Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Carter, Robert

606475Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography — Carter, RobertRossiter Johnson

CARTER, Robert, editor, b. in Albany, N. Y., 5 Feb., 1819; d. in Cambridge, Mass., 15 Feb., 1879. He received a common-school education, and passed one term in the Jesuit college of Chambly, Canada. In his fifteenth year he was appointed assistant librarian in the state library at Albany, where he remained till 1838. At this time he began to publish poems and sketches in the daily papers, his first contribution being a long poem, which he dropped stealthily into the editor's letterbox, and which appeared the next day with flattering comments, but so frightfully misprinted that he hardly knew it. This experience and a natural aptitude led him to acquire proof-reading as an accomplishment, at which he became very expert. In 1841 he went to Boston, where he formed a life-long friendship with James Russell Lowell, and together they began “The Pioneer,” a literary monthly magazine, which Duyckinck says was “of too fine a cast to be successful.” Nevertheless, its want of success was due, not to the editors, but to the publisher, who mismanaged it and failed when but three numbers had been issued. Among the contributors were Poe, Hawthorne, Whittier, Neal, Miss Barrett (afterward Mrs. Browning), and the sculptor Story. Mr. Carter began in its pages a serial novel entitled “The Armenian's Daughter.” He next spent two years in editing statistical and geographical works, and writing for periodicals. His story, “The Great Tower of Tarudant,” ran through several numbers of the “Broadway Journal,” then edited by Poe. In 1845 he became a clerk in the post-office at Cambridge, and in 1847-'8 was private secretary to Prescott the historian. His elaborate article on the character and habits of Prescott, written for the New York “Tribune” just after the historian's death in 1859, was re-published in the memorial volume issued by the Massachusetts historical society. Mr. Carter joined the free-soil party in 1848, and in 1850 wrote for the Boston “Atlas” a series of brilliant articles in reply to Francis Bowen's attack on the Hungarian revolutionists. These articles were re-published in a pamphlet, “The Hungarian Controversy” (Boston, 1852), and are said to have caused the rejection of Mr. Bowen's nomination as professor of history at Harvard. At the same time Carter edited, with Kossuth's approval, a large volume entitled “Kossuth in New England” (Boston, 1852). In 1851-'2 he edited, at first as assistant of John G. Palfrey and afterward alone, the Boston “Commonwealth,” the chief exponent of the free-soilers. For two years he was secretary of the state committee of the free-soil party, and in the summer of 1854 he obtained the consent of the committee to call a convention, which he did without assistance, sending out thousands of circulars to men whose names were on the committee's books. The convention met in Worcester, 20 July, was so large that no hall could contain it, and held its session in the open air. A short platform drawn up by him was adopted, together with the name “Republican,” and on his motion a committee of six was appointed to organize the new party, John A. Andrew being made its chairman. In 1855 Carter edited the Boston “Telegraph,” in conjunction with W. S. Robinson and Hildreth the historian; in 1856 he edited the “Atlas”; and in 1857-'9 he was Washington correspondent of the New York “Tribune.” His next work was with Messrs. Ripley and Dana on the first edition of the “American Cyclopædia” (1859-'63), in which many important articles were from his pen, including “Egypt,” “Hindostan,” “Mormons,” and the history of the United States. In January, 1864, he was appointed private secretary of the treasury agent whose headquarters were at Beaufort, S. C.; and from July of that year till October, 1869, he edited the Rochester, N. Y., “Democrat,” doing such work for it as was seldom done on any but metropolitan journals. When news came of the assassination of President Lincoln, he wrote, without consulting any book or memoranda, an article giving a brief but circumstantial account, with dates, of every celebrated case of regicide. He was editor of “Appletons' Journal” in 1870-'3, and then became associate editor for the revision of the “American Cyclopædia.” But in 1874 impaired health compelled him to discontinue his literary work, and in the next three years he made three tours in Europe. He was the author of “A Summer Cruise on the Coast of New England” (Boston, 1864), which passed through several editions; and he left unpublished memoirs, of which only the first volume was complete in manuscript. — His first wife, Ann Augusta Gray, was a successful writer of poems and tales for the young. — His second wife, Susan Nichols, was principal of the female art school in Cooper institute, New York, and has published hand-books of art and contributed largely to periodicals.