Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Criticism - Essay

Richard Henry Dana, Sr. (essay date 1827)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Preface to the First Edition of the Poems," in Poems and Prose Writings, Vol I, Baker and Scribner, 1850, pp. ix-xi.

[In the following preface to his first collection of poems, first published in 1827 and reissued in 1850 with a second volume of his poetry, Dana expresses his hopes for the public's favorable reception of his work, and comments on the partly factual source for "The Buccaneer. "

It is not without hesitation that I give this small volume [The Buccaneer and Other Poems] to the public; for no one can be more sensible than I am how much is necessary to the production of what may be rightly called poetry. It is true that something resembling it is oftentimes borne into instant and turbulent popularity, while a work of genuine character may be lying neglected by all except the poets. But the tide of time flows on, and the former begins to settle to the bottom, while the latter rises slowly and steadily to the surface, and moves forward, for a spirit is in it.

It is a poor ambition to be anxious after the distinction of a day in that which, if it be fit to live at all, is to live for ages. It is wiser than all, so to love one's art that its distinctions shall be but secondary: and, indeed, he who is not so absorbed in it as to think of his fame only as one of its accidents had better save himself his toil; for the true power is not in him. Yet the most self-dependent are stirred to livelier action by the hope of fame, and there are none who can go on with vigour, without the sympathy of some few minds which they respect.

I will not say of my first tale ["The Buccaneer"] as Miss Edgeworth sometimes does of her improbabilities, "This is a fact"; but this much I may say: there are few facts so well vouched for, and few truths so fully believed in, as the account upon which I have grounded my story.

I shall not name the island off our New England coast upon which these events happened, and these strange appearances were seen; for islanders are the most sensitive creatures in the world in all that relates to their places of abode.

I have changed the time of the action—which was before the war of our Revolution—to that of the great contest in Spain; as the reader will see, in my making use of the Christian name of Lord Wellington...

(The entire section is 977 words.)

The American Monthly Review (review date 1833)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Review of Poems and Prose Writings, in The American Monthly Review, Vol. IV, No. VI, December, 1833, pp. 468-80.

[In the following excerpt, the author favorably reviews Dana's poetry and prose, calling him "one of the best writers of the day. "]

Mr. Dana is a poet in the true sense of the term. He combines a striking originality and reach of thought with beautiful and expressive language. But the former power far exceeds the latter. Indeed he seems himself to be aware of this; for he says of his own poetry that it lacks "something of that melody of voice and harmony of expression, which so win upon us unawares." As a poetical thinker, Mr. Dana has no...

(The entire section is 2330 words.)

The New Englander (review date 1851)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Poems and Prose Writings, in The New Englander, Vol. IX, No. XXXIII, February, 1851, pp. 28-35.

[In the following favorable review, the author praises Dana's poetic diction, his style, and his artistic character.]

Our first remark is, that Mr. Dana's language is made up in a great degree of Saxon. It is free, more than that of most authors, from Latinisms, Gallicisms, from modern conventionalisms, and all pert and dainty expressions. He eschews, as by instinct, such words as "emanate," "develop," "position," "responsibility," "elevated," "exposition," etc., unless in cases where they may be absolutely needed to give the sense. It is hardly...

(The entire section is 3098 words.)

R. H. Stoddard (essay date 1879)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Richard Henry Dana," in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. LVIII, No. 347, April, 1879, pp. 769-76.

[In the following excerpt Stoddard provides a critical overview of Dana's literary career, noting especially the influence of Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" on "The Buccaneer."]

To rightly understand an author, and the place he occupies in the literature of his country, we must not only understand the events of his life and the order in which his works were written, we must also understand the literary conditions under which they were produced, and which conspired to make them what they were. To judge the authors of the last century by the standards...

(The entire section is 5626 words.)

William Charvat (essay date 1961)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Criticism, Magazines, and Critics," in The Origins of American Colonial Thought, 1810-1835, A. S. Barnes and Company, Inc., 1961, pp. 164-205.

[In the following excerpt, Charvat provides an overview of Dana's work as a literary critic and examines the critical value of Dana's unpublished lectures on Shakespeare.]

Dana was a . . . militant romantic . . . , and his utterances were loud as well as strong. His life was full of stridencies and contradictions, beginning with his expulsion from Harvard in 1807. This literary rebel was a confirmed Federalist and a trinitarian tending toward high-church Episcopalianism. As poet and novelist he was of the Gothic school,...

(The entire section is 1038 words.)

Doreen Hunter (essay date 1972)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "America's First Romantics: Richard Henry Dana, Sr. and Washington Allston," in The New England Quarterly, Vol. XLV, No. 1, March, 1972, pp. 3-30.

[In the following excerpt, Hunter addresses Dana's early espousal of romanticism and his later conversion to evangelical Christianity.]

Like so many writers and artists of their generation, Dana and [Washington] Allston inherited a world view at odds with the one they adopted in their early manhood. They were torn between a traditional body of ideas which assumed the existence of universal truths and the exciting but private psychological visions of Coleridgean idealism. Unable to reconcile a yearning for the...

(The entire section is 5266 words.)

Robert A. Ferguson (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Richard Henry Danas: Father and Son," in Law and Letters in American Culture, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984, pp. 241-72.

[In the following excerpt, Ferguson compares Dana's early romanticism with his later thoughts on legal theory, contrasting the gothic story "Paul Felton" (1822), with the essay "Law as Suited to Man " (1835).

Some individuals personify the wholeness of an age; others reflect the incompleteness of its parts. Daniel Webster, in the first category, spoke confidently for the nineteenth century and symbolized its conventions. The Richard Henry Danas, father and son, were more shadowy figures caught up in changes that they...

(The entire section is 4571 words.)