The Magazine

Literary Minority

The quest for a modest immortality may be genetic.

Dec 21, 2009, Vol. 15, No. 14 • By BARTON SWAIM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Six years into a literary career that seemed to be on the rise, tragedy struck. Somehow, on a trip to Winston Salem to gather intelligence for the Patriot, William received an "injury"--a biographical sketch published in 1866 leaves the matter unspecific. What he thought was a superficial wound became life-threatening, and William died in December 1835, leaving his wife, Abiah, and their two-year-old daughter.

William Swaim wrote nothing of permanent literary value. On the other hand, he changed a few minds, softened a few consciences, and prophesied the consequences of denying men their freedom.

Universal fame would be a marvelous thing. But to spread a little wisdom, then to be forgotten, would be all right, too.

Barton Swaim is the author, most recently, of Scottish Men of Letters and the New Public Sphere: 1802-1834.