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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Thomas Buchanan Read (1822–1872)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THOMAS BUCHANAN READ gained some distinction both as poet and painter, and the picturesqueness of his verse suggests one who saw things with the artist’s eye. This is perhaps the most marked characteristic of his poetry, which also possesses an easy flow and a felicity of diction which make it pleasing,—though it is rather the product of taste and culture than the independent inspiration of one compelled to song.  1
  Read was born on March 12th, 1822, in Chester, Pennsylvania; and spent his youth there. When he was fourteen the family went to Cincinnati; Thomas entered the studio of the sculptor Clevenger, and after a course of study turned his attention to painting. From 1840 to 1845 he lived in Boston, busy with pen and brush, winning recognition as an artist, and contributing poems to Graham’s Magazine and to the Boston newspapers. In 1846 he went to Philadelphia, spent the year of 1850–1 in Florence, and made several subsequent Italian journeys; residing mostly abroad, and only returning for brief visits in Philadelphia and Cincinnati. He came back from Europe in 1872, to die in New York May 11th of that year.  2
  When Read began to publish his verse in Boston its merit was pointed out by Longfellow; and the young poet gathered his fugitive pieces together and brought out his first volume of ‘Poems’ in 1847. The contemporary criticism was kindly; in some cases what now seems extravagant in laudation. Poe called Read “one of our truest poets.” Other volumes of verse followed: ‘Lays and Ballads’ (1848); ‘Poems’ (1852); ‘Poems’ (1853); ‘The New Pastoral’ (1855),—sketches of country life, the result of observation in Italy; ‘The House by the Sea’ (1856); ‘Sylvia’ (1857); ‘Rural Poems’ (1857); ‘The Wagoner of the Alleghanies,’ a poem of the American Revolution (1862); ‘A Summer Story, Sheridan’s Ride, and Other Poems’ (1865); and ‘Good Samaritans’ (1867). A general edition of his poetical works appeared in 1860, and an enlarged edition in 1867. His prose writings include a romance, ‘The Pilgrims of the Great St. Bernard,’ published serially in a magazine; and a critical work on ‘The Female Poets of America’ (1848).  3
  From the various books of verse published by Read during his literary career, two or three poems have become popular favorites; a slender legacy, but one sufficient to perpetuate his name. This is true pre-eminently of the graceful and familiar ‘Drifting,’ which with its happy form and expression is imbued with the very spirit of dreamy revery, of sweet do-nothingness. It is the verse of the genial traveler who muses over rich foreign impressions. ‘Sheridan’s Ride’ is another poem found in the anthologies. It is a ballad that uses to good purpose a stirring national theme. It bears the mark of being an improvisation, not a finished piece of ballad-writing, and hardly belongs in the class of ballad masterpieces. But it is decidedly effective. ‘The Closing Scene’ is an example of the blending of human interest with descriptions of nature. It is on a few of these lyrics that Read’s reputation rests; and he has had the good fortune to strike an occasional note to which there was and is a response from many readers.  4
 
 
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