Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Harvey D. Little


William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 116-118 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

About the year 1830, a number of poetic effusions, signed VELASQUES, met my eye in an obscure paper published in the interior of Ohio. They struck me as possessing considerable merit, though they attracted no attention whatever from the thousand-and-one papers which circulate newspaper scribblers into notoriety. I therefore collected several of them together, and transmitted them to a literary periodical at the East, of wide circulation and no little merit; and I had the pleasure of seeing one or two of them copied and commended in that work, and then "go the rounds" of the Western press. By this time I had ascertained their author, and commenced a correspondence with him. He was the editor of the paper in which the fugitive pieces had originally appeared, and his name, since widely known and respected, was HARVEY D. LITTLE.

Mr. Little was born in Weathersfield, Connecticut, in the year 1803, of honest and respectable, but poor parents. In 1815 or '16, the family emigrated to the West, and pitched their tents in Franklin county, Ohio, then mostly a wilderness. The young poet was compelled to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, but yet found time, or rather made it, to advance his very limited education, and improve his mind by various reading. At a proper age, he was called upon to make choice of a trade. The printing business had before struck his fancy, by reason of its intellectual character, and the facilities it afforded a young and active mind to acquire general knowledge, and he readily pitched upon it. He was apprenticed to a printer in Columbus; and by the time he had reached his twenty-first year, had managed, besides faithfully and diligently serving his master, and becoming a proficient in his business, to give himself an excellent English education, and to acquire a very general acquaintance with English literature. Beside the beautiful rivers of the West, and in the depths of her mighty forests, he had studied likewise the Book of Nature, and enrolled himself on the list of her awed and inspired worshipers. Her lessons sank deeply into his heart, and her beauty, and vastness, and sublimity, fired his imagination. Though learning was not his, nor wealth, nor power, nor the encouraging approval of influential friends, MIND was his dower; and the inspired ones of the Old World, here in the solitude and silence of the mighty wildernesses of the New, were his companions and guides. Thus prompted, his young muse gave birth to a number of effusions, while he was yet in his minority, that bespeak the poet, the philanthropist, and the Christian. They are generally of a reflective cast, and though marked by the blemishes common to the productions of budding intellect, are in every sense creditable to juvenile performances. The tinge of melancholy, which was one of the charms of Mr. Little's later writings, is observable in these early manifestations of his poetical capacity. This was no doubt constitutional in part, and in part the result of his habits of life in youth. It has nowhere the appearance of affectation; and to one who knew him, as I did, though but a few years before his death—devoid of art, simple almost to childliness, zealous as a Christian, warm as a friend, faithful and devoted as a husband and a father, ambitious more to win a name for goodness than for greatness, humble and gentle and benevolent-it will touch the heart with painful interest.

Mr. Little was connected with several newspaper establishments, as editor and co-publisher, within a few years after having attained to his majority. He found the business unprofitable, however, in every instance, and at the age of twenty-five or six, having in the mean time been admitted to the bar, and espoused an amiable lady, a daughter of Doctor Horton Howard of Columbus, he abandoned it entirely, with the intention of devoting himself to the practice of his new profession. His first efforts at the bar inspired confidence in his talents and energy, and, for the first time in his life, success appeared on the eve of crowning his efforts. But, alas! how unstable are the determinations of man. Domestic considerations induced Mr. Little to abandon the law for a time, and again take upon himself the editorial charge of a periodical publication. In this he was engaged when, in August of the year 1833, his career was suddenly arrested by the hand of death. He fell a victim to the Asiatic scourge, which at that time swept over this fair land, desolating many a happy home, and quenching the fires of many an aspiring spirit. He died in the thirty-first year of his age, leaving behind him his wife and one child, having buried two of the three cherubs with which he had been blessed, but a few days previous to his own demise.* But a couple of weeks before, I had felt the warm pressure of his friendly hand, and left him,

"Fresh-lipp'd, and iron-nerved, and high of heart,"

indulging in the brightest anticipations of future usefulness and happiness. He was maturing several literary schemes; and when we parted, spoke with enthusiasm of the time, which he began to think at hand, when he should have leisure to do something for the literature of his country, and the honor of his name. But alas! to

" the bereaving tomb,
Where end Ambition's day-dreams all,"

he was hurried, within a fortnight of that time, with only the warning of a few hours. Death found him prepared for the harvest; and a good and noble soul was gathered into the Great Garner, when he fell.

Mr. Little was a type of a class of young men who, though not altogether peculiar to the West, have yet marked this section of the Union more distinctly than any other. Harvard, Yale, West Point, and similar institutions in the Eastern States, have severally been the Alma Mater of men who have therein risen to distinction at the bar, in the army, in the pulpit, and in the halls of legislation. In the Western States, however, those places have been, and now are, to an extent which makes it worthy of remark, filled by men who, like Mr. Little, graduated in a printing-office instead of a college, and made their first mark with printer's ink instead of blood, blue-fluid, or the measured tones of a voice trained to command, to supplicate, to plead in court, or fulminate in senatorial halls.

According to established literary canons, Mr. Little's poetical genius was not of the higher order. The tones of his harp were like the breathing of the "sweet southwest," and came upon the heart mildly and soothingly. The melody of his verse was perfect; its imagery rich-its language choice-its figures striking and appropriate. But to it belonged the softness and shadow of twilight, rather than the depth and strength of the full-robed night; the stillness and dewy beauty of' early dawn, rather than the brightness and power of meridian day. His poetry was never, impassioned or stormy—never ambitious or dazzling; but always gentle, and pensive, and breathing of love, and duty, and religion-the full outpouring of a Christian spirit. Had he been spared, to try his wing at a continuous flight, I not only believe that it would have sustained him, but that he would have produced something, which would not have been an honor to his name alone, but to his country.

* Mr. Little died on the evening of August twenty-second, 1833. The periodical he edited, at the time of his death was called The Eclectic and Medical Botanist. He was a member of the Columbus Typographical Society. On the thirteenth of November, 1833, that Society held a meeting in memory of Mr. Little, at which Rev. Warren Jenkins delivered an address.

Harvey D. Little
Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography
(New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889)(James Grant Wilson & John Fiske eds.)(6 vols.)

On Judah's Hill

On Judah's hill the towering palm
Still spreads its branches to the sky,
The same, through years of storm and calm,
As erst it was in days gone by,
When Israel's king poured forth his psalm
In strains of sacred melody.
And Lebanon, thy forests green
Are waving in the lonely wind,
To mark the solitary scene,
Where wandering Israel's hopes are shrined;
But the famed Temple's ancient sheen
The pilgrim seeks, in vain, to find.
And Kedron's brook, and Jordan's tide,
Roll onward to the sluggish sea:
But where is Salem's swollen pride,
Her chariots, and her chivalry,
Her Tyrian robes in purple dyed,
Her warlike hosts, who scorned to flee?
Gone! all are gone! In sullen mood
The cruel Arab wanders there,
In search of human spoils and blood,—
The victims of his wily snare:
And where the holy prophets stood
The wild beasts make their secret lair.

["On Judah's Hill," in Emerson Venable (ed.), Poets of Ohio 43 (Cincinnati: The Robert Clarke Company, 1909)]


Warren Jenkins, An Eulogy on the Character and Literary Attainments of Harvey D. Little, late of Columbus, Ohio: delivered before a numerous assembly of the citizens of Columbus and its vicinity on the evening of the 13th November, 1833 : at the request of the Columbus Typographical Society (Columbus, Ohio: Columbus Typographical Society, 1833)