Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Born November 11, 1836(1836-Template:MONTHNUMBER-11)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
Died March 19, 1907(1907-Template:MONTHNUMBER-19) (aged 70)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation Poet, novelist and editor
Notable work(s) The Story of a Bad Boy
An Old Town by the Sea

Thomas Bailey Aldrich (November 11, 1836 - March 19, 1907) was an American poet, prose writer, and editor.



Aldrich was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. When he was but a child his father moved to New Orleans, but after 10 years the boy was sent back to Portsmouth — the “Riversmouth” of several of his stories — to prepare for college. This period of his life is partly described in his Story of a Bad Boy (1870), of which “Tom Bailey” is the juvenile hero.[1]


His father’s death in 1852 compelled Aldrich to abandon the idea of college and enter a business office in New York. Here he soon became a constant contributor to the newspapers and magazines, and the intimate friend of the young poets, artists and wits of the metropolitan Bohemia of the early ’60's, among whom were E.C. Stedman, R.H. Stoddard, Bayard Taylor, and Walt Whitman.[1]

From 1856 to 1859 he was on the staff of the Home Journal, then edited by N.P. Willis, while during the Civil War he was himself editor of the New York Illustrated News.[1]

In 1865 he moved to Boston and was editor for 10 years for Ticknor & Fields — then at the height of their prestige — of the eclectic weekly Every Saturday, discontinued in 1875. From 1881 to 1890 he was editor of the Atlantic Monthly.[1]

Private lifeEdit

Aldrich married Lillian Woodman and had 2 sons.[2] Mark Twain apparently detested Aldrich's wife, writing in 1893: "Lord, I loathe that woman so! She is an idiot — an absolute idiot — and does not know it ... and her husband, the sincerest man that walks ... tied for life to this vacant hellion, this clothes-rack, this twaddling, blethering, driveling blatherskite!"[3]

The Aldriches were close friends of Henry L. Pierce, former mayor of Boston and chocolate magnate. At his death in 1896, he willed them his estate at Canton, Massachusetts.

In 1901, Aldrich's son Charles, married the year before, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Aldrich built 2 houses, for his son and for himself 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 34. The family left Saranac Lake and never returned.[4]

Aldrich died in Boston on March 19, 1907.[1] His last words were recorded as, "In spite of it all, I am going to sleep; put out the lights."[5]


His genius was many-sided, and it is surprising that so busy an editor and so prolific a writer should have attained the perfection of form for which he was remarkable. His successive volumes of verse, and the collected editions of 1865, 1882, 1897 and 1900, showed him to be a poet of lyrical skill, dainty touch and felicitous conceit, the influence of Herrick being constantly apparent.[1]

He repeatedly essayed the long narrative or dramatic poem, but seldom with success, save in such earlier work as "Garnaut Hall." But no American poet has shown more skill in describing some single picture, mood, conceit or episode. His best things are 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 8-line poem "Identity," which did more to spread Aldrich's reputation than any of his writing after Babie Bell.[1]

Beginning with the collection of stories titled Marjorie Daw and Other People (1873), Aldrich applied to his later prose work that minute care in composition which had previously characterized his verse — taking in a near, new or salient situation, and setting it before the reader in a pretty combination of kindly realism and reticent humour.[1]

In the novels, Prudence Palfrey (1874), The Queen of Sheba (1877), and The Stillwater Tragedy (1880), there is more rapid action; but the Portsmouth pictures in the first are elaborated with the affectionate touch shown in the shorter humourous tale, A Riversmouth Romance (1877). In An Old Town by the Sea (1893) the author's birthplace was once more commemorated, while travel and description are the theme of From Ponkapog to Pesth (1883).[1]


His Life was written by Ferris Greenslet (1908).

In 1920, Aldrich's widow Lillian Woodman Aldrich wrote her memoirs under the title Crowding Memories.



  • The Bells: A collection of chimes. New York: J. C. Derby / Boston: Phillips, Sampson, 1855.
  • The Ballad of Babie Bell. New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1858.
  • Pampinea, and other poems. New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1861.
  • Cloth of Gold. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1873.
  • Flower and Thorn. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1876; London: Routledge, 1876.
  • Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1881; London: Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1881.
  • Mercedes, and later lyrics. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1883.
  • Wyndham Towerss. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1889; Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1889.
  • Poems. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1886; (2 volumes), Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1897.
  • Unguarded Gates, and other poems. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1895.
  • Early Poems. New York: Crowell, 1908.
  • The Shadow of the Flowers. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1912.


  • Daisy's Necklace; and what came of it. New York: Hurst, 1856; New York: Derby & Jackson, 1857.
  • The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth. New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1858.
  • Tom Bailey's Adventures; or, The story of a bad boy. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1869; Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1877.
  • Prudence Palfrey. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1874; London: Ward, Lock, & Tyler, 1872.
  • The Queen of Sheba. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1877; London: Routledge, 1877; London: Ward Lock, 1877.
  • Miss Mehetabel's Son. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1877.
  • The Stillwater Tragedy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1880; Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1886,

Short fictionEdit

  • Marjorie Daw, and other people. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1873.
  • A Rivermouth Romance. Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1877.
  • Stories (edited by Joanne Suter; James Balkovek). Belmont, CA: Lake Education, 1994.


  • From Ponkapog to Pesth. Boston: Houghton Mifflinm 1883.
  • An Old Town by the Sea. Boston: Houghton Mifflin / Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1893.

Collected editionsEdit

  • Writings. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin / Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1897-1907.

See alsoEdit

Memory by Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Memory by Thomas Bailey Aldrich


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Aldrich, Thomas Bailey". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 536–537. 


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Chisholm (1911), 536.
  2. Knapp, Seaman, "Journal of Travels: 1898-1900", McNeese State University.
  3. Skandera-Trombley, Laura E. Mark Twain in the Company of Women. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997, 163.
  4. Gallos, Philip, Cure Cottages of Saranac Lake, Historic Saranac Lake, 1985, 148-149.
  5. Samuels, Charles E. Thomas Bailey Aldrich. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966, 40.

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