Sidney Lanier was born in Macon, Georgia on February 3, 1842. He attended a Macon academy in 1857 took up studies at Oglethorpe University in Milledgeville, Georgia. He graduated from Oglethorp in 1860 and
after a brief period as a tutor there (1860-61) joined the Macon Volunteers to fight for the Confederacy.
During the war he began writing his first novel Tiger-Lilies (which was published in 1867). In 1864 he was captured and imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland where he contracted tuberculosis. He was released in February 1865 and returned to Macon where he worked as a tutor, hotel clerk, and principal of an academy in Prattville, Alabama and studied law with his father. In bad health he attempted to practice law from 1869 until 1873 but finally decided to devote himself to literary efforts.
In 1873 Lanier moved to Baltimore and played first flute in the Peabody Orchestra. It was during this period that he devoted much of his writing to poetry and the study of poetry. While he lived during the orchestra season in Baltimore he returned to Georgia each way to spend time with his family.
Lanier did not finally move his family to Baltimore until 1877. He began to teach at private schools and in 1878 Lanier presented a course on Shakespeare at the Peabody Institute. His studies and writings of the period resulted in lectures at Johns Hopkins University on English poetry, Chaucer and Shakespeare, and the English novel.
Lanier's health began to decline in 1881 and he took up residence in North Carolina where died that same year. Lanier had four sons, all whom survived him.
[Sources: Webster's American Biographies 607 (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Western Inc., 1974) (Charles Van Doren, gen. ed.); Archivist Biographical Sketch, Sidney Lanier Papers, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland]