William Ellery Channing, Poet

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William Ellery Channing

Birthplace: Boston, MA, United States
Death: December 23, 1901 (83)
Concord, MA, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Prof. Walter Channing, M.D. and Barbara Higginson Channing
Husband of Ellen Kilshaw Channing
Father of Margaret Fuller Loring; Caroline Sturgis Cabot; Edward Perkins Channing and Giovanni Eugene Channing
Brother of William Henry Channing; Barbara Channing; Mary Channing and Lucy Channing

Occupation: Transcendentalist poet
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Ellery Channing, Poet

William Ellery Channing (November 29, 1818 – December 23, 1901) was a Transcendentalist poet, nephew of the Unitarian preacher Dr. William Ellery Channing. (His namesake uncle was usually known as "Dr. Channing," while the nephew was commonly called "Ellery Channing," in print.) The younger Ellery Channing was thought brilliant but undisciplined by many of his contemporaries. Amos Bronson Alcott famously said of him in 1871, "Whim, thy name is Channing." Nevertheless, the Transcendentalists thought his poetry among the best of their group's literary products.


   * 1 Life and work
         o 1.1 Death
   * 2 Criticism
   * 3 References
   * 4 External links

Life and work

Channing was born in Boston, Massachusetts to Dr. Walter Channing, a physician and Harvard Medical School professor. He attended Boston Latin School and later the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, then entered Harvard University in 1834, but did not graduate. In 1839 he lived for some months in Woodstock, Illinois in a log hut that he built; in 1840 he moved to Cincinnati. In 1841 he married Ellen Fuller, the younger sister of transcendentalist Margaret Fuller, and they began their married life in Concord, Massachusetts where they lived a half-mile north of The Old Manse as Nathaniel Hawthorne's neighbor.

In Concord he devoted himself to poetry and chopping wood. He was befriended by Henry David Thoreau, and praised and often published in The Dial by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Channing wrote to Thoreau in a letter: "I see nothing for you on this earth but that field which I once christened 'Briars;' go out upon that, build yourself a hut, and there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no alternative, no other hope for you."[1] Thoreau adopted this advice, and shortly after built his famous dwelling beside Walden Pond. Some speculation identifies Channing as the "Poet" of Thoreau's Walden; the two were frequent walking companions.

In 1843 he moved to a hill-top in Concord, some distance from the village, and published his first volume of poems, reprinting several from The Dial. Thoreau called his literary style "sublimo-slipshod".

In 1844–1845, Channing separated from his family and restarted his wandering, unanchored life. He first spent some months in New York City as a writer for the Tribune, after which he made a journey to Europe for several months. In 1846 he returned to Concord and lived alone on the main street, opposite the house occupied by the Thoreau family and then by Alcott. During much of this time he had no fixed occupation, though for a while, in 1855-1856, he was one of the editors of the New Bedford Mercury. After enumerating his various wanderings, places of residence, and rare intervals of employment, his housemate Franklin Benjamin Sanborn wrote of him:

“In all these wanderings and residences his artist eye was constantly seeking out the finest landscapes, and his sauntering habit was to take his friends and introduce them to scenery they could hardly have found for themselves. He showed Thoreau the loveliest recesses of the Concord woods, and of the two rivers that came slowly through them; he preceded Thoreau at Yarmouth and Truro and the Highland shore of Cape Cod; and he even taught Emerson the intimate charm of regions in Concord and Sudbury which he, the older resident and unwearied walker, had never beheld. . . . In mountain-climbing and in summer visits to the wilder parts of New England he preceded Thoreau, being more at leisure in his youth, and less bound by those strict habits of study which were native to Thoreau all his life.”

In 1873, Channing was the first biographer of Thoreau, publishing Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist.


Channing died December 23, 1901 in Concord. He is buried at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord on Author's Ridge directly facing his longtime friend Thoreau.


Critic Edgar Allan Poe was particularly harsh in reviewing Channing's poetry in a series of articles titled "Our Amateur Poets" published in Graham's Magazine in 1843. He wrote, "It may be said in his favor that nobody ever heard of him. Like an honest woman, he has always succeeded in keeping himself from being made the subject of gossip".[2] A critic for the Daily Forum in Philadelphia agreed with Poe, though he was surprised Poe bothered reviewing Channing at all. He wrote: "Mr. Poe, the most hyper-critical writer of this meridian, cuts the poetry of William Ellery Channing, Junior, if not into inches, at least into feet. Mr. C's poetry is very trashy, and we should as soon expect to hear Bryant writing sonnets on a lollypop as to see Mr. Poe gravely attempt to criticize the volume."[3] [edit] References

  1. ^ Channing, William E. William Ellery Channing Letters, 1836-1845
  2. ^ Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001: 178. ISBN 0-8160-4161-X.
  3. ^ Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1987: 432. ISBN 0-7838-1401-1

External links Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: William Ellery Channing (poet) Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ellery Channing

   * Manuscript Collection with a brief Channing biography from the Concord Free Public Libraries
   * Ellery Channing Remembers Henry Thoreau

Source: Downloaded 2010 from Wikipedia.

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William Ellery Channing, Poet's Timeline

November 29, 1818
Boston, MA, United States
April 15, 1846
June 15, 1856
Boston, Suffolk County, MA, United States
December 23, 1901
Age 83
Concord, MA, United States