Henry Timrod papers

Henry Timrod papers

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Creator: Timrod, Henry, 1828-1867
Title: Henry Timrod papers
Dates: 1834-1894
Quantity: 0.2 Linear feet (25 items in 1 half box)
Abstract:The collection consists of a letter to Emily Timrod Goodwin and a book of Timrod's poems with two manuscript poems in the back. Also included are several letters between Emily T. Goodwin and Paul Hamilton Hayne, another South Carolina poet. In addition is a small scrapbook of clippings about Timrod and a Robert Toombs letter to William Dearing dated 1834.
Coll. Number: ms1740

Biographical/Historical Note

Henry Timrod was born in Charleston, South Carolina on Dec. 8, 1829. He was the son of William Henry Timrod, a bookbinder, and Thyrza Prince. When Henry was ten, William Timrod published a volume of poems in which "Ode to Time" reportedly was praised by Washington Irving, and this literary pursuit was passed on to his son. Timrod attended the University of Georgia in 1845 but later withdrew and served as apprentice to Charleston lawyer James L. Petigru. By the early 1850s, however, he had again shifted course, and while considering the possibility of pursuing additional study and a professorship in the classics, he began to write for Charleston newspapers. As a journalist, Timrod learned to concentrate on details, a talent that later served him well as a Civil War correspondent for the Charleston Mercury. Also in the 1850s Timrod, who embraced the aesthetic and ethical ideas of Wordsworth and Tennyson, met several kindred writers, the most prominent being the established men of letters William Gilmore Simms and Paul Hamilton Hayne, Timrod's life-long friend and editor of his posthumously collected poetry. These literary cohorts, with whom he congregated at the Charleston library and in John Russell's Bookstore, bolstered Timrod's belief that one's sense of ethics could be aroused by feeling or emotions. When Russell's Magazine began to be published in 1857, with Russell as business manager and Hayne as editor, Timrod had poems placed in nearly every issue. Also in Russell's he published essays such as "The Literature of the South," which advocated a focus on familiar subjects (as per Wordsworth) and a powerful sense of morality (as per Tennyson), and "A Theory of Poetry," which challenged Edgar Allan Poe's declaration that poetry was "rhythmic beauty." The latter elicited from poet Sidney Lanier, who sought the "science" of verse, the impetuous criticism that Timrod lacked the technique for verse. Russell's was immensely popular, and when it ceased publication in 1860 Timrod found outlets for his work in the Charleston Mercury, the Charleston Courier, and the Columbia Daily South Carolinian. In addition to contributing to Russell's Magazine and the Charleston newspapers, Timrod became editor of the Columbia Daily South Carolinian at its inception in January 1864 and moved to Columbia at that time. In that year he married Kate S. Goodwin, and on Christmas Eve 1864 their son, Willie, was born. Within two months of their only child's birth, however, Columbia was razed by Union troops during William T. Sherman's devastating march through South Carolina. Timrod's editorship of the Daily South Carolinian was thus severely restricted, and after a plan to publish another collection of verse--his Poems was published in 1860--failed to materialize, the family became destitute. In December 1865, Willie died. This final tragedy provided the impetus for two poems that Timrod wrote in his penultimate year in which the personal poetic voice he first explored in "Charleston" was again achieved. "Our Willie," published, like "A Mother's Wail," in Scott's Monthly Magazine in 1866, is Timrod's personal effort to confront nature in its starkest form. The deaths of multitudes in war--the tragedy of the South--now give way to the private expiring of a single life, a "little wide-eyed seer" who spoke with a "murmur like a mystic speech." In Willie's agonizingly short life Timrod may have seen reflected his own pitifully brief allotment of time as well as the passing of his beloved southern way of life. Unlike "Our Willie," which links the events of two Christmases and contrasts Willie's death with the transcendent birth of Christ, "A Mother's Wail," written one month later, focuses on the startling reality of the loss. Christmas imagery has been replaced with that of Easter, and the once other-worldly baby is now described materially as a "single rose-bud in a crown of thorns." Using the mother's viewpoint, the poet contrives a staple of Victorian sentimentalism by having her remember the experience of nursing her baby, but in such concrete detail, the images expose a jarring contrast to the beatific themes: "that warm, wet, eager mouth, / With the sweet sharpness of its budding pearls." In these two poems Timrod evokes both the spiritual and the realistic in order to come to some understanding of the terrors of mortality. He was thus much more than simply the poet laureate of the Confederacy; he was a poet who grappled with the basic questions of existence, questions asked about humanity though prompted by his personal situation. We may regret, as did he, that Timrod was not granted more time to create, but perhaps his suffering brought him to a speedier maturity that enabled him to find and develop his personal poetic voice and to achieve a far greater insight than his early work otherwise would have anticipated. In the crucible of his own pain, Timrod withstood the bewildering fragility of human beauty by transmuting it into the remarkable durability of art. He died of tuberculosis in Columbia. Henry Timrod - American National Biography Online http://www.anb.org (Retrieved February 17, 2009)

