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John Trumbull

(1750—1831) poet and judge in the United States of America


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(1750–1831),

member of the Connecticut Wits, graduated from Yale (1767), where with Timothy Dwight and David Humphreys he attempted to liberalize the course of studies and create an interest in modern literature. His valedictory oration, An Essay on the Uses and Advantages of the Fine Arts, attacks subservience to neoclassical rules, but its concluding verses, “Prospect of the Future Glory of America,” are perfect examples of neoclassical versification. After receiving his master's degree (1770), and while tutoring at the college, he wrote The Progress of Dulness (1772–73), a satire on college education. Removing to Boston (1773), he studied law in the office of John Adams, and was stimulated by him to interest himself in the patriotic movement and write his bombastic poem An Elegy on the Times (1774). While practicing law at New Haven and Hartford (1774–1825), he was drawn into the poetic circle of the Wits and into politics. Although he aligned himself on the side of the revolutionaries, he was cautious and moderate, as indicated in his literary contributions to the cause. He was a thinker rather than a man of action. At the instigation of “some leading members of the first Congress,” he wrote the mock epic M'Fingal (1782), satirizing the stupidity of the British. Later, he joined the conservative Federalists, cooperating with them in The Anarchiad, satirizing democratic liberalism.

Subjects: Literature.


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