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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 Howard Brownell (1820–1872)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THIS poet, prominent among those who gained their chief inspiration from the stirring events of the Civil War, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, February 6th, 1820, and died in East Hartford, Connecticut, October 31st, 1872. He was graduated at Trinity College, Hartford, studied law, and was admitted to the bar; but instead of the legal profession adopted that of a teacher, and made his home in Hartford, which was the residence of his uncle, the Bishop of Connecticut. Although Mr. Brownell soon became known as a writer of verse, both grave and humorous, it was not till the coming on of the Civil War that his muse found truest and noblest expression. With a poet’s sensitiveness he foresaw the coming storm, and predicted it in verse that has the ring of an ancient prophet; and when the crash came he sang of the great deeds of warriors in the old heroic strain. Many of these poems, like ‘Annus Memorabilis’ and ‘Coming,’ were born of the great passion of patriotism which took possession of him, and were regarded only as the visions of a heated imagination. But when the storm burst it was seen that he had the true vision. As the dreadful drama unrolled, Brownell rose to greater issues, and became the war-poet par excellence, the vigorous chronicler of great actions.  1
  He was fond of the sea, and ardently longed for the opportunity to witness, if not to participate in, a sea-fight. His desire was gratified in a singular way. He had printed in a Hartford paper a very felicitous versification of Farragut’s ‘General Orders’ in the fight at the mouth of the Mississippi. This attracted Farragut’s attention, and he took steps to learn the name of the author. When it was given, Commodore Farragut (he was not then Admiral) offered Mr. Brownell the position of master’s-mate on board the Hartford, and attached the poet to him in the character of a private secretary. Thus he was present at the fight of Mobile Bay. After the war he accompanied the Admiral in his cruise in European waters.  2
  Although Brownell was best known to the country by his descriptive poems, ‘The River Fight’ and ‘The Bay Fight,’ which appear in his volume of collected works, ‘War Lyrics,’ his title to be considered a true poet does not rest upon these only. He was unequal in his performance and occasionally was betrayed by a grotesque humor into disregard of dignity and finish; but he had both the vision and the lyric grace of the builder of lasting verse.  3
 
 
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