Notes Concerning the Author
In addition to the Henry Timrod biography, Walter Brian Cisco is the author of States Rights Gist: A South Carolina General of the Civil War; and Taking a Stand; Portraits from the Southern Secession Movement. He is also the author of an excellent biography of Wade Hampton III (see 07.01.02) and War Crimes Against Civilians (see 05.05.11). He lives in Cordovoa, South Carolina. Cisco is a fine example of a non-academic who has written some of the best works available on the subjects of which he has written.
Walter Brian Cisco succeeds in writing a balanced account of the life of Henry Timrod (1828-1867), the poet laureate of the wartime South (War Between the States). In 120 pages of narrative, Cisco captures the heart and soul of Timrod, a poet who wrote poignantly of his native region and the struggle of the Confederacy to survive as a nation. Timrod’s poetry is interspersed throughout the text, and Cisco informs his readers of the context and background of each literary creation.
Henry Timrod’s life and work were both brief: he died at age thirty-nine, after a nine-year struggle with tuberculosis. Cisco reveals Timrod as a man with a fragile body and a sensitive soul. The narrative begins with the 1901 ceremony dedicating the statue of Timrod in Charleston’s Washington Park and then moves backward to the story of Timrod’s life. Though Cisco’s book is not a thesis-driven work, there is a foreshadowing that Timrod’s impending death is central to understanding his life and work.
Afflicted with both a romanticized view of life and a frail body, Timrod found his mood elevated by each new love interest, only to suffer rejection due to his poverty. Timrod supported himself through tutoring the children of wealthy planters, working for local newspapers, ad other jobs that demanded writing skill, but he never found any of them rewarding or lucrative. He eventually married, and by all accounts, the marriage was a happy one, but his only child died in infancy.
The final chapter, which centers on Timrod’s death, is full of pathos; Cisco’s description transports the reader to the poet’s bedside. The narrative ends as it began, with the dedication of Timrod’s statue in Charleston’s Washington Park in May 1901.
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