Charles Frederick Briggs


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Sections:  Biography    Criticism    Bibliography


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Charles Frederick Briggs

Charles Frederick Briggs

(Born: December 30, 1804 - Died: June 20, 1877)

American journalist, editor and minor poet. He was born in Nantucket, MA as the 5th of 6 children of Jonathan Coffin Briggs (1765-1853) and Sally Coffin (1767-1841). (Jonathan C. Briggs was a sea captain and later a member of the legislature on Nantucket. Sally Coffin was his first cousin, and she had previously been married to Samuel Barrett, who died in 1792, leaving her a widow. At the time of Charles’s birth, they were living in a house at 16 Union Street, a house that was build in 1800 and still standing, although it was heavily rennovated in 2008.) Mabbott states that Briggs “wrote anonymously the introduction to the first American illustratred edition of Poe’s Poems, 1859,” although this attribution has been disputed. Briggs married Deborah Rawson on May 16, 1836. (Deborah Rason was Charles’s first cousin, her mother, Lydia Briggs, being the sister of Charles’s father.) He died in Brooklyn, NY, and is buried in the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island. (Mrs. Briggs lived to the age of 94, and died on September 10, 1899, and is buried in the same cemetery.)

Brigg’s first child, a son, was born in 1844, but died in infancy. (According to one account, James Russell Lowell’s poem “On the Death of a Friend’s Child,” dated September 3, 1844 and first published in the United States Magazine and Democractic Review for October 1844, was written in honor of the death of Brigg’s son. See the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, NY, for June 25, 1877, p. 2.) He later had a daughter, Charlotte Puffer Briggs, born before 1849 (died December 13, 1927), who apparently never married. They may also have had another son, William Coffin Briggs (1843-1922), and possibly one or two other children. Another possible child is Lydia Rawson Briggs (1845-1906), who married Samuel Barton. Other children may be Gertrude Briggs, Dudley or Harvey Briggs and Charles Briggs (based on a legal notice in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of December 6, 1922, p. 21, col. 2). (The repetition of several names makes genealogy particularly difficult for this family.) (Charlotte and William were both still alive as of 1914, when they were listed as members of the Nantucket Historical Assocation.) The obituary of Deborah R. Briggs in 1899 notes only that she was survived by a daughter, Charlotte P. Briggs.

Among his works are “Gimcrackery” (a light-hearted series for the Knickerbocker), and the novels The Adventures of Harry Franco: A Tale of the Great Panic (1839), The Haunted Merchant (1843), Working a Passage, or Life in a Liner (1844), and The Trippings of Tom Pepper; or, The Results of Romancing, an Autobiography (1847). He was an editor of Holden’s Dollar Magazine in 1850 (see the Weekly Standard of Raleigh, NC, January 16, 1850, p. 3). He joined the staff of the New York Times in 1852. In 1857, while Henry J. Raymond was traveling abroad, Briggs was acting supervising editor (see the Daily Picayune of New Orleans, LA, for June 9, 1857, p. 4 and the Buffalo Express and Daily Democracy of Buffalo, NY, for June 18, 1857, p. 2). He was later an editor of the New York periodical, the Independent. At one time he was an editor of Putnam’s Magazine.

Briggs was well known for his biting sense of humor and his determined inclination to argue. A widely repeated anecdote held that a friend was willing to bet Briggs that 2 and 2 make four. Briggs held his ground and insisted that 2 and 2 made 22. (The anecdote is given in various newspapers, including the Indianapolis News of Indianapolis, IN for July 2, 1877, p. 2.)

 

  • Notice from “The Literati”
    • Charles F. Briggs” (“The Literati of New York City” - No. I) — May 1846 — Godey’s Lady’s Book   (reprinted in the June 1846 issue)
    • Charles F. Briggs” (“The Literati”) — 1850 — WORKS

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  • Duyckinck, E. A. and G. L., “Charles F. Briggs,” Cyclopedia of American Literature, New York: Charles Scribner, 1856, 2:581-582
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943.
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed., The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches) , Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978. (Second printing 1979)
  • Reece, James B., Poe and the New York Literati: A Study of the “Literati” Sketches and of Poe’s Relations with the New York Writers, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Duke University, 1954.

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