Paul Hamilton Hayne Essay - Critical Essays

Hayne, Paul Hamilton


Paul Hamilton Hayne 1830‐-1886

American poet, journalist, critic, and editor.

Often compared to such authors as Edgar Allan Poe and William Gilmore Simms because of his involvement with serial publication, Paul Hamilton Hayne spent the majority of his professional career writing and editing for various literary magazines and journals. His contributions included numerous poems, essays, critical treatises, and stories, and were the main source of his livelihood. Widely regarded as an influential and representative critic and poet of his era by his contemporaries, Hayne's work was included in notable Northern and Southern journals, such as the Southern Literary Gazette, Scribner's Monthly, Harper's, and the Atlantic. For students of Southern Literature, Hayne remains an important link between the literary traditions of the Old South and the New South.

Biographical Information

Hayne was born in Charleston, South Carolina to Paul Hamilton Hayne, a naval officer, and Emily McElhenny Hayne. His father died when Hayne was only a year old, leaving Emily and an uncle, Robert Y. Hayne, to bring up the young author. After graduating from the College of Charleston in 1850, Hayne studied law and was admitted to the bar. However, he was more interested in pursuing a literary career, and instead of practicing law he joined the Southern Literary Gazette as an assistant editor. The same year, Hayne married Mary Middleton Michel. They had one son who himself became a minor poet of the New South. Hayne continued working for the Gazette and eventually became its owner. Wanting, however, to establish a Southern literary magazine of the caliber of England's Blackwood's Magazine, he and several contemporaries founded Russell's Magazine. While Russell's was a short‐lived venture, and the Civil War severely limited Southern writers' ability to publish, Hayne continued to contribute his work (often unsuccessfully) to Northern magazines. Despite the popular disfavor of Southern writers, Hayne had established himself as the premier literary spokesperson of the South. He died in 1886, feeling he had never in his lifetime attained the literary status he deserved.

Major Works

During his years with the Southern Literary Gazette, Hayne solicited contributions from established and new writers alike, from both the South and the North. The magazine also published several editorials by Hayne himself. He eventually became chief editor of the magazine and in 1852 he took full control as owner, renaming the publication the Weekly News and Southern Literary Gazette. He resigned his position with the paper a few years later, however, because the journal had become increasingly political. Instead, Hayne, with other South Carolina writers, established a monthly publication titled Russell's Magazine. During these years, Hayne issued two collections of poetry, Poems (1854) and Sonnets, and Other Poems (1857). Neither sold very well and received little attention from critics of the time. In the meantime, he continued his work as editor of Russell's. Although a devout Southerner, Hayne welcomed contributions from Northern writers and worked to maintain a literature‐based identity for the journal. This was difficult, however, and the impending Civil War made it almost impossible to separate literature and politics during this time. Hayne's personal interests lay in the study of Romantic poetry and Elizabethan drama, and he continued to publish essays and reviews of both contemporary and historical works, as well as poetry, including the publication of another collection in 1859, titled Avolio. This last collection was favorably received by critics, and when Russell's closed in 1860 due to financial failure, Hayne continued to submit contributions, both poems and prose, to other journals. He did not return to editing until after the end of the Civil War, preferring the intellectual freedom life as a self‐sustained poet afforded him.

Following the end of the war, most of Hayne's major work was submitted to Northern journals since most Southern journals either dissolved due to social disapproval or were unable to pay their contributors. His poems were now included in such journals as the Round Table, Old Guard, Atlantic Monthly, and Scribner's Monthly. By the 1870s Hayne had established himself as the leading voice of the Southern literati and he was often called upon to celebrate important occasions with a poem. For example, Hayne penned a poem to celebrate the Charleston centennial in 1883. Because most of these poems were too long for magazine publication, they were published separately in pamphlet form. In 1871, Hayne had also issued another volume of verse, titled Legends and Lyrics. This collection was received well by critics in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In the 1880s Hayne became chief contributor to Home and Farm and the Southern Bivouac, producing some of his most noted rural and natural poems, including The Wheat Field and The Last Patch.

