Civil war slavery abolitionist quaker poet social reformer autograph note signed
JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER (1807 - 1892) CIVIL WAR ANTI-SLAVERY ABOLITIONIST FROM MASSACHUSETTS, AMERICAN AUTHOR, EDITOR and QUAKER POET OF FREEDOM & SOCIAL REFORMER, ORATOR, and REPUBLICAN POLITICAL ADVISOR! During the Civil War, Whittier gave us one of the great myths of folklore during the Civil War – A poem titled “Barbara Fritchie” who supposedly waved an American flag in the face of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and cried, “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag!” There is now plenty of firsthand information that Whittier’s incident never occurred, though as late as 1888, he was defending his poem! HERE’S AN AUTOGRAPH NOTE SIGNED BY WHITTIER: “Thy friend John G. Whittier” NOTE: THE AUTOGRAPH COMES WITH A 19th CENTURY D. APPLETON & Co. ENGRAVING OF WHITTIER - PERFECT TO FRAME TOGETHER! The document measures 5” x 2¾” and is in very fine condition! BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN G. WHITTIER Whittier, John Greenleaf (17 December 1807–07 September 1892), poet, abolitionist, and journalist, was born on his family’s homestead near Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of devout Quakers John Whittier and Abigail Hussey, farmers. Of slender build, Whittier was unsuited to heavy farm work, but the family’s impoverished circumstances required it. Over the years the hard work permanently impaired his health, and he was prone to chronic severe headaches and other ailments throughout his life. Although he received only a limited formal education, from stories told by members of his household he absorbed the local folklore and history of the Essex County region that would later inform his poetry. A zealous reader, he perused the limited family library, studying the Bible, various biographies, Pilgrim’s Progress, and John Woolman’s Journal and other Quaker writings, and became a Quaker of profound conviction and acute social consciousness. When Whittier was fourteen, his teacher, Joshua Coffin, introduced him to the poetry of Robert Burns. He responded to Burns’s poetic treatment of rural life and was inspired to begin composing his own verses. Milton was also an important early influence whom Whittier would later emulate as a poet of social conscience in his antislavery writings. Although his father discouraged poetry as a vocation, Whittier continued writing covertly, encouraged by his mother and sister. In 1826, without his knowledge, his sister sent one of his poems, “The Exile’s Departure,” to the Newburyport Free Press, a paper edited by William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison published the poem and visited the Whittier farm to meet the nineteen-year-old lad, but he could not persuade Whittier’s father to allow John to go to school to develop his genius. Garrison published several more of his poems that summer before going to Boston. The next year, 1827, the Haverhill Academy opened, and Whittier’s local reputation earned him the invitation to compose an ode to mark the inauguration. He enrolled, and to pay his fees he made shoes and taught school in the off terms. In the two terms Whittier attended the academy (1827–1828), he published nearly 150 poems, mostly in newspapers and chiefly in the Haverhill Gazette, where the editor, Abijah Thayer, printed one of his poems weekly. In 1829 Garrison secured for young Whittier the editorship of the political weekly American Manufacturer in Boston, where he quickly became an earnest and outspoken critic of Democrat Andrew Jackson and a supporter of Whig leader Henry Clay. This position introduced him to the realities of politics and political discourse, where he acquitted himself credibly enough to attract the notice of George D. Prentice, editor of the New England Weekly Review, and Nathaniel Parker Willis. Manifesting early the character of the ardent reformer he would later become, Whittier voiced his approval of the temperance movement, condemned slavery, opposed prison sentences for debt, denounced the excesses of Puritan Calvinism, and expressed support for the Unitarian movement, which shared with Quakerism the tenets of a benevolent God and the intrinsic merit of humankind. His father’s illness required his return to Haverhill in the summer of 1829. While Whittier was there, Thayer gave him the editorship of the Gazette. After his father’s death the next year, and on Prentice’s recommendation, he was made editor of the eminent New England Weekly Review and moved to Hartford, Connecticut; he was just twenty-three. In 1831 he published his first book of prose and verse, Legends of New England, which he soon realized was common; he tried to suppress it, offering five dollars a copy so he could burn it. His output of verse and prose for the paper in the form of editorials, book reviews, and sketches would have filled a large volume. Working too hard, he had a nervous breakdown in the fall of 1831. Taking a leave of absence, he returned home to Haverhill, where he wrote the long narrative poem Moll Pitcher. Reluctantly he resigned from the Review in 1832 when convalescence failed to restore his former vigor. Yet his public voice in political matters and support of Clay had earned him repute throughout New England, and it is likely he would have been successful in a bid for Congress in 1832 if he had met the minimum legal age of twenty-five. Despondent over the headaches that interrupted his work and his lack of direction in life, Whittier reached a turning point in 1833. Garrison wrote asking him to join the fledgling abolitionist movement. Recognizing the risks—both northern and southern interests opposed abolitionism—he joined, believing such a course to be morally correct and socially necessary. In June 1833 he published the antislavery pamphlet Justice and Expediency and in December was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He would later regard his signing of the Anti-Slavery Declaration of 1833 the most important thing he had done. For Whittier, there was a willful consecration of his art to the cause of abolition, as reflected in lines he later wrote about this decision, saying he Had left the Muses’ haunts to turnThe crank of an opinion-mill,Making his rustic reed of songA Weapon in the war with wrong. In 1835 Whittier was elected to a term in the Massachusetts state legislature and continued his work against slavery. While lecturing in Concord, New Hampshire, he and British abolitionist George Thompson were attacked by a mob and narrowly escaped