway's" through the panic of 1907.

"The Bookman," a first a publisher's house organ, then a literary magazine, issued by George H. Doran & Co., started upon an independent career at the age of Thirty-two in 1927, under the editorship of Arthur Burton Rascoe. The "Review of Reviews,' founded by Albert Shaw as an American companion to William T. Stead's London publication of the same name, appeared in 1891. Stead and his magazine died, but New York's "Review of Reviews" and its editor were still flourishing in 1927.

"The Smart Set," founded by Colonel Williams d'Alton Mann, inventor of the Mann Boudoir Car, and publisher of "Town Topics," passed upon his death of Henry L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, who sold it to the Hearst interests in 1924, to become editors of the "American Mercury," published by Alfred a. Knopf. "Harper's Bazaar," first of the great American group of magazines devoted exclusively to women, although a brilliant success in earlier days, languished under the later Harper's management, but was purchased by Hearst and attained a greater circulation than ever. The "Cosmopolitan," founded by John Brisben Walker in 1889, also passed to Hearst control, and was merged with "Hearst's Magazine." "The Forum," founded by ex-governor Roswell P. Flowers, was edited in 1927 by Dr. Henry Goddard Leach. "the North American Review," founded by Allen Thorndike Rice, reached its zenith under the editorship of George B. Harvey. "The International Studio," founded by John Lane, the London publisher, passed to the ownership of Hearst. "Everybody's Magazine" continued to be published as part of the "Adventure," "Delineator," "Designer' group.

This chapter would be extended beyond all reasonable compass if it undertook to list the many mail order, class, professional and fiction magazines which have been or are now published in New York.

No attempt will be made to reproduce a list of the book publishing houses, even in New York City. The oldest, of course, is Messrs. Harper Brothers, who celebrated their centennial in 1917. James and John Harper, both practical printers, went into the publishing business in March, 1817, in a little room on Dover Street, and took in as compositors their two younger brothers, Joseph Wesley and Fletcher. All four worked on the composition of their first book, which was "Seneca's Morals," of which they printed for Evert Duyckinck, then a bookseller at 68 Water Street, 2,000 copies. Second in point of antiquity is G. H. Putnam's Sons, which was the first New York house to open a branch in London. In 1927 the largest house in New York, its output being considerably in excess of a book a day, was the MacMillan company, originally a branch of the MacMillans, Limited, of London.

The growth of the publishing industry is, however, as striking as that of the city itself. The combined population of the territories now embraced in the greater city as the borough of Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Richmond and Queens, in 1790, according to the United States census for that year, was 49,401, of whom 33,131 lived in Manhattan. Bradford brought his press to New York three years later. In 1927 the printing trades in New York City employed 32,00 men, exclusive of editors, authors, writers, artists, etc. The minimum wage of an ordinary compositor was then $55 for a forty-four-hour week, and this being fifty one per cent higher than in New Jersey, and 100 per cent higher than in some cities, a large part of the books for publishers, and the bulk of the periodicals were manufactured outside of the city. But to quote the United States census figures for 1925, the value of products of the printing and publishing manufactures in that year in the city alone was $600,096,484. This was about one-fourth of the total business in these lines for the whole of the United States and dependencies.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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