Twenty-one-year-old Bryant (1794-1878) became a literary star with the publication of "Thanatopsis," written when American literature was in its infancy. (New York Mayor William J. Gaynor later described it as "the most melancholy poem that was ever written.") Bryant went on to become the Grand Old Man of the New York literary world, and is today considered by many to be interesting only as an example of a historical period. But I can forgive a great deal to a man who can compose a poem as poignant as "My Autumn Walk," written when three years of civil war had racked up half a million American casualties.
For over 50 years Bryant was editor of the New York Evening Post, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton. While Greeley's Tribune and Bennett's Herald titillated readers with sensational stories, Bryant transformed the Post into the newspaper of choice for educated New Yorkers.