Thomas Dunn English


Thomas Dunn English

Infobox Person
name = Thomas Dunn English


image_size = 180px
caption =
birth_date = birth date|1819|6|29|mf=y
birth_place = Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
death_date = death date and age|1902|4|1|1819|6|29
death_place = Newark, New Jersey

Thomas Dunn English (June 29, 1819 - April 1, 1902) was an American Democratic Party politician from New Jersey who represented the state's 6th congressional district in the House of Representatives from 1891 to 1895. He was also a published author and songwriter, who had a bitter ongoing feud with Edgar Allan Poe.

Biography

English was born in Philadelphia on June 29, 1819. [Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. "The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States". New York: Oxford University Press, 1982: 203. ISBN 0195031865] He attended the Friends Academy in Burlington, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1839. His graduation thesis was on phrenology. [Quinn, Arthur Hobson. "Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography". Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998: 349. ISBN 0801857309] He studied law, and was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1842, but mainly pursued journalism.

Literary pursuits

English wrote scores of poems and plays as well as stories and novels, but his reputation as a writer was built on the ballad "Ben Bolt" (1843). [Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. "The Literary History of Philadelphia". Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1906: 293.] Written for Nathaniel Parker Willis's "New York Mirror", it was turned into a song and became very popular, with a ship, steamboat and racehorse name in its honor. [Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. "The Literary History of Philadelphia". Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1906: 294.] Other works include the temperance novel "Walter Woolfe, or the Doom of the Drinker" in 1842 and the political romance "MDCCCXLII. or the Power of the S. F." in 1846. [Griswold, Rufus Wilmot (ed). "The Poets and Poetry of America". Philadelphia: Parry and McMillan, 1855: 576.] He was the founding editor of the monthly "Aristidean" in New York, [Moss, Sidney P. "Poe's Literary Battles: The Critic in the Context of His Literary Milieu". Southern Illinois University Press, 1969: 176.] which printed its first issue in February 1845. [Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson. "The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849". Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987: 501. ISBN 0816187347.] English later edited several other journals, including the humorous magazine "The John Donkey", "" and "Sartain's Magazine". [Griswold, Rufus Wilmot (ed). "The Poets and Poetry of America". Philadelphia: Parry and McMillan, 1855: 576.]

English and author Edgar Allan Poe were bitter enemies. In 1846, amidst a public scandal involving Poe, Frances Sargent Osgood, and Elizabeth F. Ellet, English and Poe got into a fistfight. English unintentionally punched Poe in the face, cutting him with a ring on his pinky. [Silverman, Kenneth. "Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance". Harper Perennial, 1991: 291. ISBN 0060923318] That same year, Poe harshly criticized English's work as part of his "Literati of New York" series published in "Godey's Lady's Book", referring to him as "a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature". [Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. "The Literary History of Philadelphia". Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1906: 296.] The two had several confrontations, usually centered around literary caricatures of one another. One of English's letters which was published in the July 23, 1846, issue of the "New York Mirror" [Sova, Dawn B. "Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z". Checkmark Books, 2001: 81, 83, 91.] caused Poe to successfully sue the editors of the "Mirror" for libel. [Silverman, Kenneth. "Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance". Harper Perennial, 1991: 312-313. ISBN 0060923318] Poe was awarded $225.06 as well as an additional $101.42 in court costs. [Silverman, Kenneth. "Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance". Harper Perennial, 1991: 328. ISBN 0060923318] That year English published a novel called "1844, or, The Power of the S.F." Its plot made references to secret societies, and ultimately was about revenge. It included a character named Marmaduke Hammerhead, the famous author of "The Black Crow", who uses phrases like "Nevermore" and "lost Lenore." The clear parody of Poe was portrayed as a drunkard, liar, and domestic abuser. Poe's story "The Cask of Amontillado" was written as a response, using very specific references to English's novel. [Rust, Richard D. "Punish with Impunity: Poe, Thomas Dunn English and 'The Cask of Amontillado'" in "The Edgar Allan Poe Review", Vol. II, Issue 2 - Fall, 2001, St. Joseph's University] Another Poe revenge tale, "Hop-Frog", may also reference English. [Benton, Richard P. "Friends and Enemies: Women in the Life of Edgar Allan Poe" as collected in "Myths and Reality: The Mysterious Mr. Poe". Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1987: 16]

Political career

English's first foray into politics was as an advocate of the annexation of Texas. [Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. "The Literary History of Philadelphia". Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1906: 297. ISBN 1932109455] He moved to Virginia in 1852, to New York City in 1857, and to Newark, New Jersey a year later. He was a member of the New Jersey General Assembly in 1863 and 1864. [http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=E000188 Thomas Dunn English profile] , Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed August 13, 2007.]

English was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-second and Fifty-third Congresses, serving in office from March 4, 1891, to March 3, 1895. He was chairman of the Committee on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic (Fifty-third Congress). He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1894 to the Fifty-fourth Congress.

After leaving Congress, he resumed his former literary pursuits in Newark. In 1896, he published "Reminisces of Poe", in which he hinted at scandals without specificity. He did, however, defend Poe against rumors of drug use: "Had Poe the opium habit when I knew him (before 1846) I should both as a physician and a man of observation, have discovered it during his frequent visits to my rooms, my visits at his house, and our meetings elsewhere – I saw no signs of it and believe the charge to be a baseless slander". [Quinn, Arthur Hobson. "Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography". Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998: 351. ISBN 0801857309]

Death

English died April 1, 1902, and was interred in Fairmount Cemetery in Newark. His monument notes him as "Author of Ben Bolt".

References

External links

*CongBio|E000188
* [http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/english.html#R9M0IW705 Thomas Dunn English] at The Political Graveyard
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6792666 Thomas Dunn Englishr] at Find A Grave
* [http://www.poetry-archive.com/e/english_thomas_dunn_bibliography.html Bibliography of Thomas Dunn English] at Poetry-Archive.com
* [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=990DE1DB1230E733A25751C0A9629C946397D6CF Thomas Dunn English obituary from "The New York Times"]

Persondata
NAME = English, Thomas D.
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = English, Thomas Dunn
SHORT DESCRIPTION = American state and federal politician
DATE OF BIRTH = June 29, 1819
PLACE OF BIRTH = Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
DATE OF DEATH = April 1, 1902
PLACE OF DEATH =Newark, New Jersey, United States


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