William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)

A member of the Class of 1813 at Williams, which he entered from preparatory school as a sophomore in 1810, at the age of sixteen. His one year at Williams, his only year of college, reinforced his love of unspoiled nature. The publication by the North American Review of his poem, "Thanatopsis," in 1817 launched him on a literary career that would make him by 1825 the country's one great poet, sometimes referred to as "the American Wordsworth" because so much of his verse was inspired by nature. In 1826 he joined the New York Evening Post as assistant editor, assuming the editorship in 1829, a post he held at the time of his death in 1878. In that long tenure he identified the Post with Jacksonian Democracy, free trade, the anti-slavery movement, Abraham Lincoln, moderate reconstruction, and reform Republicanism. Toward the end of his life he was everywhere regarded as the first citizen of New York, the friend of all good causes, who was both poet of nature and guide to the best in American journalism. His career on the Evening Post lifted journalism in the United States "from a vulgar calling to a place of high honor and national influence."

By Prof. Fred Rudolph (Williams Class of 1942)

SOURCES:
Williams College Alumni Review . May 1965.