Hayne, Paul Hamilton (1 Jan. 1830-6 July 1886), poet and man of letters, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Paul Hamilton Hayne, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and Emily McElhenny, members of families prominent in politics, law, and religion. Two of the elder Hayne's brothers were U.S. senators, one of whom, Robert Young Hayne, was Daniel Webster's redoubtable opponent in the debates on Nullification and young Hayne's guardian after yellow fever caused the early death of his father. Educated in a local preparatory school and at the College of Charleston (1847-1850), Hayne turned after graduation to the study of law with James Louis Petigru, former state attorney general, and in 1852 was admitted to the bar. Also in 1852 he married Mary Middleton Michel; they had one child. But literature prevailed over law, and Hayne became editor and owner of the Southern Literary Gazette late in 1852. Disheartened by the reception of the Gazette, he sold it in 1854 and later that year assembled his first book, Poems, from previously published verse. Encouraged by the generally favorable response to Poems--the well-known critic Edwin Percy Whipple, for instance, noted the book's "general promise as well as fine performance"--Hayne set about writing and putting together two more volumes of poetry before the war: Sonnets, and Other Poems (1857) and Avolio: A Legend of the Island of Cos; with Poems, Lyrical, Miscellaneous, and Dramatic (c. 1859). Many of these early pieces are conventional in form, style, and content. They indicate Hayne's general acceptance of the Anglo-American poetic tradition rather than an interest in the radical changes then being advocated by Walt Whitman. During this time Hayne also contributed to the Southern Literary Messenger, Graham's Magazine, Harper's New Monthly, and the Atlantic Monthly, and served as editor of Russell's Magazine from 1857 to 1860, Charleston's last serious antebellum effort to establish a literary monthly. The Civil War brought an end to the journal, and Hayne applied himself to fulltime support of the Confederacy. Unable to engage in field service because of poor health (he had suffered from lung and liver complaints since his youth), he managed to serve for four months in 1861-1862 as aide-de-camp to Governor Francis Pickens, a kinsman, but devoted himself primarily to writing as a means of defending his state and nation. In 1864 he collected his poems, including his best war lyrics, and sent the manuscript to England, but it was lost in the blockade. The defeat of the Confederacy brought financial ruin to Hayne and his family, and in 1865 he was forced to seek a new home in the pine barrens near Augusta, Georgia. There at "Copse Hill," Grovetown, he remained until his death of a stroke, devoting himself to writing poetry, criticism, and a voluminous correspondence involving the exchange of literary ideas and the promotion of southern cultural interests. After the death in 1870 of William Gilmore Simms, an old friend and mentor, Hayne became the chief literary spokesman for the South, an unofficial postwar laureate for the late Confederacy, a role not unlike the one his lifelong friend Henry Timrod had assumed during the war. In poems and essays he expressed what he considered to be the southern view of such political matters as the disputed presidential election of 1876 and the plight of the region during Reconstruction. He also wrote tributes to the Confederacy and to the memory of Simms, Timrod, and Sidney Lanier. In 1885 Andrew Adgate Lipscomb, former chancellor of the University of Georgia and a new friend of Hayne's, observed that he had "given utterance to the Southern heart as no one else has done." Paul Hamilton Hayne - American National Biography Online http://wwwanb.org (Retrieved February 17, 2009)

Emily T. Goodwin was the sister of Henry Timrod.


Arranged in chronological order.

Index Terms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Dearing, William -- Correspondence
Goodwin, Emily Timrod -- Correspondence
Hayne, Paul Hamilton, 1830-1886 -- Correspondence
Manuscripts (document genre)
Poets, American--South Carolina--Correspondence.
Timrod, Henry, 1828-1867 -- Correspondence
Toombs, Robert Augustus, 1810-1885 -- Correspondence

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Henry Timrod papers, 1834-1894. MS 1740. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

11Correspondence, 1834
2Correspondence, 1862
3Correspondence, 1867
4Correspondence, 1868
5Correspondence, 1869
6Correspondence, 1872
7Correspondence, 1874
8Correspondence, 1894
9Correspondence, undated
12Poetry book