Critical Reception

Despite being largely ignored by modern and late twentieth‐century scholars, Hayne remains significant for the connection he established between writers of the Old South and the New South. In addition to his patronage of many contemporary writers via the magazines and journals he edited, Hayne is also remembered for his voluminous correspondence with contemporary literary figures during the years following the American Civil War. One of these was Maurice Thompson, a poet, author, and critic who has called Hayne “the king poet of the Old South.” According to Thompson, Hayne “embodied the best of the Southern literary tradition.” This opinion is shared by most who have reviewed Hayne's writing, including F. V. N. Painter, who notes that Hayne's poetry is characterized by an atmosphere of cultured refinement and high literary standards. In addition to being a prolific writer, critics have noted Hayne's willingness to mentor young writers. In an essay reviewing Hayne's work, critic Jay B. Hubbell notes that Hayne wrote letters of encouragement and criticism to most Southern writers of his own time. Hayne is also credited with playing an important role in the process of reconciliation between Northern and Southern writers following the Civil War. Through his correspondence he endeavored to dispel the popular disfavor of Southern writing. His own work in such poems as The Exposition Ode, notes critic Claude Flory, are representative of Hayne's efforts to celebrate the New South. In addition to the political concerns expressed in his poems, Hayne was also lauded as a writer of authentic detail and observation, using authors such as Chaucer, Spenser, Keats, and Wordsworth as his models. Writing in the pre‐ and post‐Civil War South, Hayne recognized the limits within which he and other writers of his time had to write, and his life's work helped the literary traditions of his time continue to flourish.

Principal Works

Poems (poetry) 1855

Sonnets, and Other Poems (poetry) 1857

Avolio: A Legend of the Island of Cos. With Poems, Lyrical, Miscellaneous, and Dramatic (poetry) 1860

Legends and Lyrics (poetry) 1872

The Mountain of the Lovers: With Poems of Nature and Tradition (poetry) 1875

The Yorktown Ceremonial Ode (poetry) 1881

Poems of Paul Hamilton Hayne: Complete Edition (poetry) 1882

The Broken Battalions (poetry) 1885


F. V. N. Painter (essay date 1903)

SOURCE: “Paul Hamilton Hayne,” in Poets of the South: A Series of Biographical and Critical Studies with Typical Poems, Annotated, American Book Company, 1903, pp. 49‐64.

[In the following essay, Painter provides a brief overview of Hayne's writing.]

The poetry of Paul Hamilton Hayne is characterized by a singular delicacy of sentiment and expression. There is an utter absence of what is gross or commonplace. His poetry, as a whole, carries with it an atmosphere of high‐bred refinement. We recognize at once fineness of fiber and of culture. It could not well be otherwise; for the poet traced the line of his ancestors to the cultured nobility of England, and,...

(The entire section is 3538 words.)

Kate Harbes Becker (essay date 1951)

SOURCE: Paul Hamilton Hayne: Life and Letters, The Outline Company, 1951, pp. 70‐4.

[In the following excerpt, Becker discusses Hayne's sonnets and presents illustrative examples of his poetry.]

Paul Hamilton Hayne is sometimes called the Longfellow of the American sonnet. The title is extravagant, of course, for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow will always remain supreme as America's sonneteer. Hayne's contribution to this poetic form was a hundred and fifty sonnets, a number equalled by no other American poet. Sharpe included seven of his sonnets in his Anthology, but called him, “the impassioned but too regardlessly profuse singer of the South.” Undoubtedly his rank...

(The entire section is 1267 words.)

Jay B. Hubbell (essay date 1954)

SOURCE: “Paul Hamilton Hayne,” in The South in American Literature: 1607‐1900, Duke University Press, 1954, pp. 743‐57.

[In the following essay, Hubbell examines Hayne's role in negotiating the literary transition between the Old and New South.]

Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830‐1886) is an important literary link between the Old South and the New. He was the intimate friend of Simms, Timrod, Grayson, and John R. Thompson; but, unlike these men, he lived long enough to witness the rise of Lanier, Cable, Harris, and other writers of the younger generation. When Simms died in 1870, Hayne inherited his position as chief literary representative of the South. Few of the...

