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THE MAGAZINE OF POETRY.
GEORGE HENRY BOKER.
EORGE H. BOKER was born in Philadelphia,
life. But in his shorter poems Boker was not slow to reflect the life of his own country and of his own time. The period was rapidly approaching when he was to demonstrate his power as an American poet, dealing with American subjects of immediate and vital interest.
In 1862, when the civil war in the United States was under way, and the Union was in serious peril, Mr. Boker took a leading and active part in foundwith a number of other loyal men, the Union League of Philadelphia, which led to the forming of similar organizations throughout the Northern States, and contributed the equipment of 10,000 men and large sums of money to the Union cause. Mr. Boker was the secretary of the League during the war, and afterwards served as its president for several years. During this time he wrote a number of poems on the war and on the national situation, which gained wide currency and had a great effect in stimulating Union sentiment. Among the most notable of these were "The Black Regiment," the "Dirge for a Soldier," and Cavalry Sheridan."
in 1823. His ancestors were Dutch and French (the family name having been, originally, Bocher); and his father was a rich and prosperous banker, who held a high rank among Philadelphia financiers in the first half of this century. Graduating at Nassau Hall, Princeton (now Princeton College), at the age of nineteen, Mr. Boker beinging, free from the need of fixing upon any business or profession for the purpose of making money, resolved to devote himself to literature. He was prospectively rich, and his social position was of the best; but in those days it was generally thought to be an almost fatal mistake for a young man with prospects so brilliant to choose the pursuit of literature, instead of going into commerce, manufacture, or banking, or adopting one of the learned professions in which he might add to his wealth. It required courage on the part of Boker to set himself against the prevalent social prejudice in Philadelphia society towards the literary profession. He persisted, however, and began his career with a volume of poems entitled "The Lesson of Life," which was published in 1847, when he was twenty-four. The next year, he published a tragedy "Calaynos," which was acted in England with great success, and had a long run there; being afterwards played in Philadelphia for many nights. In rapid succession, he produced four other plays, "The Betrothal," "Francesca da Rimini," "Leonor de Guzman," and "Anne Boleyn." The first two were acted and became popular on the stage, bringing to their author a substantial pecuniary reward. "Francesca da Rimini" was revived, about 1883, by the distinguished American tragedian, Lawrence Barrett, and was played by him for several seasons, securing a brilliant and popular success. These plays were written in blank verse, of which Mr. Boker is an unquestioned master. It will be noticed that his dramatic themes were all suggested by European history, or European poetry, romance and
In 1872 Mr. Boker was appointed by Pres. Grant United States minister at Constantinople, and from thence promoted to represent this country at St. Petersburg. In both these official positions he rendered valuable services, and from them he returned to Philadelphia with fresh and enduring honors won during his eight years of brilliant diplomatic work.
Besides the volumes mentioned above, he has published several other books, among which are “Königsmark," a tragedy, with additional poems (1869), "Poems of the War" (1873), and "The Book of the Dead" (1881). His skill in the sonnet caused Leigh Hunt, many years ago, to place him in the foremost line of the world's sonneteers; and his sonnet to England, beginning "Lear and Cordelia," was a favorite with Daniel Webster, who used to recite it from memory.
Mr. Boker lives in Philadelphia, in the luxurious house on Walnut street which has long been his home. There, surrounded by an ample library