Forum: Aug. 25: That’s William Cullen Bryant; Robin Williams, R.I.P.; West Hartford Village, R.I.P.
The Real William Cullen Bryant
To the Editor:
The Sunday Valley News’ feature on New York’s Central Park credited “William Bryant” with its conception (“Central Park: A Green Island in Manhattan,” Aug. 17). How fleeting, fame! Only his wife called him William; to all others, he was Cullen. Omission of the middle name reveals ignorance of Bryant’s extraordinary prominence in 19th century America.
In addition to editing the New York Evening Post, he owned the paper, a pillar of Jacksonian Democracy. Subsequently, opposition to slavery led to his helping found the Free Soil and Republican Parties. In 1860, he sponsored Abraham Lincoln’s address at Cooper Union, which paved the Westerner’s path toward the presidency. (Bryant himself had dismissed encouragement of his own candidacy as impractical because of his age.)
Primarily, however, Bryant’s vocation was literary. The Embargo, a satiric attack on President Jefferson he had written at 14 in the style of Pope, enjoyed phenomenal popularity in the Northeast, but a decade later his political and literary allegiances had shifted. With Poems (1821), he stepped toward the fore as an exponent of Wordsworthian Romanticism and advocate for a distinctively native American literature. But poetry could not feed and house a family, and in 1825 he abandoned the frustrations of a fledgling legal career in Great Barrington for New York City and editorship of the New York Review.
Because stories were in greater demand than American writers could supply, Bryant turned his pen to fiction until a second, much longer edition of his poems established his international reputation as America’s preeminent poet. Coupled with his work at the Post, that success eclipsed a dedication to fiction that, during the decade before Poe and Hawthorne, produced the most innovative offerings in a nascent American genre.
In conjunction with publication of my book, The Complete Stories of William Cullen Bryant, I will be speaking at the Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Mass., on Oct. 5 about Bryant’s role in the rise of our literary nationalism and his achievement in fiction. Two hours to the south, the Homestead occupies a beautiful spot in the Berkshires. It should be the ideal time to experience what inspired the love of nature that Bryant hoped a great park might foster in his adopted city, as well as to learn about the origins of our literature that our schools and colleges tend to ignore.
White River Junction
Remembering Robin Williams
To the Editor:
Robin Williams was one of the greatest actors in his lifetime.
Unfortunately, because of his various addictions, he became his own worst enemy.
West Hartford: Get Over It
To the Editor:
I was reading about the West Hartford Library and the process and the money that we as federal taxpayers have doled out on it (“Way Paved for West Hartford Library Lot,” Aug. 21).
The fact is that West Hartford is in reality no longer a true village; there is no post office, no church, no general store and now a lot less commercial property on the market.
Gone are the days when Clifford’s loam and gravel had 60-plus employees; Clifford’s garage had 20 employees and was the number one Dodge dealer in New England; Betty Carpenter ran the local store and had the best meats in the Upper Valley; Reeds what-not-shop next door; the post office across from the garage; Harry Clark selling cars just to the south; and the list goes on.
Those days are gone forever. So when they are looking for all the patrons at the library, well, good luck with that.
In my mind, the most ridiculous thing that we as citizens have allowed to happen is this purchase by government of all this property after the flood. This was the stupidest thing a regional planning commission could support and the ramifications are forever. Villages like West Hartford are also lost forever. Dream all you want — it is gone. I am proud to have lived here all my life, and enjoyed jumping off the old bridge, and knowing all the folks that made the local economy work. That was before we replaced the West Hartford bridge with a lower, narrower structure that made a good dam during the flood, and has railings that are a bigger safety hazard than the old rotten beams under the old bridge. Yes, life was better when we had folks with intelligence and true vision around, and really looked out for others instead of their own self interest. Those days are gone, forever.