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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Henry Timrod (1828–1867)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
HENRY TIMROD was one of the pioneer American poets of the South. Singing in an untoward day, hounded by misfortune, dying young, he yet breathed into his song the fervid beauty of his land. His personal record makes a brief, pathetic story. He was the son of William Henry Timrod, who was of German extraction and a man of remarkable mental power, himself something of a poet. Henry was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on December 8th, 1829, and got his schooling in that city. He then entered the University of Georgia, but owing to his slender purse was unable to finish his course; however, he read avidly and grounded himself in good literature while in college. In those days he was always inditing love verses to pretty girls, real or imagined. Next, the dreamy, imaginative fellow tried to study law, only to find it uncongenial,—the common lot of those called to literature. So he supported himself until the war-time by private tutoring in the family of a Carolina planter. When the Rebellion broke out, he became war correspondent of the Charleston Mercury; but the horrors of war acting on his sensitive nature made the task distasteful. His appointment as assistant editor on the Columbia South-Carolinian in 1864 gave a promise of more congenial work and brighter fortune. He had married the woman of his choice, he was able to set up a modest home, and children were born to him. But the respite of home and happiness was all too short. He lost a darling child. Sherman’s March to the Sea, with its devastation of the city, ruined his business and left him a broken man. He lived thereafter from hand to mouth, often in literal want of bread, getting temporary government employment to tide over a crisis, and steadily lapsing into ill-health. Finally, after the forewarning of several severe hemorrhages, he died on the anniversary of the death of Poe, October 7th, 1867, under forty years of age,—a melancholy life-struggle and seeming life-failure. The biographies of Southern poets like Timrod and Lanier make grim reading.  1
  Timrod received so little encouragement in his literary work as to sadden and embitter him. A small volume of his verse was published in 1860, but with scanty recognition. Here and there a critic saw merit in it, but it never came into general popularity. The Northern magazines would not take his contributions; he was out of the current of literary activity. He was regarded with some local pride, and at one time a movement was set on foot to publish and present him with a handsome illustrated edition of his poems for circulation in England; but to his great disappointment the project fell through,—not unnaturally, since the national situation drew men’s minds from thoughts of literature. The definite edition of the poems is posthumous,—that issued in 1873, with a memoir by his dear friend and fellow-poet, Paul Hamilton Hayne. A perusal of this book reveals the fine quality of Timrod’s work. Done under every disadvantage, incomplete and inadequate as it seems in comparison with what, under favoring conditions, he might have achieved, it is nevertheless very true, sweet, and heartfelt singing. Timrod had a deep, reverent love of nature, and was a disciple of Wordsworth without imitating that high priest of nature-worship. ‘Spring,’ perhaps his finest short lyric, reflects this influence and predilection. He was also a broad-minded patriot, who, while in a chant like his ‘Carolina’ he could voice sectional feeling, could in that noble piece ‘The Cotton Boll,’ and in other lyrics, look prophetically into the future, and hail the dawn of a beneficent peace, a wonderful national prosperity. Timrod’s style has nothing of the erratic about it: his diction is simple, chaste, felicitous; his images and similes unforced and pleasing. If he is to be called a poet of promise rather than performance, it is only in view of the poor opportunity he had, and in the conviction that had fortune been more kindly, he would have richly repaid her in what he gave the world.  2
 
 
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