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.
Language of Materials
Collection materials are in English and Italian.
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.
Extent3 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 Manuscripts include both published and unpublished poems written by Parsons to commemorate public occasions.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.
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.
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
- EAD ID
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