Samuel Kettell, ed. Specimens of American Poetry. 1829.
Critical and Biographical Notice
Paul Allen (17751826)
PAUL ALLEN was born at Providence, Rhode Island, February 15th, 1775. His father, Paul Allen, was a representative from that town in the General Assembly, toward the close of the Revolutionary war. Mr Allen was educated at Rhode Island College, and received his degree in 1793. He was educated for the bar, but never practised. After residing some time in Providence, he went to Philadelphia, and was engaged as a writer in the Port Folio and the United States Gazette in that place. About the same time, he was employed to prepare the travels of Lewis and Clark for the press, a piece of work which gave him credit and notoriety as a writer, although the performance was certainly not calculated to call any high degree of talent into exercise. He was directly after this, engaged as one of the editors of the Federal Republican, and assisted in conducting that paper for some time, but not being able to obtain a support from the business, and disagreeing with his partner in the editorship, he abandoned it, and fell into a nervous affection, under which he was impressed with a fixed belief that he was to be waylaid and murdered. In addition to this mental disorder, he was in a condition of extreme indigence, with a widowed mother to support, who had left her home in her old age, and journeyed to Baltimore to reside with her favorite son.
Some years before this, he had proposed to write a History of the American Revolution, and for a long time it was announced every few months as nearly ready for publication. Meantime he had not written a line of the work, nor as it appears from the relation of those who were intimate with him at that period, so much as made the preparation of reading a single book upon the subject. His poverty was such at this time, that he was thrown into jail for a debt of thirty dollars, and the bad state of his health so increased his nervous malady, that he would leave his bed at midnight, under the impression that there were persons in his room or under his window, conspiring to take his life. In the midst of his troubles, however, he had friends, and an undertaking was set on foot in his behalf, by the establishment of the Journal of the Times, the direction of which was entrusted to him. The paper went on for a short time, but was discontinued for want of capital. He was about this period a writer in the Portico, a magazine published at Baltimore, in which enterprise he was associated with Pierpont and Neal, names since highly distinguished in American literature.
At last, his friends succeeded in establishing the Baltimore Morning Chronicle, a paper which under his care, soon obtained a wide, and apparently a profitable circulation. While Allens reputation was at the height, it was determined to bring out the History of the Revolution, which the public had been so long expecting, and for which a subscription unequalled it is believed, in this country, had been obtained. Allen had done nothing, and could do nothing toward the work, and after a deal of negotiation, the whole work was actually written by Neal and Watkins,1 although it appeared, in order to correspond with the proposals, under the name of Allen, who wrote only a page or two of the preface. His poem of Noah was also submitted to Neal, and by him cut down to about one fifth of its original size, and revised and altered throughout before publication. It made its appearance in 1821.
Allen was a member of the Delphian Club of Baltimore, and by an incident occasioned by his connexion with that body, got considerable reputation as a humorist, nevertheless, we are assured by one who knew him well, that he had little humor of any sort in him. As a man, the same authority proceeds, he was one of the best I ever knew; as child-like and credulous with most, and as full of suspicion towards others, as anybody that ever breathed.
Besides his Noah, he published a volume of miscellaneous poems in 1801. Allens poetry is not characterized by those qualities, which distinguish his prose,brilliancy and show. His muse does not attempt any lofty flights. His earlier verses have the common marks of juvenility, but Noah has feeling end simplicity, and is, we think, deserving of more attention than it has yet received.