(The entire section is 6642 words.)

Claude R. Flory (essay date 1962)

SOURCE: “Paul Hamilton Hayne and the New South,” in The Georgia Historical Quarterly, Vol. XLVI, 1962, pp. 388‐94.

[In the following essay, Flory refutes the theory that Hayne had no enthusiasm for the New South.]

It has become almost a convention in the discussion of Southern literature to assume, if not emphasize, that Paul Hamilton Hayne had no enthusiasm for the New South.1 This point of view should perhaps be subjected to re‐examination in the light of two observations: first, most of the letters and poems cited in support of it were written before 1880; second, Hayne's longest and most detailed poem on the subject—“The Exposition Ode”...

(The entire section is 2194 words.)

Rayburn S. Moore (essay date 1969)

SOURCE: “Hayne the Poet: A New Look,” in South Carolina Review, Vol. II, November, 1969, pp. 4‐13.

[In the following essay, Moore defends the quality of Hayne's poetry, focusing on his use of detail and observation.]

Paul Hamilton Hayne belonged to a prominent South Carolina family, several members of which had made important contributions to the history of the state. One of these, Robert Y. Hayne, Daniel Webster's redoubtable opponent in the famous Senate debate on Nullification in 1830, was Paul Hayne's uncle and guardian. Born in the year of the great debate and reared in Charleston, educated in a well‐known private school and at the College of Charleston,...

(The entire section is 3405 words.)

L. Moody Simms Jr. (essay date 1970‐71)

SOURCE: “Paul Hamilton Hayne's Methods of Poetic Composition,” in Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Culture, Vol. 24, No. 1, Winter, 1970‐71, pp. 57‐62.

[In the following essay, Simms presents Hayne's son's observations of his father's literary practices.]

To present‐day students of Southern literature, Paul Hamilton Hayne is important primarily because he represents a link between two literary traditions, those of the Old South and the New, and two other prominent Southern poets, William Gilmore Simms and Sidney Lanier. Critics are in general agreement that Hayne himself wrote too much—biographies, essays, and poems that simply echoed the...

(The entire section is 2087 words.)

Rayburn S. Moore (essay date 1972)

SOURCE: “Legends and Lyrics, 1872,” in Paul Hamilton Hayne, Twayne, 1972, pp. 56‐83.

[In the following essay, Moore presents an analysis of Legends and Lyrics.]

In 1864 Hayne made a selection from his poems, and, in the summer of that year, he put the package on a steamer headed for Liverpool; however, Hayne's book presumably failed to arrive in England.1 After the war he continued to plan to bring out a new collection of his verse. In answer to a query about his “Literary projects” from his old friend John Esten Cooke, the Virginia romancer, Hayne wrote on July 24, 1866, that he had a “goodly pile of MSS. (with one long poem to head...

(The entire section is 10072 words.)

Rayburn S. Moore (essay date 1973)

SOURCE: “Paul Hamilton Hayne and Northern Magazines, 1866‐1886,” in Essays Mostly on Periodical Publishing in America, edited by James Woodress, Duke University Press, 1973, pp. 134‐47.

[In the following essay, Moore traces Hayne's mixed relationship with various Northern magazines of his day.]

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830‐1886), poet, editor, and a lifelong resident of Charleston, South Carolina, left his ruined home, went to Augusta, Georgia, and took a job on the Constitutionalist, a local newspaper. Discovering after a few months that his frail constitution could not stand the ten‐hour day, Hayne resigned,...

(The entire section is 5294 words.)

Further Reading


Parks, Edd Winfield. Southern Poets: Representative Selections, with Introduction, Bibliography, and Notes. New York: American Book Company, 1936, 419 p.

Brief introduction to the background and poetic theory of Southern poets, including a bibliography and selections of actual works.


Becker, Kate Harbes. Paul Hamilton Hayne: Life and Letters. Belmont: The Outline Company, 145 p.

Detailed biography of Hayne, accompanied by contemporary letters.

Moore, Rayburn S. “Paul Hamilton Hayne.” The Georgia Review 22 (1968): 106‐124.


(The entire section is 279 words.)