George Ticknor: An American Man Of Letters
Prudence Hannay recounts the life of the Bostonian who first set sail for Britain in April 1815. Ticknor would go on to pay his homage to and became the good friend of many European intellectuals. Among those he met were Byron, Scott, Goethe, Chateaubriand and Madame de Stael.
George Ticknor, born in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 1st 1791, was destined to become the founding father of American Men of Letters at a time when this profession was at its height of excellence in Europe. He had two other claims to fame; his History of Spanish Literature, published in 1849, proved that in a young and developing country an American could produce a work of lasting scholarship; and, during his sixteen years as a Professor of Harvard, he achieved a considerable influence in reforming the curriculum and life-style of the university.
Ticknor came of a truly New Englander family - native by birth but English by descent; and Boston at the end of the eighteenth century was inhabited by a small community of plain-living people who, if somewhat puritanical in outlook were nevertheless interested in cultural activities and not averse to social gatherings. Public and political affairs were discussed in public places by leading Bostonians. The town was strongly Federal in outlook, and George Washington was revered almost to idolatry.