Poet, editor, essayist. Hayne was born as the only child of a prominent Charleston family on January 1, 1830, and named for his father, a navy lieutenant who died when Hayne was only one year old. He was brought up by his mother, Emily McElhenney, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, and his uncle, U.S. Senator Robert Young Hayne. The uncle died in 1839 after having decisively influenced his nephew, who wrote an admiring sketch of Robert Hayne in 1878.
Hayne graduated from the College of Charleston (1850), studied law under James Louis Petigru, and was admitted to the bar, but found the legal profession disagreeable. Already in 1845 Hayne had published poems in the Charleston Courier under the pseudonym “Alphaeus,” and in 1848 he contributed to the Southern Literary Messenger. He became the manager of the short-lived Southern Literary Gazette, a weekly, and wrote for several journals including Graham’s Magazine.
On May 20, 1852, Hayne married Mary Middleton Michel, the daughter of a Charleston physician. They had one son. Before the war he published three volumes of poetry, which were representative of the literary taste of the time: Poems (1855), with the ambitious poem “The Temptation of Venus”; Sonnets, and Other Poems (1857); and Avolio: A Legend of the Island of Cos (1860), the title poem of which is an involved narrative effort. His poems were from the start devoted to the universal. The best early work is in the versatile son- nets where the Elizabethan heritage is obvious. And in April of the following year, at the urging of William Gilmore Simms and Henry Timrod, Hayne became the editor of Russell’s Magazine, which he made a successful periodical. It was the last important literary magazine founded in the South before the war.
Hayne supported South Carolina’s withdrawal from the Union. In the fall of 1851 he wrote for the unsuccessful secession organ the Palmetto Flag. He wrote poetry in support of the Confederacy, especially in 1862, mostly on the themes of family, native land, and death. Some poems are rousing, such as his “Vicksburg: A Ballad,” “Charleston,” “Beyond the Potomac,” and “My Mother Land.” He served as an aide-de-camp to Governor Francis Pickens, but his health put a stop to this after only four months. After the war he was ruined and his Charleston home and library burned, so in 1866 he moved to a small plot of barren pineland and a cabin at Groveton near Augusta, Georgia. It was here at Copse Hill in his reduced circumstances that he wrote some of his best poetry, such as “South Carolina to the States of the North,” protesting the exploitation of the South during Reconstruction.
During the last decades of his life Hayne published additional volumes of poetry: Legends and Lyrics (1872); The Mountain of the Lovers: with Poems of Nature and Tradition (1875) with “Aspects of the Pines”; and Poems: Complete Edition (1882) with the lyrical poems “The Mocking-Bird” and “A Dream of the South Winds.” In these poems Hayne became a subtle interpreter of nature in her southern aspects.
Hayne lived by selling his poems or essays, mainly to northern journals, such as Appleton’s Journal and Lippincott’s Magazine. He was an eclectic critic who judged by personal taste rather than aesthetic standard. Hayne rejected Walt Whitman’s free verse and ideas, but recognized the genius of Edgar Allen Poe at an early date. He edited The Poems of Henry Timrod (1873) and added “A Memoir”; in youth they were classmates at Christopher Cotes’s school in Charleston and had remained friends.
Hayne corresponded with the best writers in the nation and in Europe and was, as one of few in the post-Reconstruction South, respected in academia as a refined poet and cultured man of letters. In this sense Hayne was a vital link between the culture of the ante- bellum and postbellum South. The year before his death he wrote a reminiscing essay for The Southern Bivouac (Louisville) on “Ante-Bellum Charleston,” which offers an account of a golden time in the intellectual and cultural life. He died at Copse Hill on July 6, 1886, and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta, Georgia. Duke University Libraries have a considerable col- lection of Hayne manuscripts; Librivox recorded “Freshness of Poetic Perception: Paul Hamilton Hayne’s Poetry” in 2012.
Hubbell, Jay B. The South in American Literature, 1607–1900. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1954.
Moore, Rayburn S. Paul Hamilton Hayne. New York: Twayne, 1972.
Parks, Edd Winfield. Ante-Bellum Southern Literary Critics. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1962.