serious injury. In 1836 Whittier sold the farm and moved with his mother and sister Elizabeth to Amesbury and published the narrative poem Mogg Megone, a treatment of colonial Indian life. In 1837 the first collection of Whittier’s poetry, Poems Written during the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States, between 1830 and 1838, appeared in an unauthorized edition published by antislavery associates in Boston. Whittier corrected and expanded the collection, retitled it Poems, and published it the next year in Philadelphia. He had gone to Philadelphia to succeed Benjamin Lundy as editor of the Pennsylvania Freeman, and before the year was out he saw the newly erected Pennsylvania Hall, which housed the office of the paper, burned by an antiabolitionist mob. Whittier risked his life masquerading as one of the mob to save some of his papers from the flames. He returned to Amesbury to permanently settle there in 1840. In the late 1830s the abolitionist movement, encountering intense opposition, became divided over tactics, and Whittier’s strong belief in legislative procedures made him a founding proponent in 1840 of the Liberty party, affirming an ideological split with Garrison. Whittier published Lays of My Home in 1843, turning again to a regional emphasis in his poetry, but significant themes such as tolerance and brotherhood linked his homespun and antislavery writings. Ballads and Other Poems followed in 1844, and Voices of Freedom, his last collection of antislavery poems, appeared in 1846. In 1847 The Supernaturalism of New England was published, but harsh critical reception caused Whittier to suppress it. The same year he began his affiliation with the antislavery journal the National Era, where the majority of his material was published until 1857. His only novel, Leaves from Margaret Smith’s Journal, was serialized in the Era in 1848–1849. Two collections of prose works from the Era were published in 1850 as Old Portraits and Modern Sketches and in 1854 as Literary Recreations and Miscellanies. Songs of Labor was also published in 1850; it contained “Ichabod,” Whittier’s protest of Daniel Webster’s support of the Compromise of 1850, and one of his best poems. The Chapel of the Hermits appeared in 1853, followed by The Panorama in 1856, which included “The Barefoot Boy.” With abolitionism gaining popular support in the 1850s, Whittier’s reputation improved. He joined other prominent New England writers such as James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes in founding the Atlantic Monthly in 1857. Writing for the new magazine brought the New England materials again to the fore and resulted in the collection Home Ballads and Other Poems (1860). “Barbara Frietchie,” the best of Whittier’s patriotic poems, appeared in In War Time and Other Poems (1863). The death of his beloved sister Elizabeth in 1864, the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 ending slavery and his public cause, and the fact that he never married combined to direct Whittier’s energies to reminiscent musings. The poem that resulted made him famous. Snow-Bound (1866), regarded as his masterpiece, is a subjective treatment of rural New England’s early nineteenth-century domestic life. It portrays the members of Whittier’s childhood household gathered at the hearth to wait out a large snowstorm. The poem was celebrated for its portraitlike quality of a vanished way of life, went through a number of printings, and secured Whittier financially. The Tent on the Beach (1867) was also a financial success. These works were followed by Among the Hills (1869), Miriam and Other Poems (1871), an edition of John Woolman’s Journal (1871), The Pennsylvania Pilgrim (1872), Hazel-Blossoms (1875), The Vision of Echard (1878), St. Gregory’s Guest (1886), and At Sundown (1890). After Snow-Bound Whittier enjoyed increasing popularity until his death. His birthday had become the occasion of a number of public observances, and his eightieth birthday was celebrated nationally. He died quietly in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. Of his literary generation, only Holmes survived him. In 1888, as Whittier reviewed the proofs of the seven-volume edition of his collected works, he regretted the lack of polish displayed by many of his poems: “I am old enough to be done with work, only that I feel my best words have not been said after all.” However, for Whittier and many of his generation, besides art, poetry served a significant social function. Thinking of future opinion, Whittier underscored what was primary: “What we are will then be more important than what we have done or said in prose or rhyme.” He did not live to see the eclipse of his popularity. Modern readers largely reject the sentimentality that informs so much of his work. But Whittier was aware of both his limitations and his purpose, and if his poetry is read today more for its moral tone than its sentimental themes, Whittier himself would have believed that the better part. Bibliography The largest collections of Whittier’s manuscripts, papers, and letters are in the Essex Institute, Salem, Mass.; Harvard’s Houghton Library; and the Haverford College Library. His collected works are in the Riverside Edition of The Writings of John Greenleaf Whittier (7 vols., 1888–1889) and in The Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier, ed. John B. Pickard (3 vols., 1975). Biographies include Samuel T. Pickard, Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier (2 vols., 1894); Thomas Wentworth Higginson, John Greenleaf Whittier (1902); Albert Mordell, Quaker Militant: John Greenleaf Whittier (1933); John A. Pollard, John Greenleaf Whittier: Friend of Man (1949); Lewis Leary, John Greenleaf Whittier (1961); and Edward Wagenknecht, John Greenleaf Whittier: A Portrait in Paradox (1967). Other important sources are John B. Pickard, John Greenleaf Whittier: An Introduction and Interpretation (1961); Robert Penn Warren, John Greenleaf Whittier’s Poetry: An Appraisal and a Selection (1971); Albert J. von Frank, Whittier: A Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography (1976); Jayne K. Kribbs, ed., Critical Essays on John Greenleaf Whittier (1980); and Earl A. Harbert and Robert A. Rees, eds., Fifteen American Authors before 1900 (1984). [Source: American National Biography] I am a proud member of the Universal Autograph Collectors Club (UACC), The Ephemera Society of America, the Manuscript Society and the American Political Items Collectors (APIC) (member name: John Lissandrello). 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