Edwin P. Whipple, As An English Essayist -- By: T. W. Hunt
BSac 50:197 (Oct 1893) p. 30
Edwin P. Whipple, As An English Essayist
Mr. Whipple, as an American and a man, is so clearly identified with his work as an author, that no estimate of his writings and style should be attempted apart from the fact of such a relationship.
Born in Gloucester, Mass., March 8th, 1819, his comparatively uneventful life ran its serene and even course on to the date of his death, in the city of Boston, June 16th, 1886. The son of Matthew Whipple and of Lydia Gardiner Whipple, he was a descendant of that stern and sterling New England stock which has gone so far toward making the American character of to-day what it is in its solidity and moral force. From Gloucester, we follow him to Salem. Graduating with honor from the English High School of that historic town, we find him, at the early age of fifteen, a clerk in the Bank of General Interest. It was here, while in connection with the Athenaeum Library, that we see positive proof of his awakening literary instincts. Already he had read with keenest zest the earlier stories of the gifted Hawthorne, and now that the messengers of that notable novelist were in and out of the Library in the literary service of their master, Whipple the eager and aspiring boy was more than ever alive to all that pertained to books and men of books, and was especially anxious to see in person the face of Hawthorne. It is thus, with a playful and yet a plaintive emphasis, that he writes: “I remember the bandanna handkerchief in which four volumes were punctually returned, and I
BSac 50:197 (Oct 1893) p. 31
saw the same handkerchief enclose the four more volumes asked for, but of Hawthorne in person I could never obtain even a glimpse.”
At Boston, in 1837, he again illustrates the suggestive union of business and literature in his character, as Banking House Clerk and Superintendent of the Merchant’s Exchange News Room; as a member of the Mercantile Library Association and of a literary club known, at that time, as the “Attic Nights.”
Whipple was now thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the author, and felt somewhat as the great Schleiermacher of Germany felt when he declared, that, if he could but give adequate expression to the ideas that agitated him, his life would be a marked success. Reading all that came to his hand, and writing at every available opportunity, he may be said to have gathered up and expressed his best ability in an article on Macaulay, published in the Boston Miscellany, February, 1843, and now published as the opening paper of his “Essays and Reviews,”—the opening paper, indeed, of the nine volumes of his collected writings. How striking the coincidence just here, between Whipple’s review of Macaulay, writ...
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