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Abbey, Henry (11 July 1842–07 June 1911), poet, was born in Rondout (now a part of Kingston), New York, the son of Stephen Abbey, a merchant of farm products, and Caroline Vail. His family was moderately successful and able to support his attendance at Kingston Academy, the Delaware Literary Institute in Delhi, New York, and the Hudson River Institute across the river in Columbia County, but the uncertain grain and feed business was insufficient to enable him to attend college....

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Adams, Charles Follen (21 April 1842–08 March 1918), dialect poet, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of Ira Adams, the warden of Boston Common, and Mary Elizabeth Senter. Adams was of New England stock, a descendant of the revolutionary patriot Samuel Adams...

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Adams, John (26 March 1705–23 January 1740), poet and minister, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Adams, a shopkeeper, and Hannah Checkley. His family relocated in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, several years before the young Adams matriculated at Harvard College. Adams graduated from Harvard in 1721. His connection to ...

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Aiken, Conrad (05 August 1889–17 August 1973), author and critic, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the first child of Dr. William Ford Aiken, an ophthalmological surgeon, and Anna Potter, transplanted New Englanders. Aiken’s father was brilliant but unstable, hectored increasingly by bouts of paranoia in the late 1890s. The main targets of his rage during these seizures were his wife, who strove vainly to convince relatives in the North of his worsening mental condition, and his oldest son, who was often beaten for slight or imaginary wrongs. Aiken later said of this period, “I hardly ever forgot what it was to be afraid.”...

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Ainslie, Hew (05 April 1792–11 March 1878), poet and construction consultant, was born at Bargeny Mains, Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of George Ainslie, an employee of some consequence on the estate of Sir Hew Dalrymple Hamilton. Ainslie paid warm homage to his mother, whose name is not known, in his writings. Originally educated by a hired “dominie” at home, wirehaired Ainslie eventually moved on to the Ballantrae parish school and finally to Ayr Academy, where he completed his formal schooling at the age of fourteen. Certainly as important as his organized education was his home background colored by his father’s pride in the family’s past (the model of Sir Walter Scott’s “Bride of Lammermoor” was one of several notable ancestors) and his mother’s “teeming repertory” of Scottish songs and lore. Another influence was his father’s small personal library containing the writings of Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, and other Scottish classics....

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Aldrich, Thomas Bailey (11 November 1836–19 March 1907), author and editor, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Elias Taft Aldrich, a businessman, and Sarah Abba Bailey. Aldrich was educated in Portsmouth under Samuel De Merritt, and the Portsmouth environs furnished the background for much of his work, as did the backdrops of New York City and Boston, where he spent his adult life. Aldrich moved to New York City at age sixteen to work in his uncle’s commission house. After reading ...

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Allen, Hervey (08 December 1889–28 December 1949), writer, was born William Hervey Allen, Jr., in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of William Hervey Allen, Sr., an inventor and speculator, and Helen Eby Myers. Allen was reared in a middle-class environment, about which he rarely wrote or spoke. He admired his paternal grandfather, an engineer and pioneer, but was deeply critical of his father’s impractical schemes, which brought the family to the brink of bankruptcy. He was also ambivalent toward industrial, urban Pittsburgh and, even as a young man, enjoyed family trips and individual excursions to the countryside....

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Allen, Paul (15 February 1775–18 August 1826), editor and poet, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Paul Allen, Sr., a Rhode Island state representative, and Polly Cooke, the daughter of a governor of that state. In 1793 he graduated from Brown University (then Rhode Island College), where he displayed talent as an orator. Several of his orations were published, the earliest being a eulogy on a classmate delivered on 22 November 1792. Allen studied law but never practiced; indeed, most sources follow ...

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Alsop, Richard (23 January 1761–20 August 1815), poet and businessman, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Richard Alsop, Sr., a merchant, and Mary Wright Alsop. When Alsop was fifteen, his father died, leaving his wife, Mary, a strict Episcopalian, in comfortable circumstances but with eight children. Alsop was a precocious reader and enjoyed impersonating heroes of Homer's ...

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Appleton, Thomas Gold (31 March 1812–17 April 1884), writer and artist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathan Appleton, a merchant, and Maria Theresa Gold. Nathan Appleton, whose family had settled in New England in 1635, helped develop Lowell, Massachusetts, into an industrial center and amassed a fortune that made it possible for Thomas to pursue his interests freely. After a year at the Boston Latin School and three at the Round Hill School conducted by Joseph Green Cogswell and ...

