Samuel Kettell, ed. Specimens of American Poetry. 1829.
Critical and Biographical Notice
Philip Freneau (17521832)
MR FRENEAU is, we believe, a descendant of the French protestants who came to this country upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Of the precise period and place of his birth we are ignorant. He received his education at Princeton College, in New Jersey, where he was graduated in 1771, and was associated with Hopkinson in certain political writings published in Philadelphia during the revolution. After the federal government was established, he occupied a station in the Secretary of States office, and also conducted a newspaper in Philadelphia for several years. These employments he finally relinquished for commercial pursuits, in the course of which, he made voyages to several parts of the world.
We had always been accustomed to hear this gentleman spoken of as deceased, and a late writer in one of our most distinguished literary journals has classed him among the departed poets. But on making inquiries respecting him a few months since, we learned that he was still living near Middletown Point in New Jersey. We hope he regrets the very splenetic tone of the letter which he took the trouble to write about us on the occasion.
The principal part of Mr Freneaus poetical effusions were published in a large volume in 1795. This book contains a greater variety than any volume of poetry by a single hand which we have ever seen. Many of the pieces have uncommon merit, and exhibit a degree of talent which would have enabled the author to take a high rank among our native bards. Mr Freneaus poetry however, has been neglected. Had he published less, he would have found more readers. His volume presented a miscellany of about three hundred different pieces, and a miscellany of such a size is apt to discourage a common reader. He has not managed all the subjects he has undertaken with an equal degree of success, but he writes in general with an unaffected ease and sprightliness, and displays a truly poetical warmth and exuberance of fancy.