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Channing, William Ellery, II 1817-1901

CHANNING, William Ellery, II 1817-1901

PERSONAL: Born November 29, 1817, in Boston, MA; died December 23, 1901; married Ellen Fuller, 1841; children: five. Education: Attended Harvard University.

CAREER: Poet; former employee of New Bedford Mercury and the New York Tribune.


Poems, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1843.

Poems: Second Series, Munroe (Boston, MA), 1847.

Conversations in Rome: Between an Artist, a Catholic, and a Critic, Crosby & Nichols (Boston, MA), 1847,

The Woodman, and Other Poems, Munroe (Boston, MA), 1849.

Near Home (poems), 1858.

The Wanderer, a Colloquial Poem, Osgood (Boston, MA), 1871.

Thoreau: The Poet-Naturalist (biography), Roberts (Boston, MA), 1873.

Eliot: A Poem, Cupples, Upham (Boston, MA), 1885.

John Brown, and the Heroes of Harper's Ferry, a Poem, Cupples, Upham (Boston, MA), 1886.

Poems of Sixty-Four Years, edited by F. B. Sanborn, J. H. Bentley (Philadelphia, PA), 1902.

The Collected Poems, edited by Walter Harding, Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints (Gainesville, FL), 1967.

SIDELIGHTS: A poet of late nineteenth-century America, William Ellery Channing II—the nephew of noted clergyman Rev. William Ellery Channing—was born into a well-connected Boston family. It was expected that the young Ellery would follow in the footsteps of his uncle or his father, who was dean of the Harvard Medical School. But life held a different path for the young man, who put in a semester at Harvard before leaving the academic life behind.

Channing pursued the life of a farmer until 1840, when he took up newspaper work in Cincinnati, Ohio. There he met his future wife, Ellen Fuller; the newlyweds settled in Concord, Massachusetts, where Channing became friends with some of the most influential writers of the day: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Thoreau. Emerson printed some of Channing's early poetry in the Dial, a Transcendentalist publication. But writing poetry did not bring in much revenue for the family, to the consternation of Channing wife, who was the mother of five children. Still, Channing insisted on living what Joel Myerson called in a Dictionary of Literary Biography entry "his easy-going life" in letters.

While his poems did not bring him distinction—he "promised more than he delivered," wrote Myerson—Channing gained a reputation as an early biographer of Thoreau. While Channing's Thoreau: The Poet-Naturalist is "factually inaccurate," according to Myerson, still it is "the best extended study by a contemporary." Indeed, it was Channing's "genuine friendships" with Emerson and Thoreau that gave meaning to the life of the would-be poet, "and his conversations with these men also helped fill and affect their lives."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 1: The American Renaissance in New England, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1978.*

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