Richard Henry Dana, an American poet and essayist, son of Chief Justice Dana, born at Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 15, 1787. He was educated at Harvard college, in the class of 1808, but did not complete the course, being involved in the noted college rebellion of 1807, and refusing with many others to accept the terms of accommodation offered by the faculty. His degree, however, was conferred upon him, as of 1808, many years later. He spent two years at Newport, R. I., in completing the usual collegiate course, studied law in Boston, and afterward in the office of Robert Goodloe Harper in Baltimore, was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1811, and took up his residence in his native town, where he entered upon his profession, and was for a time also warmly engaged in politics, on the federal side, as a member of the legislature and otherwise. His paramount tastes, however, were literary, and in 1814 he joined the club of gentlemen in Cambridge and Boston by whom the " North American Review" was projected and for a time conducted.
His earliest writings were published in that periodical, the "Essay on Old Times," and an article on the poems of Washington Allston, afterward his brother-in-law. In 1818-19 he was associated with Prof. E. T. Channing in the editorship of that review, in which his criticisms excited much attention. In 1821-'2 he published in numbers "The Idle Man," with some aid from his friends Bryant and Allston. It was read and admired by a class of literary men, but this was too small a public for its continuance. His first poems, "The Dying Raven" and "The Husband and Wife's Grave," appeared in the "New York Review " in 1825, then edited by Bryant. In 1827 he published "The Buccaneer and other Poems," in a small volume which was well received, and highly commended by the critics. In 1833 he published an enlarged volume, including new poems and the papers of "The Idle Man;" and again in 1850, " Poems and Prose Writings" (2 vols.), in which to the contents of the former volume are added poems, the essays and reviews from the "North American Review," and others of more recent date; being a complete collection of his writings, with the exception of a series of eight lectures on Shakespeare delivered in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, in 1839-'40. In the controversy between the Unitarian and Trinitarian Congregationalists of Massachusetts, in 1825-35, Mr. Dana took an active part with the latter; but for many years past he has been connected with the Episcopal church.
The success of Mr. Dana as an author is perhaps more noteworthy for its quality than for its extent. His peculiar style is most highly appreciated by lovers of the simple and masculine beauties of the older English writers. In dealing with the greater passions, the handling is bold, and the language instinctively true, but the manner is dramatic, not melodramatic, nor what is called popular.