Charles Warren Stoddard

Charles Warren Stoddard (1843-1909). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Charles Warren Stoddard (August 7, 1843 - April 23, 1909) was an American poet, prose author, and editor.



Stoddard was born in Rochester, New York on August 7, 1843. He was descended in a direct line from Anthony Stoddard of England, who settled at Boston, Massachusetts, in 1639.

While Charles was still a child his parents moved to New York City, where they lived until 1855, when they migrated to San Francisco, California. In 1857 he returned alone to New York, lived with his grandparents for 2 years, and then rejoined his family in San Francisco.

In a short time he began writing verses, which he sent anonymously to a local newspaper. They met with great success and were later published with the modest title, Poems by Charles Warren Stoddard.

Poor health compelled him to give up his plans for a college education. He tried the stage, but soon realized that such a life was not his calling.


In 1864 he visited the South Sea Islands and from there wrote his Idyls — letters which he sent to a friend who had them published in book form. "They are," as William Dean Howells said, "the lightest, sweetest, wildest, freshest things that were ever written about the life of that summer ocean."

He made 4 other trips to the South Sea Islands, and gave his impressions in Lazy Letters from Low Latitudes and The Island of Tranquil Delights. Several times he visited Molokai, and became well acquainted with Father Damien, the Apostle to the Lepers, and a Catholic saint as of 2009, and wrote his interesting little book, The Lepers of Molokai, which, with Stevenson's famous letter, did much to establish Father Damien's true position in public esteem. In 1867, soon after his first visit to the South Sea Islands, he was received into the Catholic Church, for which he had a most tender devotion. The story of his conversion he has told in a small book interestingly written: A Troubled Heart and How it was Comforted. Of this book he has said: "Here you have my inner life all laid bare."

Private lifeEdit

Stoddard was apparently homosexual, as he praised the South Sea folk's receptiveness to homosexual liaisons, and lived in relationships with men.

From San Francisco late in 1866, Stoddard sent his newly published Poems to Herman Melville, along with news that in Hawaii he had found no traces of Melville. A homosexual who had written even more fervently to Walt Whitman, Stoddard had been excited by Typee, finding the Kory-Kory character so stimulating that he wrote a story celebrating the sort of male friendships to which Melville had more than once alluded. From the poems Stoddard sent, Melville may have sensed no homosexual undercurrent, and the extant draft of his reply in January 1867 is noncommittal.

To superficial observers he was a man of contradictions. He was essentially Bohemian, but of the higher type, a man who could not resist the call of the far-away land, his home, as he himself said, being always under his hat. And yet he was a mystic and a recluse even in his travels. "Imaginative and impressionable", 2 epithets which he applied to his South Sea friends, are particularly appropriate to Stoddard himself.


In 1869, Stoddard became good friends with travel writer Theresa Yelverton. [1]

In 1873 he started on a long tour as special correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle. His commission was a roving one, without restrictions of any kind. He was absent for five years, during which he traveled over Europe and went as far east as Palestine and Egypt. He sent considerable matter to his newspaper, much of which was never reprinted, though some of it was among his best work.

Around 1880, Stoddard was co-editor of the Overland Monthly with Bret Harte and Ina Coolbrith.

Later lifeEdit

In 1885, having decided to settle down, he accepted the chair of English literature in the University of Notre Dame, Indiana; but owing to ill-health he soon resigned. The same reason caused him to resign a corresponding position which he held in the Catholic University, Washington, D. C., from 1889 to 1902.

In a short time he moved to Cambridge, Mass., intending to devote himself exclusively to literary work. A serious and almost fatal illness interfered with his plans, yet he was not idle. He put forth his Exits and Entrances, a book of essays and sketches which he called his favorite work; it told of his intimate friend Robert Louis Stevenson and of others among his host of literary acquaintances.

At this time he also wrote his only novel, For the Pleasure of His Company, of which he said, "Here you have my Confessions." So strictly biographical are most of his writings that Stoddard hoped by supplying a few missing links to enable the reader to trace out the whole story of his life.

In 1905 he returned to California and settled in Monterey with a hope of recovering his health. He lingered on till 1909, when he died in his 66th year.

Writing Edit

That charm of his traits which may be described as "sweetness, peacefulness, tenderness, gentleness" he imparted to his writings. Noted English authors have given the highest praise to some of his work, and have taken to task the American public for their lack of appreciation of him.






Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[3]

See alsoEdit




  1. Wild Romance: A Victorian Story by Chloë Schama. New York: Walker & Company, 151-153.
  2. South Sea Idyls (1873), Internet Archive. Web, Apr. 28, 2013.
  3. Search results = au:Charles Warren Stoddard, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 28, 2013.

External links Edit

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