Thomas Bailey Aldrich, whose ancestry went back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, spent his childhood in Portsmouth, New York City, and New Orleans Many of his experiences of that time were later described in his autobiographical novel, The Story of a Bad Boy (1869), a classic tale of an American youth. His education included informal study under the watchful eye of his maternal grandfather Thomas Darling Bailey, whose motley collection of romance novels afforded the bookish youngster an escape into enchanted realms. His formal study was with the revered disciplinarian Samuel De Merritt, a rigid grammarian who helped young Aldrich develop his skill in composition. Aldrich was briefly employed in his uncle’s successful counting house, but at the age of nineteen the aspiring author published a volume of poems and accepted a job as a junior literary editor, thus embarking on a lifelong career in letters. Before he was thirty, Aldrich had moved to Boston to edit Every Saturday, a post he held until 1874.
Quickly recognized as a poet whose work embodied the genteel tradition, Aldrich became associated with Edmund Clarence Stedman, Richard Henry Stoddard, and Bayard Taylor, writers who were also identified with this popular style that dominated American poetry of the post-Civil War era. His reputation as a leading figure on the literary scene was established emphatically by the early 1870’s, when, in addition to his acclaimed verse, his...
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