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Selected Poetry of Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Index to poems

  1. Defence of Fort M'Henry (The Star-spangled Banner)


Notes on Life and Works

Francis Scott Key was born in Frederick, Maryland, on August 1, 1779, and after an education at St. John's College, Annapolis, he worked as an attorney, first in his home town, and then in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. In 1814 the British seized Dr. William Beanes in retreat from Washington, and Key was dispatched to arrange his release. This accomplished, Key spent the night of September 13-14 on an American ship as the British shelled Baltimore. In "The Star-Spangled Banner," written on an envelope as he was taken ashore and revised in his hotel after night fell, Key recorded his feelings when dawn broke and the American flag still flew. His sister-in-law, Mrs. Joseph Hopper Nicholson, took it to a printer the next day. After being published on handbills, the anthem was printed in the Baltimore American on September 21. The manuscript fair copy now rests in the Walters Gallery in Baltimore: see P. H. Magruder, "The Original Manuscript of the Final Text of the `Star-Spangled Banner,'" Proceedings of the United State Naval Institute (June 1927). This poem was not Key's only effort; his Poems were posthumously published in 1857. Married to Mary Tayloe Lloyd in 1802, Key had 11 children. He died on January 11, 1843, and was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick.

Biographical information

Given name: Francis Scott
Family name: Key
Birth date: 1 August 1779
Death date: 11 January 1843
Nationality: American
Cause of death: pleurisy
Buried at: St. Paul's Cemetery, Baltimore; and then Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Frederick