Clifford Anderson Lanier

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Clifford Anderson Lanier

Birthdate: (64)
Birthplace: Griffin, Spaulding County, Georgia, United States
Death: November 3, 1908 (64)
Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, United States
Place of Burial: Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. Robert Sampson Lanier and Mary Jane Lanier
Husband of Wilhelmina Lanier
Father of Wilhelmina Tilley and Clifford Anderson Lanier
Brother of Sidney Clopton Lanier, Sr., the poet and Gertrude Gibson

Managed by: William Chandler Lanier Jr.
Last Updated:

About Clifford Anderson Lanier

Excerpted from the preview of Clifford Anderson Lanier, by David Jones, published in The Georgia Review, Vol. 14, No. 2 (SUMMER - 1960), pp. 205-214

When Clifford died on Nov. 3, 1908, a writer for The Atlanta Journal noted that, “Clifford Lanier was a man of great literary acquirements and artistic inclinations.” He was a poet and novelist, a soldier, an educator, a businessman interested in the welfare of his family and community. His most notable quality was his unselfishness, his willingness to help others. Had it not been for Clifford’s financial assistance, undoubtedly Sidney’s literary contributions would have been considerably less. Some member of the family had to accept the material responsibility, and Clifford graciously consented in order that Sidney might have more freedom to write. Probably the best observation of this situation is seen in a letter to Clifford from his father when the former was 34 years of age: “What you say relative to the distinction other men have won in the world brings to me an almost painful sense of your sacrifices. I do indeed daily think of you as a hero, who has had the courage to repress aspiration for distinction, with the view of benefiting others.”

Clifford Lanier was born in Griffin, Georgia, April 24, 1844, two years after his brother, Sidney. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Macon, Georgia, where Clifford spent his boyhood. His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother was a deeply religious, hard-working, thrifty woman whose life was centered around her home and children. Clifford has testified that his mother’s thrift enabled the family to live “comfortably, if narrowly.” She was an accomplished musician and frequently played the piano and sang with her children hymns and popular melodies. Many years later, Clifford wrote that neighbors had spoken of their pleasure “hearing childish voices in chorus between supper and bedtime, a concord of sweetly simple sounds floating on moonlight from the windows of the… home.” During this period of their childhood in Macon, Clifford and Sidney were close companions and developed together their interest in nature which is such an important part of their writings. Thinking of these experiences, Clifford wrote: “Up over the Indian mound, where grew the biggest haws and could be found the brightest arrowheads of quartz or flint, we plunged every permissible Saturday, for a day among doves, black birds, robins, plover, snipe, or rabbits… I can recall but one single instance of fighting between him [Sidney] and his brother [Clifford] and that scrimmage seems to have resolved itself into a holding of the younger by the strong grasp of the elder until a returning sense of amiableness succeeded the short madness which anger is said to be.”


Timeline of events taken from the article:

