Search >> Halleck, Fitz-Greene (1790-1867)
Poet, Travel Writer.
At the age of twenty-one, Fitz-Greene Halleck arrived in New York City where he became the “leading figure in the Knickerbocker school . . . When he came up to the city . . . he fell in with the literary people of the town and shared their eager interest in the current English output” (Boynton 133). Halleck’s job as an accountant--first for a banker named Jacob Barker and later for John Jacob Astor--gave him copious amounts of free time to indulge his literary interests. His early work appeared in the Evening Post and, in 1819, his satirical poem Fanny was published. He wrote “Alnwick Castle” and “Burns” while traveling through Europe in 1822. His “Marco Bozzaris” was immensely popular after it was published in the June 1825 edition of the New York Review.
Halleck, described by John W. M. Hallock as “The American Byron,” influenced several of the Pfaffians, especially Thomas Bailey Aldrich and Bayard Taylor. He appears to have been a frequenter of Pfaff’s, but Eugene Lalor calls him “one of the less committed Bohemians” (135-36). In a letter to E. C. Stedman regarding his “Prelude,” Aldrich says, “To my thinking that right-hand lower corner of your frontispiece would have been more fitly occupied by Fitz-Greene Halleck, whose ‘Burns,’ ‘Marco Bozzaris,’ and ‘Red Jacket’ are poems which promise to live as long as any three pieces in the Anthology” (qtd. in Greenslet 215). William Winter also comments on the greatness of Halleck’s writing. He recollects that during his early days as a writer in Boston and Cambridge, Halleck was one of the writers with a “hallowed name” who was “never thought of without spontaneous admiration nor mentioned without profound respect” (Old Friends 107).
References & Biographical Resources
- Boynton, Percy Holmes. A History of American Literature. New York: Gin and Company, 1919. 513 p. [more about this work]
- "The leading figure in the Knickerbocker school was Fitz-Green Halleck, who was born in Connecticut in 1790 but spent his active life in New York. When he came up to the city, at the age of twenty-one, he fell in with the literary people of the town and shared their eager interest in the current English output" (133).
"Halleck [...] was uncomfortably conscious of the prosaic commercial drive of American life and disposed to lament the wane of romance" (134).
"He probably knew little of Emerson, and he certainly disapproved of Whitman" (137). [pages: 113, 133-137, 181, 324, 325, 328, 330, 334]
- Bronson, Walter Cochran. "Greene Halleck." Dictionary of American Biography. Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 2006. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC. [more about this work]
- Derby, J.C. Fifty Years among Authors, Books and Publishers. New York: G. W. Carleton and Co., 1884. [more about this work]
- Halleck was one of the writers gathered at the complimentary fruit and flower festival held for distinguished authors by New York publishers at the Crystal Palace in 1855 (35).
Aldrich's volume of poetry, the Ballad of Baby Bell, atrracted the attention of Frederick S. Cozzens, who arranged for a meeting between Aldrich and Halleck. Halleck had read the poem and written to Cozzens, telling him that he would like to meet the author. "Aldrich said that Halleck was most delightfully kind and complimentary" (299).
Halleck worked as a a clerk for John Jacob Astor and was also one of Mr. Astor's legatees after his death. Halleck was left "the munificent sum of two hundred dollars per year. It is said, however, that such a sum was left to Mr. Halleck in accordance with a remark once made by him in the presence of Mr. Astor that he coul dlive on two hundred dollars per anum" (294-295).
Halleck's biographer is General James Grant Wilson (542). Frederick Cozzens's "last literary effort was a memorial of Fitz Greene Halleck, which was delivered before and printed by the New York Historical Society a short time previous to his death" (543).
According to Derby, Halleck was one of the many "literary celebrities [that] would congregate to discuss the topics of the day" at Daniel Bixby's hotel at the corner of Broadway and Park Place during the 1850s (591). "Fitz Greene Halleck was a constant guest and was very fond of that part of the city. Every day after breakfast, and again after dinner at the hotel, he would go down to Bowling Green, there to meet his old acquaintances. At that time he was one of the trustees of the Astor Library, and always spoke very kindly of its founder, and of his son, William B. Astor, in the warmest terms of the pleasant relations they held towards each other" (592). At this time, Halleck's permanent address was in Guilford, Conn. [pages: 35,156,159,229,250,293-295,313,354,538,542,543,582,584,591-593,623,624,629]
- G. J. M. "Bohemianism: The American Authors Who Met in a Cellar." Brooklyn Eagle. 25 May 1884: 9. [more about this work]
- Halleck is mentioned as one of "the best know writers who frequented that cozy corner [Pfaff's]." [pages: 9]
- Greenslet, Ferris. The Life of Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1908. 303 p. [more about this work]
- Halleck is mentioned as one of the older men Aldrich knew in New York. Greenslet states that it seems Aldrich knew him well during his experiences with "Literary Bohemia" in New York (38). Aldrich later writes to Howells that he would like to write about the New York he knew when he was seventeen or eighteen and Hallack was "still prowling the streets, upon which still rested the shadow of Poe" (192).
In a letter Nov. 15,1900, letter from Mt. Vernon St. to Stedman that discusses Stedman's recent critical work about poetry called the "Prelude," Aldrich says: "To my thinking that right-hand lower corner of your frontispiece would have been more fitly occupied by Fitz-Green Hallack, whose 'Burns,' 'Marco Bozzaris,' and 'Red Jacket' are poems which promise to live as long as any three pieces in the Anthology" (215). [pages: 38,192,215]
- Hallock, John W. M. The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000. [more about this work]
- Haynes, John Edward. Pseudonyms of Authors: Including Anonyms and Initialisms. New York, 1882. [more about this work]
- This text identifies the following pseudonym: Croaker & Co. (26). [pages: 26]
- Hemstreet, Charles. Literary New York: Its Landmarks and Associations. New York: G.P. Putnam, 1903. [more about this work]
- In his early days in New York, Halleck was a book-keeper for Jacob Barker, whose warehouse still exists at the time of Hemstreet's writing. He was originally from Guilford, Conn. Hallack had already written poetry and some "stray verse" when he met Paulding and Drake. The men would meet at Halleck's rooms on Greenwich Street. Hemstreet discusses Halleck's friendship with these writers and the early contacts they made in New York (115-7).
