Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Micah P. Flint


William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 55-56 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

MICAH P. FLINT, son of Timothy Flint, who rendered eminent service in the cultivation and encouragement of literature in the Mississippi valley, was born in Lurenberg, Massachusetts, about the year 1807. While Micah was yet a boy, his father selected the west as a field for missionary labor, and the young poet received his education, with his father for tutor, at St. Louis, New Madrid, New Orleans, and Alexandria, Mississippi, to which places Rev. Mr. Flint's engagements as a missionary successively called him. When failing health finally required his father to suspend his labors as a minister, Micah studied law and was admitted to the bar at Alexandria, but was not permitted to become known as a lawyer. His first published poem was on a mound that stood near a farm-house in Cahokia prairie, Illinois, to which for a few months, when his health required a respite from severe labors, his father took the family. It was written in 1825, and was printed in Timothy Flint's "Ten Years in the Mississippi Valley." In the same work are several other poems by Micah, which have merit enough to justify the evident pride his father took in them. In 1826, "The Hunter, and other Poems," a thin duodecimo volume, was published in Boston. "The Hunter" is a narrative of the adventures of a backwoodsman, who, on account of Indian outrages, had become a Hermit. It is not vigorously executed, but contains a few pictures which may now be deemed interesting. In a dedication to Josiah S. Johnston, United States Senator from Louisiana, the author said of it:

Neither leisure nor the shade and the books of academic establishments, nor the excitement of literary societies, had any share in eliciting it. It was produced in the intervals of the severest studies, and where swamps, alligators, miasm, musketoes, and the growing of cotton, might seem to preclude the slightest effort of the muse; and where the ordinary motive to action is with one hand to fence with death and with the other to grasp at the rapid accumulation of wealth.

In a poem written two years later, the following stanzas occur:

I was permitted, in my youthful folly,
   To write, and send a book forth, once myself;
And now it makes me feel right melancholy,
   When e'er by chance I see it on a shelf:
Not that I think the book was common trash,
   But, that it cost some hundred dollars cash.

In 1827, Timothy Flint started, at Cincinnati, The Western Review, a monthly magazine of much value, which was continued three years. Micah was a frequent contributor. In an article written at the close of the first volume, his father said:

The poetry, except two articles, has been altogether original, and of domestic fabric. That the public begin rightly to estimate the powers of the chief contributor in this department, we have the most grateful and consoling testimonials. Every one remarks, and most truly, that editors ought to have good steel wire instead of nerves. But we do not see the cruel necessity that an editor should not have a heart. The "Camp Meeting," we are told, has found its way into the most extensively circulated journal in the United States, a religious paper edited with a great deal of talent, * * * — the Methodist Magazine, of New York. Whatever be the general dearth of poetical feeling, and however capricious the standard of poetical excellence, it cannot but be that some kindred eye will rest upon the poetry in this volume, and that a congenial string will be harped in some heart. In the structure of poetry, the public seems to demand nothing more than pretty words put into ingenious rhythm, with a due regard to euphony. In conformity to that taste, we have inserted some poetry which we considered made up rather with reference to words than pictures and thoughts. But we have flattered ourselves that the greater amount has had something of the ancient simplicity and force to recommend it to those who had a taste for that, and has had an aim to call the mind " from sound to things, from fancy to the heart." We have an humble hope that if the author of these verses survives the chances of the distant and deadly climate in which his lot is cast, and is not, in the hackneying cares of life, deprived of the visitings of the muse, the time will come when no man that has any living and permanent name as a writer and a poet, will be forward to proclaim that he did not discover the powers of the writer; or, after investigation, viewed them with disapprobation.

That hope of a fond father, so confidently expressed, is not without fulfillment, but the poet did not survive the chances of the deadly climate in which he had prepared himself for activity in a new sphere. He died in the year 1830.

Flint "was admitted to the Mississippi bar but did not practice law. He accompanied his father on his travels and contributed to his magazine, the Western Review." [William Coyle (ed.), Ohio Authors and Their Books: Biographical Data and Selective Bibliographies for Ohio Authors, Native and Resident, 1796-1950 215 (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., for the Ohioana Library Association, 1962)][See also: Rufus Wilmot Griswold's The P oets and Poetry of America]


Micah P. Flint, The Hunter and Other Poems (Boston: Cummings, Hilliard and Co., 1826) [online text]


Micah P. Flint, "An After Dinner Eclogue," in Henry Willis Wells, Three centuries of English and American Plays, 1500-1830 (New York: Readex Microprint Corp., 1989)(microfiche)

Research Resources

Timothy Flint, Recollections of the last ten years passed in occasional residences and journeyings in the valley of the Mississippi, from Pittsburgh and the Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico, and from Florida to the Spanish frontier, in a series of letters to the Rev. James Flint, of Salem, Massachusetts (Boston: Cummings, Hilliard, 1826)

[Recollections of the Last Ten Years, New York: A.A. Knopf, 1932)(C. Hartley Grattan ed.)(Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi, Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1968)(reprint of 1826 ed.)

Oscar Fay Adams, A Dictionary of American Authors 132 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899):

Flint, Timoth. Ms. [Massachusetts], 1780-1840. A Congregational clergyman of New England who after some years of missionary labour in the Ohio Valley devoted himself to literary pursuits in Cincinnati, New York, and elsewhere. His most important work in some respects, the Geography and History of the Mississippi Valley, materially advanced the settlement of that region. His other works include Recollections of Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi; Indian Wars in the West, Memoir of Daniel Boone; Lectures on Natural History, etc. Fiction: Francis Berrian; Arthur Clenning; George Mason; The Shoshonee Valley.