Thomas Bailey Aldrich Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

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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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on November 11, 1836, Thomas Bailey Aldrich spent his early years in New York City and New Orleans. Although he returned to Portsmouth in 1849 to prepare for Harvard University, the death of his father made it necessary for him to go to work as a clerk for his uncle in New York instead. During this period, he wrote poetry, became a member of a group of writers that included Walt Whitman, and took a job as a reporter for the Home Journal. The popularity of his sentimental verse, “The Ballad of Babie Bell” (1854), encouraged him to quit his clerkship and to devote himself to writing full time.

Aldrich got a job as a literary critic for The Evening Mirror in 1855, after which he was soon made an editor. For the next ten years he lived in New York as part of a Bohemian literary circle that centered on the aestheticism of Fitz-James O’Brien. He was invited to Boston after the publication of his popular collection Marjorie Daw and Other People in 1873 to assume the editorship of Every Saturday, which reprinted European fiction and poetry for American audiences.

Aldrich published a number of stories and poems in The Atlantic Monthly, including his widely popular story “Marjorie Daw,” and eventually succeeded William Dean Howells as its editor in 1881, a position he held until 1890. In the last years of his life, he traveled and wrote travel literature, sketches, poems, and short prose. He died in Boston on March 19, 1907.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born on November 11, 1836, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the sleepy seaport town he nostalgically re-created in much of his fiction—most notably in The Story of a Bad Boy, his autobiographical homage to adolescence. He was an only child, and his early years were a bit unsettled because his father, in a restless search for business success, first moved the family to New York City in 1841 and then to New Orleans in 1846. In 1849, Aldrich’s parents sent him back to Portsmouth for a better education, but his plans eventually to enter Harvard suddenly ended when his father died of cholera. In 1852, because of his family’s uncertain financial state, Aldrich had to accept a job as a clerk in his uncle’s New York City counting house.

In 1855, after publishing his first book of poems (filled with echoes of John Keats, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and Longfellow) and after having become well known with his sentimental and extremely popular poem “The Ballad of Babie Bell,” Aldrich left his uncle’s business. Having decided to be a man of letters, he spent the rest of the 1850’s publishing more poetry, beginning his career as an editor by working for the Home Journal (1855-1859) and the Saturday Press (1859-1860), and writing his first novel, Daisy’s Necklace and What Came of It—a confused, uninteresting attempt to burlesque the saccharine fiction of “the Feminine Fifties.” At the same...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207178-Aldrich.jpg Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich (AWL-drihch), poet, editor, and story writer, was born in the harbor town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on November 11, 1836. The son of Elias Taft Aldrich and Sarah Abba Bailey Aldrich, Thomas spent his early years in New York City, New Orleans, and other parts of the United States. In 1849, he returned to Portsmouth to prepare for Harvard College and to live in the Nutter House, which he describes so vividly in The Story of a Bad Boy. There he was a pupil of Samuel De Merritt, a famous schoolmaster of the time.

Instead of going to college to study literature, he went to New York to clerk for his uncle, James Frost. In the metropolis, Aldrich worked diligently in the counting house, but he also had time to write poetry. Some of these early poems were published under various pseudonyms. In 1855 he gained nationwide acclaim for his “Ballad of Babie Bell,” which he wrote on the backs of bills of lading during his working hours. Meanwhile he had become a member of a bohemian group of writers, among whom were Walt Whitman and Bayard Taylor.

He started his work with the press with a position on the staff of the Home Journal. In 1861, during the Civil War, he went to the front with the Army of the Potomac as a reporter. In 1863 he began his distinguished editorial career as managing editor of theIllustrated News. Later he moved to Boston as editor of Every Saturday.


(The entire section is 561 words.)