Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Park Benjamin

Connecticut & New York

"Park Benjamin is descended from a New England family, which came originally from Wales. His father resided as a merchant in Demerara, in British Guiana. The son in his infancy suffered from an illness, the improper treatment of which left him with a permanent lameness. He was brought to American, was educated in New England, studied law at Cambridge, and was admitted to practice in Connecticut. He soon, however, withdrew from the law to the pursuits of literature, embarking in the editorship of the New England Magazine in March, 1835, shortly after the retirement of its projector, Mr. Buckingham. In less than a year he brought the work to New York, continuing it with the publishing house of Dearborn and Co., with which he became connected, as the American Monthly Magazine, five volumes of which were published from January, 1836, to June, 1838. He next published the New Yorker, a weekly journal, in association with Horace Greeley; and in January, 1840, established the New World, a weekly newspaper of large size, which met the wants of the day by its cheap, wholesale republication of the English magazine literature. It was also well sustained by a corps of spirited writers which the editor drew round him in its original departments. Of those more immediately connected with the conduct of the paper were Epes Sargent, James Aldrich, H.C. Deming, and Rufus W. Griswold . . . .

The success of the New World led to the cheap publishing enterprises of Winchester, which were conducted with boldness, and had for the time a marked effect on the book trade. Mr. Benjamin conducted the New World for nearly five years, when it passed into the hands of Mr. Charles Eames, a writer of marked ability, by whom it was edited for a short time in 1845, when it was finally discontinued. In 1846 Mr. Benjamin projected, at Baltimore, The Western Continent, a weekly newspaper on the plan of the New World. It was published only for a short time. The next year he published another weekly paper on a similar plan, involving a liberal outlay of expenditure, The American Mail, of which twelve numbers were issued from June 5 to August 21.

Mr. Benjamin's poems, lyrics, and occasional effusions are numerous, but have not been collected. They are to be found scattered over the entire periodical literature of the country for the last twenty years. His only distinct publications have been several college poems of a descriptive and satirical character. A poem on The Meditations of Nature was delivered before the alumni of Washington College, at Hartford, in 1832; Poetry, a Satire, before the Mercantile Library Association of New York, the same year; Infatuation, before the Mercantile Library of Boston, in 1844.

Park Benjamin died, after a brief illness, at his residence in the city of New York, September 12, 1964. In his later years he was much before the public as a popular lecturer on social and other topics, his discourses on which were varied with the recitations of humorous or satirical poems of his own composition. Though a fertile author of occasional poems, and of numerous prose contributions to periodicals, no collection of his writings has been published. His style, both in prose and verse, was marked by ease and fluency."

[Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, The Cyclopaedia of American Literature 344-345 (Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)(Vol. 2)]

Edgar Allen Poe provides the following commentary on Park Benjamin's poetry:

For the last six or seven years, few men have occupied a more desirable position among us than Mr. BENJAMIN. As the editor of the American Monthly Magazine, of the New Yorker, and more lately of the Signal, and New World, he has exerted an influence scarcely second to that of any editor in the country. This influence Mr. B. owes to no single cause, but to his combined ability, activity, causticity, fearlessness, and independence. We use the latter term, however, with some mental reservation. The editor of the World is independent so far as the word implies unshaken resolution to follow the bent of one's own will, let the consequences be what they may. He is no respecter of persons, and his vituperation as often assails the powerful as the powerless - indeed the latter fall rarely under his censure. But we cannot call his independence, at all times, that of principle. We can never be sure that he will defend a cause merely because it is the cause of truth - or even because he regards it as such. He is too frequently biassed by personal feelings - feelings now of friendship, and again of vindictiveness. He is a warm friend, and a bitter, but not implacable enemy. His judgment in literary matters should not be questioned, but there is some difficulty in getting at his real opinion. As a prose writer, his style is lucid, terse, and pungent. He is often witty, often cuttingly sarcastic, but seldom humorous. He frequently injures the force of his fiercest attacks by an indulgence in merely vituperative epithets. As a poet, he is entitled to far higher consideration than that in which he is ordinarily held. He is skillful and passionate, as well as imaginative. His sonnets have not been surpassed. In short, it is as a poet that his better genius is evinced-it is in poetry that his noble spirit breaks forth, showing what the man is, and what, but for unhappy circumstances, he would invariably appear. Mr. Benjamin's MS. is not very dissimilar to Mr. Irving's, and, like his, it has no doubt been greatly modified by the excitements of life, and by the necessity of writing much and hastily; so that we can predicate but little respecting it. It speaks of his exquisite sensibility and passion. These betray themselves in the nervous variation of the MS. as the subject is diversified. When the theme is an ordinary one, the writing is legible and has force; but when it verges upon any thing which may be supposed to excite, we see the characters falter as they proceed. In the MSS. of some of his best poems this peculiarity is very remarkable. The signature conveys the idea of his usual chirography.

[Source: Edgar Allan Poe, "A Chapter on Autography (Part I)," Graham's Magazine, November 1841, pp. 224-234]

"The most popular of Benjamin's poems were widely published, often under revised titles, in anthologies. The most important of these books was Griswold's The Poets and Poetry of American . . ., Philadelphia, 1842, which contains twenty-eight of his poems . . . ." "Park Benjamin, 1809-1864," in Jacob Blanck (compiler), 1 Bibliography of American Literature 197-207, at 197 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955)

Park Benjamin
Rufus Wilmot Griswold, The Poets and Poetry of America 402-408
(Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1848)

Park Benjamin


Selected Sonnets
"A Great Name," "Tributary Sonnet"
and two untitled

The Old School House

A Song.-When First I Saw Thee

The Old Sexton

Park Benjamin, Infatuation: A Poem (Boston: Association Boston, W. D. Ticknor and Company, 1844)(delivered to the Mercantile Library Association of Boston, October 9, 1844) [online text] [online text]

___________, A Poem on the Meditation of Nature (Hartford: F.J. Huntington, 1832)(spoken September 26th, 1832, before the Association of the Alumni of Washington College) [online text] [online text]

___________, Poetry, a Satire (New York: J. Winchester, 1842)(pronounced before the Mercantile Library Association at its 22nd anniversary) [online text] [online text]


Park Benjamin, Poems (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948)

___________, Poems of Park Benjamin (Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1971)


Park Benjamin, The Book of British Ballads (New York: Douglas printers, 1844)


"Park Benjamin, 1809-1864," in Jacob Blanck (compiler), 1 Bibliography of American Literature 197-207 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955)(an authoritative listing of Benjamin's publications)

Merle M. Hoover, Genealogy of Park Benjamin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948)

______________, Park Benjamin: Poet & Editor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948)

Research Resources

Park Benjamin, Sr.