the improvement for you.”
He accordingly wrote the concluding paragraph, and Dennie never saw it till it was in print.
No trace of the “nights of mirth and mind” that he shared with “Anacreon
, none of the ready puns that Irving
learned to dread, can be found in the pious columns of The lay Preacher
The wonder is, not that Dennie
should be forgotten, but that, writing so evidently against the grain, he should have achieved his extraordinary vogue.
Among many young lawyers who found time to use their pens while waiting for briefs, Dennie
is historically important as one of the first to adopt literature as a profession.
Others who continued to write as an avocation were easily allured into religious or political controversy, for the renown of the Federalist
papers was yet new. So Royall Tyler
, author of several plays1
and a series of periodical observations entitled Trash
, besides a waggish account of Dennie
's first appearance at the bar, became more a chief justice and less a man of letters after the publication of his novel, The Algerine Captive
, in 1797.2 David Everett
, now barely remembered as the author of
You'd scarce expect one of my age
To speak in public on the stage,
wrote essays called Common sense in Dishabille
for The Farmer's Museum
, but his inclination for belles lettres
soon yielded to a maturer passion for writing political leaders and commentaries on the Apocalypse.
Only the hardiest political writings could survive the frost of piety in New England
Literary essays in the South
were almost neglected in the general enthusiasm for forensic and pulpit oratory, or when written, reflected the formal style of public speeches.
The most persistent essayist was William Wirt
(1772-1834), who commenced lawyer with “a copy of Blackstone
, two volumes of Don Quixote
, and a volume of Tristram Shandy
,” gave sufficient attention to the first item of his library to become Attorney-General
of the United States
, and left as his chief literary monument a biography of Patrick Henry
The letters of a British spy
, first printed in the Richmond Argus