N. P. Willis


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born in Maine and reared in Boston, while at Yale published blank-verse paraphrases of Biblical themes, for which he was hailed as a leading U.S. poet. His collection of verse Sketches was published the year of his graduation (1827). He founded the American Monthly Magazine (1829–31), a literary journal in which he published some of his best stories and sketches, later frequently reprinted. Although the magazine lasted only two years, and Willis was less than 25, he was established as the most worldly and fluent of American editors. His representation of himself as an aesthete led Holmes to say “He was something between a remembrance of Count D'Orsay and an anticipation of Oscar Wilde.” As a sort of foreign correspondent on social affairs for the New-York Mirror, he traveled on the Continent, in England, and through Turkey and the Middle East (1832–36), writing letters collected in Pencillings by the Way (3 vols., London, 1835; Philadelphia, 1836; complete edition, New York, 1844) and Loiterings of Travel (3 vols., 1840). Returning to the U.S., he wrote romantic tragedies, Bianca Visconti (1837) and Tortesa the Usurer (1839); American sketches, collected in A I'Abri; or, The Tent Pitch'd (1839) and American Scenery (2 vols., 1840); Dashes at Life with a Free Pencil (1845), short stories whose surprise endings foreshadow those of O. Henry; his only novel, Paul Fane (1857), the story of a young painter adored by women as a celebrity but disdained as a social inferior.

Subjects: Literature.

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