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Morris, George Pope

1802 - 1864

George Pope Morris was a central figure in the community of artists and writers--often called the "Knickerbocker" Group--who dominated the cultural scene in New York City before the Civil War. Through his forceful editorship of the New-York Mirror and several subsequent periodicals, he provided significant patronage and encouragement for American arts and letters at a time when such support was as crucial as it was rare. Morris was born in Philadelphia in 1802. He came to New York as a boy and worked within the household of Samuel Woodworth, an author and publisher. As a teenager, he was already writing poetry and contributing to a variety of periodicals. Ultimately, he would publish a novel, two plays, several anthologies, and many essays and poems. Of the latter, the most famous was his exceedingly popular "Woodman, Spare that Tree" of 1837. His greatest contribution, however, was as an editor. With Woodworth, he founded the weekly New-York Mirror in 1823, but within a year became the sole owner and publisher. The Mirror served as a cradle for American writers such as William C. Bryant, James K. Paulding, N. P. Willis, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and Edgar Allan Poe. It was also distinguished for its promotion of the visual arts, particularly through the commissioning of portraits and costly engravings. These expenditures proved to be too much, however, and in 1842 the Mirror went out of business. For the next two decades Morris owned and edited a series of publications, but none had the influence and staying power of his original Mirror. In 1857 he fell ill and traveled south in an effort to recuperate. Thereafter he spent much of his time at his estate, Undercliff, on the Hudson River north of New York. He died in 1864. (Kelly et al. 1996, 347, 349)
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