As Drake was experiencing early success, Hemstreet states that "he and Halleck hit upon the idea of the 'Croaker Papers,' a series of satires in verse, printed in the Evening Post, in which the poets sailed into the public characters of the day" (119). Hemstreet mentions that Halleck read Fanny to Drake at his home in Park Row, and made some of Drake's editorial corrections before publishing the work (119-120). Hemstreet also discusses Drake's death in 1820 of consumption and it's impact upon Halleck; Hemstreet reprints the lines of verse Halleck wrote for his friend that were engraved on his tombstone (121-2).
Hemstreet mentions that Halleck outlived Drake by many years. He gave up book-keeping and worked as the confidential manager of the affairs of John Jacob Astor (122-123).
At Morris House, Halleck wrote Marco Bozzaris, according to Hemstreet, "his most widely known poem." Hemstreet also claims that one is able to discern sorry over Drake's loss in the poem. Hemstreet states, "During forty odd years from that time he continued the gently courteous, witty talker, the dignified life of each gathering he attended. But, as he knew so well, his Muse was sorely wounded when Drake died, and the fuller poetic life that might have been his was buried on the green slope of the Bronx with his friend (124).
Hemstreet mentions that he "gathered around" Cooper in the "Bread-and-Cheese Club" with Bryant, Percival, Professor Renwick, Dr. J.W. Francis, "and all the writers of the day" in Washington Hall (132). Halleck was also known to frequent Windust's with Edmund Kean, the Wallacks, Harry Placide, Cooper, Jack Scott, Mitchell, Brown, Junius Brutus Booth, Willis, and Morris (137-8).
Halleck is also mentioned as a mourner for the "Mad Poet" (142). [pages: 100-n/a(ill),103,115-117,119-120, 121-124,132, 137-138,142]
- Lalor, Eugene. "Whitman among the New York Literary Bohemians: 1859–1862." Walt Whitman Review. 25(1979): 131-145. [more about this work]
- Lalor calls him "one of the less committed Bohemians." Lalor quotes his "negative reaction" Whitman in his observation "that Walt Whitman ought to write his 'yawps' seated on an elephant in order to add to their strength and heaviness." Lalor also notes that Halleck did not consider Whitman's work to be poetry (135). [pages: 135,136]
- Lause, Mark A. The Antebellum Crisis and America's First Bohemians. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2009. [more about this work]
- The "respectable and conservative" Fitz-Greene Halleck would escape his rural Connecticut home as often as he could for a "'night with the bohemians at Pfaff's'" (79).
Halleck made his living as an accommodating clerk to John Jacob Astor (88). [pages: 79, 88]
- Levin, Joanna Dale. American Bohemias, 1858-1912: A Literary and Cultural Geography. Ph.D Dissertation; Stanford University, 2001. 394 p. [more about this work]
- Levin quotes Winter's remarks on the "day jobs" of several notable nineteenth century writers, including Halleck's work as an accountant (88). [pages: 88]
- "Literary Items." Saturday Press. 11 Dec. 1858: 2. [more about this work]
- A note reports that Halleck's "Marco Boggaris" has been translated into Greek by Mr. Canale (2). [pages: 2]
- "Literary Notes." New York Saturday Press. 14 Jan. 1860: 3. [more about this work]
- Lukens, Henry Clay. "American Literary Comedians." Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Apr. 1890: 783-797. [more about this work]
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- "Old 'Barry Gray' Dead." The New York World. 12 Jun. 1886: 5. [more about this work]
- Fitz-Greene Halleck is described as "cracking jokes" at the "dripping round-table" at Pfaff's. [pages: 5]
- Walsh, William Shepard. Pen Pictures of Modern Authors. Ill. Jay Charlton. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1882. 333 p. [more about this work]
- "When Fitz-Greene Halleck came up from the state of Connecticut once or twice in the year, it was his wont to call in and see the 'young fellows,' as he called us" (165).
"He said to us, 'When I die I shall have no literary reputation to leave behind me. What I have written has been for pastime, not for fame or money'" (165). [pages: 164-166]
- Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske, eds. Appletons' Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume III, Grinnwell-Lockwood. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1888. [more about this work]
- In 1849 John Jacob Astor gave Halleck an annuit of forty pounds a year, on which Halleck retired with his unmarried sister to his native town. During this period, Halleck composed many poems, including "Connecticut" and "Young America." [pages: 46-48, 46(ill.)]
- Winter, William. Old Friends; Being Literary Recollections of Other Days. New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1909. 407 p. [more about this work]
- Winter remarks that Halleck's "Marco Bozzaris" is a "type of ardent poetic emotion" (22).
In discussing how few writers can make a full-time career out of his literary pursuits, Winter mentions that Halleck was an accountant (80-81).
Winter recollects that during his early days as a writer in Boston and Cambridge, Halleck was one of the writers with a "hallowed name," "never thought of without spontaneous admiration nor mentioned without profound respect" (107).
Around 1846, Halleck was one of the "reigning poets" of the New England literary community (264). When discussing "The Literati" identified by Poe and the ties and animosties that existed among them, Winter recalls the days when Halleck was living and writing. Winter also remembers having seen him during those days (296). [pages: 22,80-81,107,264,296]