North American Scholar

BULFINCH, Thomas

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1796-07-15
  • Born City: Newton
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: Charles, architect of the Capitol in Washington, DC, & Hannah Apthorp B.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1867-05-27
  • Death City: Boston
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Education:

    A.B. Harvard, 1814.

  • Professional Experience:

    Teacher, Boston Latin School; assistant in store; attempted various business ventures without success; clerk of Merchant's Bank, Boston, from 1837 until his death; recording secretary, Boston Soc. Nat. Hist., 1842-8.

  • Publications:

    Hebrew Lyrical History (Boston, 1853); The Age of Fable: Or, Stories of Gods and Heroes (Boston, 1855); The Age of Chivalry (Boston, 1858); The Boy Inventor: A Memoir of Matthew Edwards, Mathematical-Instrument Maker (Boston, 1860); Legends of Charlemagne (Boston, 1863); Poetry of the Age of Fable (Boston, 1863); Shakespeare Adapted for Reading Classes, with Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch (Boston, 1865); Oregon and Eldorado (Boston, 1866); Bulfinch's Mythology: Age of Fable, Age of Chivalry, Legends of Charlemagne (New York, 1913; many reprints).

  • Notes:

    Bulfinch, in his enduringly popular book The Age of Fable, made available to a mass audience a branch of learning, classical mythology, which had previously been reserved for a privileged few. Though formally employed as a teacher for only a brief time in his youth, he drew upon a powerful pedagogical imagination to attract readers to the myths by interweaving with his narratives myth-related quotations from familiar poetry. A public-spirited man imbued with democratic educational ideals, in late middle age and in the limited leisure time his regular job allowed, he wrote eight books, six of them popularizations of important works of Western literature. The Age of Fable, to which Edward Everett Hale gave the alternate title Bulfinch's Mythology, is the most famous.

  • Sources:

    M. Cleary, "Bulfinch's Mythology," Humanities 8 (1987) 12-5; WhAmHS 152.

  • Author: Marie Cleary