Born: September 15, 1846, Columbia, Pennsylvania
Died: July 16, 1921, Columbia, Pennsylvania
Lloyd Mifflin’s father, John Houston Mifflin, was English and his mother, Ann Bethel Heise, was from German descent. His mother died when he was very young which meant, Lloyd Mifflin’s early childhood education, notably painting, came from his father, who had studied at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His formal education started at a nearby country school in Norwood. He would later attend the Washington Classical Institute in Columbia. At the age of fourteen he would spend a majority of his time reading poetry by his favorite poets by the Susquehanna River with friends.
His father pushed him to think for himself and start developing some of his own ideas, who also taught him to paint. He studied in Philadelphia with Thomas Moran, who was his teacher and who would eventually share the love of mountains with Mifflin. They also would examine J.M.W. Turner landscape paintings together. He also turned to studies abroad. He went to Düsseldorf, Germany in hope to study painting with Professor Oswald Auchenbach of the Royal Academy. When Mifflin was unable to connect with Auchenbach, he turned to the educator, Herman Herzog. As Paul A. W. Wallace, author of Lloyd Mifflin; Painter and Poet of the Susquehanna, quotes Mifflin in a letter back home on June 9, 1872, “I am at work in my studio, at rather rudimentary work too, under Herzog’s supervision. I will go direct to nature with box and paint in a week, after working charcoal previously—and then will try to paint something that may be called a picture.” The State Museum of Pennsylvania holds a large collection of Mifflin’s paintings.
He eventually would put the paint brushes down and turn to another love, poetry. The fumes of his paintings actually caused his transfer. He often read poems by Longfellow and Tennyson for inspiration. His first publication was called The Hills (1896) which was illustrated by Moran. The Hills was a collection of sixteen poems. At the Gates of Song: Sonnets (1897) was published quickly after The Hills. It has been said that Lloyd Mifflin would write fifteen sonnets in a single day and could have written five more if he had a little more time. Mifflin never married so it was assumed that his work became his love. In 1898 he published his next book of sonnets entitled The Slopes of Helicon, and Other Poems. Soon after that he wrote poems about Greek Mythology titled, Echoes of Greek Idylls (1899) which was a collection of 85 sonnets. In the following nine years he published, The Fields of Dawn and Later Sonnets, Castalian Days, Lyrics, The Fleeing Nymph, and Other Verse, Collected Sonnets of Lloyd Mifflin, My Lady of Dream, Toward the Uplands: Later Poems, Flower and Thorn: Later Poems. Flower and Thorn: Later Poems, is a collection of fifty sonnets, two of which are dedicated to fellow Pennsylvanian Robert Fulton. Fulton was an inventor in the later 1700s and early 1800s. Mifflin writes about Fulton:
Time honored son, whose memory we revere,
Around the wondering earth thy lustrous name
Shone in old days, a sudden star of Fame!
A copy of Flower and Thorn: Later Poems can be found at The Pennsylvania State University Library. In 1916, Mifflin published his last collection of poems entitled As Twilight Falls.
Throughout all of Mifflin’s life as a poet there were many hints in his writing that something was wrong, that he was missing something. He was attending a party when he pulled his cousin aside and informed him he was going to ask Barbara Peart, a “chestnut-haired” woman from Columbia, to marry him. His cousin looked at him and told him he already asked her and she had accepted. His loneliness and depression was not hard to see in his writings. In a collection of poems entitled Ventures in Verse in the poem “Under the Ban” Mifflin writes:
No cares are mine, on others come
The burdens of my world, While I
Am free to roam-
A mateless bird-
Where’er I will, again to cross
The ocean’s foam, or rest, at home.
“You life in like some still stream’s flow;
Yours is the goal without the strife,
Thrice happy so!”
Men say. “Atlas!”
I sigh, “Content alone is wealth;
Do ye not know that woe is woe?”
Sad as sad Solomon thou art,
O yearning soul of mine, I said;
One little part
Of leaven, leavens
The whole. Behold! Not a gold barb
Wounds less the heart than a flint dart.
During his lifetime, his health was strong. He lived past his first stroke some five years. He became epileptic and then after two more strokes, his life was taken on July 16, 1921 in his home, “Norwood,” in Columbia.
This biography was prepared by Lucas Eugene Walker, Spring 2006.