CURTIS, George William, American essayist and journalist: b. Providence, R. I., 24 Feb. 1824; d. New Brighton, Staten Island, N. Y., 31 Aug. 1892. At 18 he spent some months at Brook Farm (q.v.) and a few years later visited the Old World, the results of his travels appearing in 'Nile Notes of a Howadji' (1851) ; and 'The Howadji in Syria' (1852). He was an early sympathizer with the abolition movement and as the editor of Harper's Weekly for nearly a generation exercised a measurable influence over the more thoughful of his countrymen. At an earlier period he was editor of Putnam's Magazine, which did not prove a financial success, and for many years thereafter he devoted the proceeds of his lecture tours to paying off the obligations relation to that enterprise. From 1854 till not long before his death he edited the "Easy Chair* department of Harper's Magazine, and it is by his "Easy Chair" essays that he is likely to be longest remembered. In these are displayed a gentle persuasiveness of argument and a fund of humor which made them very attractive read ing, while the style was at all times polished and graceful. In them he touched upon the varied topics of the day, the lighter as well as the more serious, and since his death several small volumes of selections from them have been published. He was one of the leaders of
the Republican party at its outset and in his later years was conspicuous as an advocate of civil service reform and of independent action in politics. He declined offers of diplomatic service abroad. A short time before his death he was made chancellor of the University of New York. As a lecturer and orator he was very popular, and several of his political speeches and orations upon special occasions take high rank among specimens of American oratory. Besides the volumes already named he published 'Lotus Eating' (1852); 'The Potiphar Papers) (1853); 'Prue and I' (1856); 'Trumps) (1862). These are more or less ephemeral in their nature, 'Prue and P being the only work among them which interests the present generation. His 'Orations and Ad dresses,' edited by C. E. Norton, appeared in 3 vols., 1893-94. (See ESSAYS FR011 THE EASY CHAIR). Consult Cary, Edward, 'George Wil liam Curtis' (Boston 1894).