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Arensberg, Walter Conrad (04 April 1878–29 January 1954), art collector, poet, and writer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Conrad Christian Arensberg, an industrialist, and his second wife, Flora Belle Covert. Arensberg attended Harvard University, receiving his B.A. in 1900 with the accolade of class poet. While at Harvard he was an editor of the ...

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Arrington, Alfred W. (17 September 1810–31 December 1867), minister, author, and judge, was born in Iredell County, North Carolina, the son of H. Archibald Arrington, a Methodist minister. (His mother’s maiden name was Moore; her first name is not known.) Arrington passed his childhood amid the picturesque scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His early education consisted solely of reading from the Bible, until a family with a small library moved into the area and he was able to read more widely....

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W. H. Auden [left to right] Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden, 1939. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 559 P&P).

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Auden, W. H. (21 February 1907–29 September 1973), poet, was born Wystan Hugh Auden in York, England, the son of George Augustus Auden, a physician and public health officer, and Constance Rosalie Bicknell, a nurse. Both his grandfathers were Church of England clergymen. His father was originally in private medical practice; when Auden was eighteen months old, the senior Auden became school medical officer for the city of Birmingham. Thus Auden grew up in a large industrial town and in a family that was comfortably off, though no more than that. His father’s intellectual interests were broad and included history, archeology, and philosophy; his mother was devoutly religious and loved music. Both parents’ interests were reflected in Auden’s later life....

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Auslander, Joseph (11 October 1897–22 June 1965), poet, editor, and translator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Louis Auslander and Martha Asyueck. He attended Columbia University from 1914 to 1915, then transferred to Harvard, receiving his B.A. in 1917. In 1919 he became an instructor in English at Harvard. He pursued graduate studies there until 1924, with the interruption of one year (1921–1922) at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he went on a Parker Traveling Fellowship. His poetry began to appear in national magazines in 1919, and his first volume, ...

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Bacon, Leonard (26 May 1887–01 January 1954), poet, literary critic, and teacher, was born in Solvay, New York, the son of Nathaniel Terry Bacon, a chemical engineer, and Helen Hazard. Bacon led a sheltered life at his mother’s familial estate in Peace Dale, Rhode Island. His parents enrolled him in 1898 in St. George’s at Newport, where he spent seven years preparing to matriculate at Yale, following in the footsteps not only of his father but of some twenty other relatives. Bacon gives candid insight into his college years, remembering colleagues and professors in an amiable light though remarking that “with the exception of English and German, I think we were not particularly well taught, or rather that the conception of teaching was poor” ( ...

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Banvard, John (15 November 1815–16 May 1891), panoramist, scene painter, and poet, was born in New York City, the son of Daniel Banvard, a building contractor and amateur artist of French ancestry. His mother’s name is unrecorded. Banvard attended school until he was fifteen; an early talent for drawing was nurtured by his father. His youthful enthusiasm for poetry was encouraged by ...

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Joel Barlow. Watercolor on ivory, 1806, by William Dunlap. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Barlow.

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Barlow, Joel (24 March 1754–26 December 1812), businessman, diplomat, and poet, was born in Redding, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Barlow and Esther Hull, fairly well-to-do farmers. Barlow was born the second-to-last child in a large family. Given the size of the family and their farm, Barlow could receive formal education only from the local minister, an education probably interspersed with farm chores. When Barlow was eighteen, his father arranged for his schooling at Moor’s Indian School (now Dartmouth) in Hanover, New Hampshire. Barlow began his studies there in 1772, yet his father’s death shortly thereafter made it necessary for Barlow to return home. He entered Yale College with the class of 1778. At Yale Barlow began to give evidence of an interest in poetry, in moral and political philosophy, and in science as a key to the improvement of the human condition. His first published poem, a broadside publication, was a satire in pseudobiblical verse about the bad food served in Yale commons. Although he wrote poems throughout his college days, Barlow’s best-known college verses were verse orations delivered at two Yale commencements, ...

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Barnitz, Albert Trorillo Siders (10 March 1835–18 July 1912), poet and soldier, was born at Bloody Run, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. The names of his parents are not known. His father, a physician, died when Albert was thirteen, and the boy devoted himself to caring for his mother and siblings. Reading widely and deeply in literature, he became a self-taught poet of modest local reputation. His formal education consisted of a year at Kenyon College in 1851 and two years, 1858 to 1859, of intermittent study at the Cleveland Law College. His first marriage, to Eva Prouty in 1859, ended with her death in childbirth a year later....