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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To spring belongs the violet, and the blown
Spice of the roses let the summer own.
Grant me this favor, Muse--all else withhold--
That I may not write verse when I am old.
And yet I pray you, Muse, delay the time!
Be not too ready to deny me rhyme;
And when the hour strikes, as it must, dear Muse,
I beg you very gently break the news.