Ohio History Journal

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Edited by ALICE E. SMITH


Thomas Buchanan Read was less than twenty years old when

he wrote the letters printed below, yet he had experienced many

and strange adventures. At the age of fourteen he had rebelled

at the life of a tailor's apprentice and escaped to Philadelphia.

Here for a time he had clerked in a cellar grocery, then served

as apprentice to a cigar maker, and finally made his way on a

flatboat to Cincinnati. For three years he had made this city his

headquarters, spending his time variously as a sign painter, a

sculptor, a student, an actor impersonating female parts, and a

cigar maker. For a brief space he had enjoyed a studio of his

own, under the patronage of Nicholas Longworth, but the impet-

uous youth would not accept the latter's well-merited criticisms,

and the two parted.

The two years covered in these letters see Read a successful

artist in his own community and his departure for New York City,

smarting under Longworth's prediction of failure. Here his charm

of personality and his vivacity at once made him a popular mem-

ber of the group of other young artists from the West. He kept

in touch with his Cincinnati friends by his exhibitions in the

recently established Academy of Fine Arts and by his letters to

Edwin R. Campbell. These letters indicate that he was quite "the

man about town," and on terms of more or less intimacy with

journalists and novelists of the day, many of whom he character-

izes. The final letter finds him in Boston, worshipping at the feet

of the great painter, Washington Allston.

In Boston he met Henry W. Longfellow whose success and

advice doubtless encouraged Read to attempt the writing of poetry.

His earliest verses were published in the Boston Courier and in