Holland, Edwin Clifford
In 1813 Holland published his own collection of poetry, Odes, Naval Songs, and Other Occasional Poems. Influenced by the British Romantics’ trend of sea poetry, Holland’s writing often praised the U.S. Navy and emphasized patriotic themes.
Lawyer, poet, editor. Born in Charleston, Holland was the son of John Holland and Jane Marshall. He became a noted lawyer and essayist, serving late in his life as editor of the Charleston Times.
In 1813 Holland published his own collection of poetry, Odes, Naval Songs, and Other Occasional Poems. Influenced by the British Romantics’ trend of sea poetry, Holland’s writing often praised the U.S. Navy and emphasized patriotic themes. In “The Pillar of Glory” he celebrates the United States’ stand against Britain in the War of 1812: “Already the storm of contention has hurl’d / From the grasp of Old England the trident of war / The beams of our stars have illumined the world / Unfurl’d our standard beats proud in the air / Wild glares the eagle’s eye / Swift as he cuts the sky / Marking the wake where our heroes advance.”
In 1818 Holland published a poetic drama entitled The Corsair: A Melo-Drama, in Four Acts. The work is a conscious imitation of Lord Byron, the Romantic poet Holland most admired. The preface explains that his inspiration was Byron’s poem “The Corsair.” “I never read a line, or recalled an image of this magnificent production,” wrote Holland, “without feelings of indescribable admiration.” He likewise credited the South Carolina landscape for his poetic fervor: “There is a kind of southern aspect in our fortunes, absolutely necessary for the perfection of literary plans.” The Corsair was performed at the Charleston Theatre in 1818.
Holland’s most enduring literary work was published anonymously. In response to growing turmoil over the issue of slavery, in 1822 he produced a pamphlet titled A Refutation of the Calumnies Circulated Against the Southern and Western States, Respecting the Institution and Existence of Slavery Among Them. Two subtitles further explain Holland’s purpose: To Which Is Added, A Minute and Particular Account of the Actual State and Condition of Their Negro Population; Together with Historical Notices of All the Insurrections That Have Taken Place Since the Settlement of the Country. A slaveholder, Holland included both his own testimony as well as letters from many of his lawyer friends defending the humane treatment of South Carolina’s slaves. He argued that slave life is significantly better than that of the English poor and warned against slave insurrections: “A few hours would decide the conflict, and the utter extermination of the black race would be the inevitable consequence.” Lamenting the existence of free blacks as “the greatest and most deplorable evil with which we are unhappily afflicted,” Holland concluded with the harsh warning, “Let it never be forgotten, that our negroes are truly the Jacobins of the country . . . the common enemy of civilized society, and the barbarians who would, if they could, become the destroyers of our race.” Holland’s work stands both as a historic record of slave insurrections and as a startling document of an educated citizen’s honest, but obviously racist, beliefs. He died of yellow fever in Charleston on September 11, 1824, at age thirty.
[Holland, Edwin C.] A Refutation of the Calumnies Circulated Against the Southern and Western States, Respecting the Institution and Existence of Slavery Among Them. 1822. Reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969.
Kettell, Samuel. Specimens of American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices. 3 vols. 1829. Reprint, New York: Benjamin Blom, 1967.