Little is known of Myron Benton’s early life. Myron was the cousin of Joel Benton and brother to Charles Benton. He was born and died in Troutbeck, NY. Charles notes in his introduction that Myron married and that his wife, Marianna Adams, whom he married in 1871, died in 1896, leaving Myron to wither in strength and resolve the following years until his death (Benton VI; Moulton 277). According to his obituary in the New York Times (written by Joel), he was an active poet and correspondent with Thoreau, Emerson, and Dial founder and editor, Moncure Conway (J. Benton). In the introduction of his posthumously published collection of poetry, Songs of the Webutuck (1906), Benton is described by his brother Charles as, "A farmer, born of a line of farmers" who spent his “whole life at the homestead where he was born and where his father and grandfather had lived before him, in the eastern part of the Town Amenia, New York” (Benton V, VI). He was also a contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, in which he wrote about Coleridge and the Lake district (J. Benton). Benton also published work in Putnam’s, including “Instinct Demoralized” (1868), an essay described as “an entertaining” but “not particularly a weighty lucubration upon that rather musty subject” (“Putnam’s Magazine").
There is some uncertainty as to Benton's association with Pfaff's, but his friends included Ada Clare, Joel Benton, John Burroughs, Richard Henry Stoddard, and "apparently almost every one else who had the good fortune to know him [sic]" (Rawson 103; Robinson 10). Joel Benton listed his group of friends "whose attachment was more than nosy [sic] fame" as: John Burroughs, M.D. Conway, R.H. Stoddard and Elizabeth Stoddard, many of whom had connections to the Bohemian group that gathered at Pfaff's (J. Benton). Burroughs described his friend as having "the flavor of farm and of the country...a rural quality of mind and character that had been touched and mellowed by the influence of the best literature" ("Introduction," 3). While scholar Mark Lause incorrectly refers to Joel and Myron as brothers, he notes that they were both "Pfaffian writers" who had "close ties to New England" (78).
Myron Benton was an ardent admirer of both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and their influence can be recognized through his work, especially his poetry (Moulton 277). Upon Thoreau’s death, Benton composed “A Poem on the Death of Thoreau” (1862). He also received the last letter transcribed by Thoreau before his death (J. Benton). Benton's verses were celebrated by his friend, Burroughs, who admired them for their “flavor of sweet cream” (Robinson 4). Benton's poetry also gained the attention of Emerson. In a letter to Benton, Conway admited that “your poems have been in every case most valuable and beautiful. Mr. Emerson, whose good opinion every poet must value, made very special inquiries as to the author of ‘Orchis’; and afterward when I saw him, it was during the last summer, in a walk through the woods, he repeated a large portion of it which he had committed to memory” (Woodberry 7). Another contemporary praised his poetry as "the work of a fine poetic spirit, a little secluded, a little withdrawn, and contemplating nature instead of man and his doings. . .[his poems] are very quiet and subdued in tone, but they are characteristic and breathe the air of the sweet, placid scenes among which they were written" (Moulton 277).
As far as matters of a personal ethos, Edwin Robinson described Benton as someone who "was not much given to worrying about the universe" (Robinson 10). In his New York Times obituary, Benton was remembered as “a gentleman of the rarest quality, a modest author, who wrote poetry and prose that some authors of resounding fame could not equal” who was "beloved by all who ever met him; a friend and helper of humanity, and interesting all that concerned it, as well as a half maker of the idyllic landscape about him which he did so much to preserve and heighten” (J. Benton). Commenting on his brother's life and death, Charles Benton describes that “as he lived, so he died; an affectionate husband and brother, a staunch friend, a trusted neighbor, and esteemed citizen, and a rare and sweet personality to those of his intimate acquaintance. With the calmness of a philosopher, and an instinctive faith in The Infinite, he passed away” (Benton VI).
Benton was a friend and correspondent of John Burroughs. Allen reports that Burroughs wrote Benton several times in 1864 with his impressions of Whitman. Burroughs also asked Benton to arrange a lecture for Whitman in Poughkeepsie similar to those arranged in Washington. Acccording to Allen, nothing came of this request (309).[pages:309]
The "Benton brothers" are mentioned as "Pfaffian writers" who had "close ties to New England" (78).[pages:78]
A member of Clare's coterie of Bohemians.[pages:103]
SOURCE: Benton, Myron. Songs of the Webutuck. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Press of the A.V. Haight Co., 1906.
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015