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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1179-1179.18

Thomas William Parsons papers


Correspondence, manuscripts of poems, translations of Dante's works, and other materials by and about American poet and translator Thomas William Parsons.


  • 1836-1942

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


3 linear feet (2 boxes, 11 volumes)

Contains correspondence, manuscripts of poems, translations of Dante's Divine Comedy, and related writings. Correspondence (including letters to, from, and about Parsons) pertains mainly to literary and social matters. Manuscripts include both published and unpublished poems written by Parsons to commemorate public occasions. Parsons' notebooks contain his translation of the Divine Comedy and notes. Other material includes bibliographies, notes, and catalogs of Parsons' poems compiled by C. B. Goodspeed and A. H. Bent. Also newspaper clippings, photographs, scrapbooks, and other biographical material about Parsons.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas William Parsons (1819-1892) was a dentist, a poet, and translator of Dante's works. His early education was at the Boston Latin School though he did not graduate. In 1836 he visited Italy where he studied Italian literature and translated the first ten cantos of Dante's Inferno. He returned to Boston in 1837 and studied dentistry at the Harvard Medical School (though he did not receive a degree) and then practiced dentistry in Boston. In 1853 Harvard College granted him an honorary A.M. degree. In 1857 he married Anna (or Hannah) M. Allen (1821-1881). After 1872 he engaged in only literary pursuits chiefly in Boston, Scituate, and Wayland.

Parsons is known especially for his translation of Dante. In 1843 he printed anonymously the earliest published American translation of any considerable portion of Dante: The first ten cantos of the Inferno of Dante Alighieri: Newly translated into English verse. Boston: W.D. Ticknor (private printing), 1843. In later years he published the entire Inferno (1867), about two-thirds of the Purgatorio, and others. His most frequently quoted poem is "On a bust of Dante." It is said that Parsons served as the model for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "the Poet" in his Tales of a Wayside Inn.


Arranged in call number order.

Includes index of first lines at end of finding aid.

Physical Location

b, f

Immediate Source of Acquisition

41-3500 - 41-3883 (only some numbers). Gift of Charles E. Goodspeed; received: 1942 March 30.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

55M-98. Gift of George T. Goodspeed, Goodspeed's Book shop, 18 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass.; received: 1956 January 13.

Separated Materials

See also oil portrait of Parsons, pfMS Am 2883.

Index of first lines found in bMS Am 1179

Almighty sire! who gavest humankind, 123
And as for that old Saxon villain, 84
And dost thou gird thyself to track his feet, 78
And thou art gone, thou patient one, 147
Augusta, from these fields of snow, 120
Born soft, we harden into corel, 170
Christ said 'Let children come to me', 173
Dear Doctor Darwin I have read thy book, 127
Deny man bread -- and man must die, 140
Ermine or blazonry He knew them not, 71
Far in the west a lily pines, 169
Father! protector of all those who trust, 122
Forth from His hand (before its birth who smiled [From Purgatory, Canto XVI], 74
From Tassos hand these 'Days' descend to thine, 139
From this loved window and my Cardinal's chair, 137
Good ship Arabia this for thee, 67
Hail Sunday morning pleasantly you shine, 157
He was our Socrates, -- nay, he was more, 148
I found a Rosary at my feet, 149
I met a pretty creature on the road, 156
If words were anything but air, 133
In that pure city of the living Lamb, 141
In the days when marble beauty, 132
In the season of blossoms one blossom came, 172
King, that hast reign'd six hundred years and, grown, 165
Lady when thou did'st read to us, of yore, 171
Lady, whose praise were music to mine ear, 142
"Libertà" -- non è nome altro più caro, 46
Listening the bells that from a thousand spires, 151
Little Jack Horner, 132
Long waiting, watching for the day, 128
Love, if thou ask me in what book, 143
Man of three nations -- ay, four nations now, 136
Midway betwixt the present and the past, 154
My boy, at morn thy violets came, 174
Night is come and I am glad, 88
No epitaph this infant needs, 145
Not far from Aetna the Sicilian sun, 158
Not now for sleep -- Oh slumber god! we sue, 176
O God! the King of glory and all praise!, 124
O! golden thoughts of golden years, 177
O Time whose verdicts mock our own!, 126
Oh golden thoughts of golden years, 125
Oh why for past delight lament, 146
Oh! ye sweet heavens! your silence is to me, 152
Our last rose left us long ago, 129
Out of darkness into day, 88
Pause for a moment! here a poet lies, 134
Philosophy hath in thy volume, Sage!, 153
Poet and friend! if any gift could bring, 168
Scarce grown to womanhood, to die a Queen, 144
See! I survive because I bowed my head, 164
Sing Waller's lay, 166
Six years of Sicily and then a grave, 138
Slowly tread, and gently bear, 129
Storms are remembered when the voyage is oer, 135
Such was the tenor of my boyish thought, 142
Tale tuum nobis carmen mansuete poeta!, 77
That ivy spray I plucked for thee, 159
Thee to a looking-glass! ah no, 160
These wings, Augusta, never soared before, 161
Thinkst thou that Venus ever onions ate?, 132
This is Palm-Sunday, mindful of the day, 162
Tue no more! Thy tuing's ended, 175
Unless in thought with thee I often live, 137
We called her Aunt -- yet she was none of ours--, 121
We named her Aunt, though she was none of ours, 70
We named her Aunt, though she was none of ours, 150
Well, I have wrought in many ways, 163
Well Peter Faneuil! neath your crest, 130
When the worn merchant leaves his merchandise, 131
Who writes his name writes nonsense -- if that's all, 155
"Work while the day lasts" -- O superb response, 167
Parsons, Thomas William, 1819-1892. Thomas William Parsons papers, 1836-1942: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

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