Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Biography of Thomas Bailey Aldrich
an American poet, novelist, travel writer and editor.
Early life and education
Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on November 11, 1836. When Aldrich was a child, his father moved to New Orleans. After 10 years, Aldrich was sent back to Portsmouth to prepare for college. This period of his life is partly described in his semi-autobiographical novel The Story of a Bad Boy (1870), in which "Tom Bailey" is the juvenile hero. Critics have said that this novel contains the first realistic depiction of childhood in American fiction and prepared the ground for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
His father's death in 1849 compelled Aldrich to abandon the idea of college. At age 16, he entered his uncle's business office in New York in 1852. Here he soon became a constant contributor to the newspapers and magazines. Aldrich quickly befriended other young poets, artists and wits of the metropolitan bohemia of the early 1860s. Among them were Edmund Clarence Stedman, Richard Henry Stoddard, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Bayard Taylor and Walt Whitman. From 1856 to 1859, Aldrich was on the staff of the Home Journal, then edited by Nathaniel Parker Willis. During the Civil War, he was the editor of the New York Illustrated News.
In 1865 Aldrich returned to New England, where he was editor in Boston for ten years for Ticknor and Fields—then at the height of their prestige—of the eclectic weekly Every Saturday. It was discontinued in 1875. From 1881 to 1890, Aldrich was editor of the important Atlantic Monthly.
Meanwhile Aldrich continued his private writing, both in prose and verse. His talent was many-sided. He was well-known for his form in poetry. His successive volumes of verse, chiefly The Ballad of Babie Bell (1856), Pampinea, and Other Poems (1861), Cloth of Gold (1874), Flower and Thorn (1876), Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book (1881), Mercedes and Later Lyrics (1883), Wyndham Towers (1889), and the collected editions of 1865, 1882, 1897 and 1900, showed him to be a poet of lyrical skill and light touch. Critics believed him to show the influence of Robert Herrick.
Aldrich's longer narrative or dramatic poems were not as successful. No American poet of the time showed more skill in describing some single picture, mood, conceit or episode. His best work was such lyrics as "Hesperides," "When the Sultan goes to Ispahan," "Before the Rain," "Nameless Pain," "The Tragedy," "Seadrift," "Tiger Lilies," "The One White Rose," "Palabras Cariñosas," "Destiny," or the eight-line poem "Identity". This added more to Aldrich's reputation than any of his writing after Babie Bell.
Beginning with the collection of stories entitled Marjorie Daw and Other People (1873), Aldrich wrote works of realism and quiet humor. His novels Prudence Palfrey (1874), The Queen of Sheba (1877), and The Stillwater Tragedy (1880) had more dramatic action. The first portrayed Portsmouth with the affectionate touch shown in the shorter humorous tale, A Rivermouth Romance (1877). In An Old Town by the Sea (1893), Aldrich commemorated his birthplace again. Travel and description are the theme of From Ponkapog to Pesth (1883).
Marriage and family
Aldrich married and had two sons.
In 1901, Aldrich's son Charles, married the year before, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Aldrich built two houses, one for his son and one for him and his family, in Saranac Lake, New York, then the leading treatment center for the disease. On March 6, 1904, Charles Aldrich died of tuberculosis, age thirty-four. The family left Saranac Lake and never returned.
Aldrich died at Boston on March 19, 1907. His last words were recorded as, "In spite of it all, I am going to sleep; put out the lights." His Life was written by Ferris Greenslet (1908).
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Thomas Bailey Aldrich Poems
SOMEWHERE--in desolate wind-swept space-- In Twilight-land--in No-man's land-- Two hurrying Shapes met face to face, And bade each other stand.
My mind lets go a thousand things Like dates of wars and deaths of kings, And yet recalls the very hour-- 'T was noon by yonder village tower,
The smooth-worn coin and threadbare classic phrase Of Grecian myths that did beguile my youth, Beguile me not as in the olden days: I think more grief and beauty dwell with truth.
A Touch of Nature
When first the crocus thrusts its point of gold Up through the still snow-drifted garden mould, And folded green things in dim woods unclose Their crinkled spears, a sudden tremor goes
At the Funeral of a Minor Poet
[One of the Bearers Soliloquizes:] . . . Room in your heart for him, O Mother Earth, Who loved each flower and leaf that made you fair,
[Author's Note: The title means "little father" or "dear little father", a term of endearment applied to the Tsar in Russian folk-song. --T.B.A.] From yonder gilded minaret Beside the steel-blue Neva set,
An Alpine Picture
Stand here and look, and softly draw your breath Lest the dread avalanche come crashing down! How many leagues away is yonder town Set flower-wise in the valley? Far beneath
Thus spake his dust (so seemed it as I read The words): Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare (Poor ghost!) To digg the dust enclosèd heare -- Then came the malediction on the head
A blight, a gloom, I know not what, has crept upon my gladness-- Some vague, remote ancestral touch of sorrow, or of madness; A fear that is not fear, a pain that has not pain's insistence; A sense of longing, or of loss, in some foregone exsistence;
By the Potomac
The soft new grass is creeping o'er the graves By the Potomac; and the crisp ground-flower Tilts its blue cup to catch the passing shower; The pine-cone ripens, and the long moss waves
At Bay Ridge, Long Island
Pleasant it is to lie amid the grass Under these shady locusts, half the day, Watching the ships reflected on the Bay, Topmast and shroud, as in a wizard's glass;
Alec Yeaton's Son
GLOUCESTER, AUGUST, 1720 The wind it wailed, the wind it moaned, And the white caps flecked the sea;
I Who can say where Echo dwells? In some mountain-cave, methinks,
At a Reading
The spare professor, grave and bald, Began his paper. It was called, I think, "A Brief Historic Glance At Russia, Germany, and France."
SOMEWHERE--in desolate wind-swept space--
In Twilight-land--in No-man's land--
Two hurrying Shapes met face to face,
And bade each other stand.
"And who are you?" cried one a-gape,
Shuddering in the gloaming light.
"I know not," said the second Shape,
"I only died last night!"