Sidney Lanier HTML version

Lawyer and Traveler
Unable to secure a position in a Southern college or to make a living by literary work,
Lanier decided at the end of 1868 to take up the profession of law. He was led to do so by
the earnest solicitation of his father. With his mind once made up in that direction, he
went to the work with characteristic zeal. He displayed a business-like and methodical
spirit which at once attracted attention. On November 19, 1869, he wrote to his brother,
who was urging him to go into the cotton-mill business: "I have a far more feasible
project, which I have been long incubating: let us go to Brunswick. We know something
of the law, and are rapidly knowing more; it is a business which is far better than that of
any salaried officer could possibly be. . . . It is best that you and I make up our minds
immediately to be lawyers, NOTHING BUT LAWYERS, GOOD lawyers, and
SUCCESSFUL lawyers; and direct all our energies to this end. We are too far in life to
change our course now; it would be greatly disadvantageous to both of us. Therefore, to
the law, Boy. It is your vocation; stick to it: It will presently reward you for your
devotion." The scheme did not materialize, however; he remained at Macon in the office
of Lanier and Anderson. He writes to Northrup, who has again held out to him a plan for
going to Germany: --
"As for my sweet old dreams of studying in Germany, EHEU! here is come a wife, and
by'r Lady, a boy, a most rare-lung'd, imperious, world-grasping, blue-eyed, kingly
Manikin;* and the same must have his tiring-woman or nurse, mark you, and his laces
and embroideries and small carriage, being now half a year old: so that, what with mine
ancient Money-Cormorants, the Butcher and the Baker and the Tailor, my substance is
like to be so pecked up that I must stick fast in Georgia, unless litigation and my
reputation should take a simultaneous start and both grow outrageously. For, you must
know, these Southern colleges are all so poor that they hold out absolutely no inducement
in the way of support to a professor: and so last January I suddenly came to the
conclusion that I wanted to make some money for my wife and my baby, and
incontinently betook me to studying Law: wherein I am now well advanced, and, D.V.,
will be admitted to the Bar in May next. My advantages are good, since my Father and
uncle (firm of Lanier and Anderson) are among the oldest lawyers in the city and have a
large practice, into which I shall be quickly inducted.
* Charles Day Lanier. See poem, "Baby Charley".
"I have not, however, ceased my devotion to letters, which I love better than all things in
my heart of hearts; and have now in the hands of the Lit. Bureau in N.Y. a vol. of essays.
I'm (or rather have been) busy, too, on a long poem, yclept the `Jacquerie', on which I had
bestowed more REAL WORK than on any of the frothy things which I have hitherto sent
out; tho' this is now necessarily suspended until the summer shall give me a little rest
from the office business with which I have to support myself while I am studying law."*