Thomas Bailey Aldrich

American poet, novelist, editor (1836-1907)

Thomas Bailey Aldrich (/ˈɔːldrɪ/; November 11, 1836 – March 19, 1907) was an American literary figure. He was the editor of The Atlantic for a long time, when he published works by Charles Chesnutt.[1] He wrote poetry, such as "The Unguarded Gates."[2]

Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Born(1836-11-11)November 11, 1836
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
DiedMarch 19, 1907(1907-03-19) (aged 70)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
OccupationPoet, novelist and editor
Notable worksThe Story of a Bad Boy
An Old Town by the Sea

Early life and school


Thomas Bailey Aldrich was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on November 11, 1836.[3] When Aldrich was a child, his father moved to New Orleans. After 10 years, Aldrich was sent back to Portsmouth to get ready for college. This time in his life is talked about in his semi-autobiographical story The Story of a Bad Boy (1870). This means that it is based partially on his life and partially on a fictional character. In this book, "Tom Bailey" is the young hero.

Aldrich gave up on going to college after his father's death in 1849. At age 16, he joined his uncle's business office in New York in 1852 and started working on the newspapers and magazines. Aldrich made friends with other young poets, artists and wits of New York's "bohemia" of the early 1860s, including Edmund Clarence Stedman, Richard Henry Stoddard, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Bayard Taylor and Walt Whitman. From 1856 to 1859, Aldrich worked for the Home Journal, which was edited by Nathaniel Parker Willis at that time. During the Civil War, he was the editor of the New York Illustrated News.

In 1865 Aldrich went back to New England, where he was editor in Boston for ten years for a publishing company called Ticknor and Fields — at the time they were very well thought of — of the eclectic weekly Every Saturday. It stopped being made in 1875. From 1881 to 1890, Aldrich was editor of the important Atlantic Monthly. As editor, he made tension with his publisher Henry Houghton by not agreeing to publish commissioned articles (ones that had been paid for) by his friends, including Woodrow Wilson and Marion Crawford. When Houghton argued with Aldrich for refusing articles from his friend Daniel Coit Gilman, Aldrich threatened to quit his job and finally did so in June 1890.[4]

Meanwhile Aldrich carried on with his private writing, both in prose (the sort of writing found in most books) and verse (poetry, songs, etc). He had many skills. He was well known for his form in poetry. His many books of verse, mainly 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 said that his work was like Robert Herrick's.

Aldrich's longer narrative or dramatic poems did not do as well. His important works include "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."

Thomas Bailey Aldrich House, part of Strawbery Banke Museum, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Beginning with the collection of stories called Marjorie Daw and Other People (1873), Aldrich wrote works of realism and quiet humour. His books Prudence Palfrey (1874), The Queen of Sheba (1877), and The Stillwater Tragedy (1880) had more dramatic action. The first showed Portsmouth with the loving touch shown in the shorter funny tale, A Rivermouth Romance (1877). In An Old Town by the Sea (1893), Aldrich wrote about his place of birth again. Travel and description are the theme of From Ponkapog to Pesth (1883).

Marriage and later life


Aldrich married and had two sons.[5] Mark Twain is said to hated Aldrich's wife Lilian. He wrote 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!"[6]

The Aldrich family were close friends of Henry L. Pierce, a man who had made a lot of money from working with chocolate. Pierce had also been known for being Mayor of Boston. When Pierce died in 1896, he said in his will that the Aldriches could own his home in Canton, Massachusetts.

In 1901, Aldrich's son Charles, who had gotten married the year before, was found to have a disease called tuberculosis. Aldrich built two houses, one for his son and one for him and his family, in Saranac Lake, New York, which was the leading treatment centre for the disease at the time. On March 6, 1904, Charles Aldrich died of tuberculosis, at the age of thirty-four. The family left Saranac Lake and never went back.[7]

Aldrich died in Boston on March 19, 1907. The last thing he was known to have said was, "In spite of it all, I am going to sleep; put out the lights."[8] His Life was written by Ferris Greenslet (1908).

147 Park Avenue, Saranac Lake. Aldrich called it "The Porcupine" because it had so many good points. The "Cure Porches" are on the other side of the house. Today it is a bed and breakfast.


  1. Lucy Moore. "Crossing the Color Line". The Atlantic.
  2. ""Unguarded Gates".
  3. Samuels, Charles E. Thomas Bailey Aldrich. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966: 20.
  4. Goodman, Susan. Republic of Words: The Atlantic Monthly and Its Writers, 1857-1925. University Press of New England, 2011: 149. ISBN 9781611681963
  5. Knapp, Seaman, "Journal of Travels: 1898-1900", McNeese State University.
  6. Skandera-Trombley, Laura E. Mark Twain in the Company of Women. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997: 163. ISBN 0-8122-1619-9
  7. Gallos, Philip, Cure Cottages of Saranac Lake, Historic Saranac Lake, 1985, pp. 148-149. ISBN 0-9615159-0-2
  8. Samuels, Charles E. Thomas Bailey Aldrich. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966: 40.

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