The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 9. Philadelphia Poets
Boston was not the only literary centre of this transition period. Franklin tells us in his Autobiography that when he first entered the printing office of Samuel Keimer in Philadelphia in 1723, he found the printer laboriously composing in type an elegy on Aquila Rose, a young poet who had just died in that city—perhaps the worst elegy ever written. The poet elegized died in 1723 at the age of twenty-eight. Within the few years preceding his death he wrote the slight occasional poems in heroic couplets that were in 1740 published in a volume by his son. Probably at no time would Aquila Rose have been a poet, but his verses were quite the best that Philadelphia had yet produced, and were to remain so until Thomas Godfrey surpassed them a generation later. Furthermore, they show that the new influences from England had reached Philadelphia as well as Boston. George Webb, a member of Franklin’s “Junto,” wrote Batchelors’ Hall in defence of the life led by himself and other young bachelors at their club near the city. Unconventional as that life may have been, Webb’s heroic couplets are as conventional as could be desired, and, together with the verses written by other members of his circle, they recall the dominant hand of Pope. Intrinsically unimportant as was all the verse written in Philadelphia in this early period, it must have done its work in creating a literary atmosphere and in establishing traditions; for this city remained throughout the entire century the centre both for the writing and the publishing of American poetry.