Richardson, Charles F(rancis) 1851-1913
RICHARDSON, Charles F(rancis) 1851-1913
PERSONAL: Born May 29, 1851, in Hallowell, ME; died October 8, 1913; son of Charles (a physician) and Mary Savory (Wingate) Richardson; married Elizabeth Miner Thomas, April 12, 1878. Education: Dartmouth College, graduated, 1871.
CAREER: Teacher, poet and literary historian. Literary editor for New York Independent, Philadelphia Sunday School Times, and Good Literature; became Winckley chair of Anglo-Saxon and English language at Dartmouth College.
A Primer of American Literature, Houghton, Osgood (Boston, MA), 1878, revised edition, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1883.
(Editor, with Henry A. Clark) The College Book, Houghton, Osgood (Boston, MA), 1878.
The Cross, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1879.
(With wife, Elizabeth Miner) Charles Miner: APennsylvania Pioneer, [Wilkes-Barre, PA], 1881.
The Choice of Books, Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington (London, England), 1881, Useful Knowledge Publishing Company (New York, NY), 1882, revised edition, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1905.
American Literature, 1607-1885, Volume I: TheDevelopment of American Thought, Volume II: American Poetry and Fiction, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1887.
(Editor) James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of theMohicans, Longmans, Green (New York, NY), 1897.
The End of the Beginning, Little, Brown, (Boston, MA), 1896.
(Editor and author of introduction) The CompleteWorks of Edgar Allan Poe, Putnam (New York, NY), 1902.
(Editor and author of introduction and notes) DanielWebster for Young Americans, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1903.
A Study of English Rhyme, privately printed (Hanover, NH), 1909.
SIDELIGHTS: Charles F. Richardson's passion for American literature earned him the respect of his students and colleagues. He is best remembered for his pioneering work in American literature and his critically acclaimed American Literature, 1607-1885, which Kermit Vanderbilt, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, praised as "his foremost achievement as a scholar and critic."
Before teaching at Dartmouth College for thirty years, Richardson was an editor for a variety of periodicals, including the New York Independent and Good Literature. Richardson, in a prelude, also wrote A Primer of American Literature, a small-scale volume that briefly discusses about one hundred writers. More than a decade later he wrote the full-scale analysis of the history of American literature.
At Dartmouth, he developed a course for the senior class: an in-depth study of American literature. Inspired by Moses Coit Tyler, who wrote a two-volume history of colonial writers, Richardson set out to examine how American literature developed and how the events of their time influenced various writers. His American Literature, 1607-1885 was published in two volumes, The Development of American Thought and American Poetry and Fiction. In The Development of American Thought, he traces American literary development to the influence of colonial immigrants. While the Old World still influenced immigrants, they had to adapt to a new country; thus, American literature evolved from the resultant nationalism. Richardson also critiques the work of prominent writers such as Washington Irving, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry David Thoreau, the last whose work Richardson deemed inferior to that of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In Richardson's second volume he emphasizes the history of American poetry and fiction. Using techniques such as artistic impression and signs of vividness and spontaneity, he judges the works of many poets, including Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He ultimately views American fiction as inferior, with notable exceptions, to that of England. The many professors pursuing American literary histories subsequent to Richardson's work reveal the true influence of American Literature, 1607-1885.
Richardson also published The Choice of Books, a comprehensive guide to the leading books of his day. As a reviewer wrote in Choice, "After the passage of a full quarter-century, Professor Richardson's treatise on the choice and use of books remains the most complete, the most reasonable, and one of the most readable of books hitherto written on that head."
Richardson died two years after he retired from Dartmouth. Remembered as one of the most influential critics of American literature, his portrait hung in the Class of 1902 Room of Dartmoth's Baker Library as late as 1988.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Benet's Readers Encyclopedia of American Literature, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 71: American Literary Critics and Scholars, 1880-1900, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.
Critic, May, 1906.*