  • 1844, April 24: born in Griffin, Spaulding County, Georgia, two years after his older brother, Sidney (who is presumed to have been born in the same town). Shortly after, the family moved to Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, where the boys grew up. Father was a lawyer, mother was an accomplished musician who taught her children to sing hymns and popular melodies.
  • 1858: Grandfather hires him as a clerk in his hotel, the Exchange Hotel, in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • 1859, Dec. 25: Makes plans to follow his older brother and enroll in the Presbyterian-run Oglethorpe University at Midway (present Hardwick), Baldwin County, Georgia. At the time, the state capital was in Milledgeville, two miles north.
  • 1860, Fall: Clifford enrolls at Oglethorpe, studying Greek, Latin, mathematics. He joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and the Thalian Society, a secret literary society presided at the time by his older brother Sidney, then a senior at the university.
  • 1861, Spring: Even after secession and the opening shots at Fort Sumter, Oglethorpe University continued to operate. Clifford earns praise for his studies, one professor writing: “Your general arrangement of the language of a sentence, is very good, for one so young.”
  • 1861, Summer: Clifford appears to be a reluctant supporter of the Southern cause: “I hear of nothing but disunion and see only blue cockades fluttering in the wind. My politics are practicable and honorable Union - beyond that dissolution.”
  • 1861, Fall: As a result of ill health, Clifford does not return to Oglethorpe University in the Fall.
  • 1861, December: Returns to Montgomery to serve as a clerk in the Exchange Hotel
  • 1862, April 24: In the week after his 18th birthday, Clifford enlists in the Macon Volunteers, joining his older brother Sidney there. They are soon after encamped at Wilmington, North Carolina. "[We] are now encamped about two miles from the city, behind a series of batteries extending for a mile or two new Cape Fear River - I don’t think we will stay here long, but have no idea where we will next be ordered.”
  • 1862, June: the Macon Volunteers are reorganized and sent north to build Fort Fisher near Drury's Bluff.
  • 1862, June 16: the brothers take part in fighting around Richmond.
  • 1862, July 2: following conclusion of battles near Richmond, the brothers are sent on an expedition down the James River: “One morning at dawn (we were camped at Burwell’s Bay, James River, 30 miles from Fortress Monroe), the enemy sent up gunboats and a transport, landed a regiment, surrounded or attempted to surround our party of 18, drove us out of hiding… and captured our camp equipage (very slim supply of frying pans, ‘spiders’ for cooling, wooden bunks), two guitars, change of clothing, shaving appliances, love letters, quinine pills, sassafras root, althea tooth brushes… and also the… small select library…”
  • 1862, Fall: After the expedition down the James River, the brothers return to the safety of Petersburg. They are transferred from the infantry to the mounted signal service. Leisure time included playing musical instruments and visiting acquaintances in town.
  • 1862, Dec. 15: the brothers are sent to Kinston, NC, to campaign against Union raiders: “We are again safely back in Petersburg. Returning, we came on horseback, there being want of transportation by Rail Road, and had a delightful trip, traveling about 35 miles a day and living on country fare… We did not get fairly into any of the engagements, getting only close enough to hear a few bombs… We were of considerable service dispatching several important communications… Our military prospects appear to be brighter than they have ever been since the First Battle of Manassas. God grant us an early peace!”
  • 1863, May, the brothers are engaged in a retreat toward Richmond: "Never was there a better conducted or more successful retreat. I doubt if a single man was left behind. The enemy was completely deceived.”
  • 1863, Aug. 1: Clifford writes: “…I have looked on and still regard life as a gift processing its pains but having the glorious amenities of Love to God, Love to man - faith and duty - which will inevitably bring nobility of living and of manner and a full capacity for the enjoyment of innocent pleasures. In this consists the great happiness I have in the contemplation of a fine sunset - in the blowing of a pretty rose - in all natural beauty whatsoever.”
  • 1863, December: the brothers are assigned to blockade runners operating between Charleston and Nassau in the British Bahamas. Clifford sales on the Talisman, Sidney on another vessel that was soon captured.
  • 1864, Dec. 24: Clifford sales on his last voyage aboard the Talisman. The ship runs aground and he and his shipmates are rescued by a Northern schooner before the ship sank. Somehow, though, he escapes to Bermuda. He soon learns that Wilmington was captured and Charleston abandoned as Sherman advances northward.
  • 1865, Apr. 2, Clifford arrives in Galveston, Texas, after making his way through Cuba past the Union blockade.
  • 1865, Apr. 3: Clifford leaves Marshall, Texas in a cattle car. Two hours later, he is transferred to an overpacked stagecoach that carried 8 persons inside and 7 outside. He sold his clothing, blankets, and other possessions for food and tobacco.
  • 1865, Apr. 12: After reaching the Red River, Clifford travels by boat to the river's confluence with the Mississippi River. He walks from this point to Columbus, Georgia, covering 10-30 miles per day on his way back home.
  • 1865, May 19: After following Union Gen. Wilson's cavalry out of Columbus, Clifford reaches Macon, just as his mother was resting in her deathbed.
  • 1865, May 22: Clifford's mother, Mary Jane, dies in Macon. A few weeks after, he returns to Montgomery to work at his old job in the Exchange Hotel, and begins to write Thorn-Fruit, his autobiographical work of fiction that would later be published as Story No. 3 in the "Library of Select Novels by Southern Authors" by Blelock and Co. of New York.
  • 1867, Nov. 16: Clifford marries Wilhelmina Clopton, of near Montgomery. He expresses his love for her in his poem "Wilhelmein".
  • 1868: Clifford begins to study law.
  • 1869: Thorn-Fruit receives critical acclaim in various newspapers throughout the south, including The New Orleans Picayune, The Charleston Mercury, and The Macon Telegraph. James Wood Davidson reviews his work in "The Living Writers of the South". Clifford's name becomes well-known in Southern literary circles. Around the same time, Sidney writes Tiger-Lillies, which he eventually has to self-publish.
  • 1870: Clifford is admitted to the bar in Alabama. He continues to work at the Exchange Hotel, eventually becoming its proprietor and a successful businessman in Montgomery. He writes about the Reconstruction era as it happens. The work, called Carpet-Baggery, won't be published until 31 years after his death.
  • 1874: Clifford's best known poem: "The Power of Prayer: or the First Steamboat up the Alabama" is published in Scribner's Magazine.
  • 1875: Clifford is at the height of his career, with two children: a son and a daughter. He spends more time writing and is at his most productive stage of his writing. He begins writing his Eight Sonnets to Sidney, which he sent to his brother, usually with gifts of money intended to support him. This will be published some seven years after his death in New York.
  • 1876: The Exchange Hotel suffers a poor year, but Clifford continues to help his older brother as best he can.
  • 1878: Sidney Lanier's health begins to decline.
  • 1881, Sept. 7: Older brother Sidney Lanier dies. Clifford pays burial expenses. He is crushed by the loss, but he still does his best to support his widow and orphans.
  • 1885: Clifford retires from his work at the Exchange Hotel. He writes poetry for a variety of publications, including Harper’s Magazine, The Chautauquan, The Dial, and the Christian Advocate of Nashville.
  • 1902: Clifford sees one book of his poetry published: Apollo and Keats on Browning: A Fantasy and Other Poems, by Goreham Press in Boston. he writes about his style of poetry: “I love almost any poem which suffuses beauty with its moral lesson. I do not esteem verses for expression merely, but my taste calls for some uplift or thrill of pleasure from a truth flashing lightning-like from a scarf of cloud. All my efforts are to teach.”
  • 1908, Nov. 3: Clifford Lanier dies at age 64. It is said that he would have been better known if he hadn't been burdened with providing a living for his extended family.
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Clifford Anderson Lanier's Timeline

April 24, 1844
Griffin, Spaulding County, Georgia, United States
January 25, 1869
Age 24
Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, United States
September 5, 1870
Age 26
Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, United States
November 3, 1908
Age 64
Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, United States
Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, United States