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where he ultimately founded that remarkably successful children's paper, - now circulating by hundreds of thousands, the “ Youth's Companion.” A more significant fact to his son was that the godly old gentleman became a deacon of the Park Street Church. As we shall see later, this office involved social isolation. In Boston, Unitarianism had swept away the pristine religious traditions. Among the older churches only the Old South had stuck by its original Calvinistic colours, and its members generally remained orthodox at the expense of their visiting lists. The Park Street Church, still so conspicuous from Boston Common, had been founded as a new citadel of Calvinism; and it had maintained its principles so bravely as to win for itself in local slang the hardly yet forgotten name of “Brimstone Corner.” In the Boston of Willis's youth, then, its members were socially in a position similar to that of contemporary English Dissenters. They are said to have consoled themselves, as indeed orthodox Yankees sometimes do still, by thoughts of what would happen beyond the grave to the triumphant religious liberals who on earth rarely invited them to dinner.

Born and bred amid such surroundings as this, Willis, whose temper was among the most frivolously adventurous of his time, began life in a state of edifying religious conviction. He was sent to school at that stronghold of orthodoxy, Andover, which was still trying to defend the old faith so completely routed by Unitarianism at Harvard College. From Andover, instead of going to Harvard — in orthodox opinion the gate of the broad road to perdition - he was sent to complete the salvation of his soul at Yale. At the prayer meetings which refreshed school-boy life at Andover, he had displayed unusual gifts of exhortation. The creative powers thus evinced found later expression in diluted narrative poetry which dealt with Old Testament stories in a temper somewhat like that of Leigh Hunt, and which is said long to have remained among the favourite edifications of devout old persons in New England. But even Yale orthodoxy failed to keep Willis within the fold. He was handsome; women, particularly older than he, were apt to fall in love with him. He had an instinctive aptitude for gaiety, and when he came back to Boston from college, this son of a Park Street deacon was the most elaborate fop who had ever been seen on the shores of Massachusetts Bay. In spite of considerable religious backsliding, however, he was unable in Boston to overcome the social traditions which kept his family apart from fashion. He tried a little editorial work there, with small success; and he ended by quitting the town in disgust, hating it for life, and returning only for burial nearly forty years later.

In New York he found things more to his taste. Before 1831 he had become associated with one George P. Morris,

now remembered only as the author of a once popular sentimental poem beginning “ Woodman, spare that tree,” – in the conduct of a periodical called the New York “ Mirror.” Between them they hit upon a plan of sending Willis abroad, from whence he should write regular European letters; so to Europe he went at the age of twenty-five. His career there for the next five years seems incredible. His pecuniary resources are said to have been limited to ten dollars a week, which Morris agreed to send him; so, of course, he never really knew how his bills were to be paid. But he somehow got letters of introduction; he managed nominally to attach himself to an American legation ; and, before long, there was little fashionable society in Europe where he was not cordially and even intimately received. When toward the end of his stay abroad he went to Dublin, it is recorded that he took to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland a letter of introduction from a near relative of that functionary, who described him as an eminent young American likely to attain the Presidency. Soon afterward he married an English heiress, daughter of a general in the army, to whom his financial condition was per


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fectly well known. Meanwhile he supported himself by regular correspondence with the New York “Mirror.” His letters are better than tradition has represented them. At least in New England, people have been apt to fancy that Willis forced his way on false pretences into European society, and then wrote home for publication no end of things which came to his knowledge in private, and which ought to have been recorded, if at all, only in posthumously printed diaries. In this charge there is a grain of truth ; but whoever will read Willis's letters must feel that although in his day there may have been a certain impropriety in publishing any record of private life, he wrote not only pleasantly, but with tactful good-humour. Superficial as you like, his letters are vivid, animated, and carefully reticent of anything which might justly have displeased the persons concerned. If personal journalism is ever to be tolerated, Willis's may be taken as a model of it.

The circumstances of his later career need not be detailed. In brief as set forth in Professor Beers's biography of him, they were constantly more to his credit. His first wife died, and he married again. He got into various money troubles, and he worked unremittingly to support himself and his family honourably, until the disease came upon him which ended his life at the age of sixty-one. By that time the literary fashion which he exemplified was generally outworn; but the “ Home Journal,” which he founded, continues to this day its weekly career of chatty personal journalism.

In Willis's palmy days, he was the most popular American writer out of New England. He dashed off all sorts of things with great ease, - not only such descriptions of life and people as formed the staple of his contributions to the “ Mirror," but poems and stories, and whatever else belongs to occasional periodical writing. Throughout, his prose style had the provoking kind of jaunty triviality evident in the little sentence which closed his letter to Clark for the « Knickerbocker Gallery.” The following poem is perhaps his highest achievement in serious verse :


“ The shadows lay along Broadway,

T was near the twilight-tide -
And slowly there a lady fair

Was walking in her pride.
Alone walked she; but, viewlessly,

Walked spirits at her side.
“ Peace charmed the street beneath her feet,

And Honour charmed the air;
And all astir looked kind on her,

And called her good as fair —
For all God ever gave to her,

She kept with chary care.
“ She kept with care her beauties rare,

From lovers warm and true,
For her heart was cold to all but gold,

And the rich came not to woo
But honoured well are charms to sell

If priests the selling do.
“Now walking there was one more fair —

A slight girl, lily-pale;
And she had unseen company

To make the spirit quail;
'Twixt Want and Scorn she walked forlorn,

And nothing could avail.
“No mercy now can clear her brow

For this world's peace to pray;
For, as love's wild prayer dissolved in air,

Her woman's heart gave way!
But the sin forgiven by Christ in heaven

By man is cursed alway!”

Work so slight may seem hardly worth emphasis. As time passes, however, Willis appears more and more the most characteristic New York man of letters after the year 1832, the most typical of the school which flourished throughout the career of the “Knickerbocker Magazine.” The earlier

writers whom we have considered were all imitative, or at least their work seems reminiscent. Brockden Brown is reminiscent of Godwin, Irving of Goldsmith, Cooper of Scott, Bryant of Cowper and Wordsworth, and so on. In a similar way Willis may be said to remind one of Leigh Hunt, and perhaps here and there of Benjamin Disraeli, and Bulwer. The contrast of these last names with those of the earlier models tells the story. As men of letters, Godwin and Goldsmith and Scott and Cowper and Wordsworth are distinctly more important than Bulwer and Disraeli and Leigh Hunt. The merits of the former group are solid ; those of the latter are meretricious; and when you undertake to dilute Leigh Hunt and Disraeli and Bulwer with Croton water, you get a stimulant hardly strong enough sensibly to affect heads seasoned to draughts of sound old literature. As a descriptive journalist, Willis did work which is still worth reading. His letters from abroad give pleasant and vivid pictures of European life in the 30's; his letters " from Under a Bridge "give pleasant pictures of country life in our Middle States a little later ; but when it comes to anything like literature, one can hardly avoid the conviction that he had nothing to say.

In the work of the earlier New York school, and even in the work of Poe, we have already remarked, nothing was produced which touched seriously on either God's eternities or the practical conduct of life in the United States. The literature of Brockden Brown, of Irving, of Cooper, and of Poe is only a literature of pleasure, possessing, so far as it has excellence at all, only the excellence of conscientious refinement. Willis, too, so far as his work may be called literature, made nothing higher than literature of pleasure ; and for all the bravery with which he worked throughout his later life, one cannot help feeling in his writings, as well as in some of the social records of his earlier years, a palpable falsity of taste. He was a man of far wider social experience than Bryant or Cooper, probably indeed than Irving him

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