Freneau, Philip

Freneau, Philip frēnōˈ [key], 1752–1832, American poet and journalist, b. New York City, grad. Princeton, 1771. During the American Revolution he served as soldier and privateer. His experiences as a prisoner of war were recorded in his poem The British Prison Ship (1781). The first professional American journalist, he was a powerful propagandist and satirist for the American Revolution and for Jeffersonian democracy. Freneau edited various papers, including the partisan National Gazette (Philadelphia, 1791–93) for Jefferson. He was usually involved in editorial quarrels, and, influential though he was, none of his papers was profitable. His political and satirical poems have value mainly for historians, but his place as the earliest important American lyric poet is secured by such poems as “The Wild Honeysuckle,” “The Indian Burying Ground,” and “Eutaw Springs.”

See his Poems (ed. by F. L. Pattee, 3 vol., 1902–7) and Last Poems (ed. by L. Leary, 1946); biography by L. Leary (1941, repr. 1964); studies by P. M. Marsh (1968 and 1970).

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