New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1865. First edition. Hardcover. This is a rare copy of the final major poem of the writer known in his time as the "American Byron." Halleck (1790-1867) was noted for his satire. His poetry was popular and widely read, including by other writers such as Edgar Allen Poe. One critic has called Halleck the "anti-Melville" -- that is, well known in his day but forgotten now except for academics who dissect its homosexual undertones. Halleck served in New York City as a secretary and cultural advisor to John Jacob Astor and retired in 1849 to his hometown of Guilford, Connecticut on the annuity he received from Astor's estate. He lived with in relative seclusion, annoyed by requests for public appearances and people who wrote to say they had named a child after him, which he found it "a calamity that costs me a letter of profound gratefulness."
Young America was first published in the New York Ledger on January 2, 1864, when Hallek was nearly 75 years old. "Having once observed, 'Ere the dolphin dies / Its hues are brightest,' Halleck had saved his best for last," writes J.W. Halleck in The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck. "Although America grew more homophobic after the Civil War when a conservative backlash reestablished the pursuit of sodomites, Halleck felt a new freedom in his final years and transformed a popular political phrase into a pederastic spoof on marriage.... The poem reviews American history from its religious foundation (personified by a preacher) to its independence (personified by a Revolutionary War soldier).... An eroticized 14-year-old boy symbolizes the nation at a new point of maturity after the Civil War.... The boy is an effeminate figure with the "sweetest tone" and 'bright gold hair/ In thick curls clustering round his even brow / And dimpled cheek.' Like a sexual cherub, he sleeps in a garden ripe for plucking." Hallecks' last words, according to his sister, were "Marie, hand me my pantaloons, if you please." 16mo, 49pp. (4 1/2 x 7"). Illustrated title and cover image in blue ink on white. OCLC: 3326174. Good condition, with some soiling to cover, damage to spine and cover partially detached. Pages tight but some small age spots within. Item #16750