Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Horace Peters Biddle

Ohio & Indiana

Horace P. Biddle was born in Fairfield County, Ohio, in 1811. He was admitted to the bar in Cincinnati in 1839 and moved to Logansport, Indiana to practice law. He served as a judge (1846-1852) and was a member of the Indiana constitutional convention in 1850. He contributed poetry to the Southern Literary Messenger, Ladies Repository, and other periodicals.

"Horace P. Biddle, now known as Judge Biddle, of Logansport, Indiana, was formerly a citizen of Lancaster, where he studied the profession of law, with Hocking H. Hunter. He possessed considerable poetical talent. His first published work was a small volume entitled 'Poems;' his second, 'Glories of the World;' his third, 'American Boyhood'; his fourth, 'Amatories,' followed by 'Elements of Knowledge.' 'Amatories' is a partial work gotten up especially for private distribution, there being not over one dozen copies published. It is a quarto volume, bound in most elaborate style in Turkey morocco." [A.A. Graham, History of Fairfax and Perry Counties, Ohio (Chicago: W.H. Beers & Co., 1883)]

William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 332-333 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860):

HORACE P. BIDDLE is the youngest of a family of nine children. His father was one of the adventurous pioneers who early made the Western country their home. He migrated to Marietta in 1789. After residing on the Muskingum river until 1802, he removed to Fairfield county, Ohio, where Horace P. was born, about the year 1818. He received a good common school education, to which he afterward added a knowledge of the Latin, French and German languages. He read law with Hocking H. Hunter, of Lancaster, and was admitted to the bar by the Supreme Court of Ohio, at Cincinnati, in April, 1839. In October of the same year he settled in Logansport, Indiana, where he has since resided.

Mr. Biddle has made several excellent translations from French and German poets. His version of Lamartine's beautiful poem, "The Swallow," was copied in many leading journals. At an early age he commenced writing rhymes. One of his pieces, printed when he was fifteen years old, contained merit enough to induce another poet to claim it as his own. In 1842 he became a contributor to the Southern Literary Messenger. Since that time he has furnished occasional articles, prose as—well as poetical, to the Ladies' Repository, Cincinnati, and to other literary periodicals. A collection of his poems was published in a pamphlet form, in 1850, under the title " A Few Poems." Two years later a second edition appeared. It attracted the attention of Washington Irving, who, in a letter to the author, said, " I have read your poems with great relish: they are full of sensibility and beauty, and bespeak a talent well worthy of cultivation. Such blossoms should produce fine fruit." In 1858, an enlarged edition was published at Cincinnati,* with an essay entitled "What is Poetry?" The author elaborately discusses the definitions that have been given by eminent thinkers, and then decides that "poetry is beautiful thought, expressed in appropriate language-having no reference to the useful."

An active and prosperous professional life has not prevented Mr. Biddle from being drawn into the political arena. On the nomination of Henry Clay for the presidency, he advocated his election, and was placed upon the electoral ticket. In 1845 he became a candidate for the Legislature, but was defeated. He was elected Presiding Judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in December, 1846, in which office he continued until 1852. He was a member of the Indiana Constitutional Convention, which assembled in 1850. Although the district was against his party, he received a majority of over two hundred votes. In 1852 he was nominated for Congress, but failed to receive the election. He was elected Supreme Judge in 1857, by a large majority, but the Governor, Ashbel P. Willard, refused to commission him, for the reason that no vacancy in the office existed. The Republican party again, in 1858, brought him forward as a candidate for the same position, but the ticket was not successful.

Mr. Biddle leads a somewhat retired life at his residence, "The Island Home," near Logansport, but has not altogether abandoned the practice of law. He has a well-selected library and a good collection of musical instruments, which occupy a large portion of his leisure hours. He has frequently delivered lectures on literary and scientific topics. It is understood that he is preparing for the press a work on the musical scale, for which original merit is claimed.

*A Few Poems. Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., 1858. 12 mo, pp 240.

[Note: Coggeshall places Biddle's birth "about the year 1818 . . . ." William Turner Coggeshall, The Poets and Poetry of the West: With Biographical and Critical Notices 332 (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster and Company, 1860). We have adopted the consensus view that he was born in 1811.]

Horace P. Biddle


Horace P. Biddle, A Few Poems (Cincinatti: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., Printers, 1858)

_____________, Bettina to Göethe (Cincinnati: Moore, 1861)

_____________, Poems (New York: Riverside Press for sale by Hurd and Houghton, 1868)(1872)

_____________, Glances at the World (Mundus [Cincinnati, Ohio?]: Published by Cadmus Faustus [Robert Clarke?], 1873) [online text]

_____________, American Boyhood (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1876)(1875)

_____________ , Love's Excuse (Mundus, Venus, Cupid, and Psyche, 5885 [1880])

_____________, Last Poems (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1882)(1881)

W.W. Thornton, The Supreme Court of Indiana
The Green Bag, vol 4, pp. 249, 253, 1892

Poetry: Legal Periodicals

Horace P. Biddle, "When I Am Dead," 5 The Green Bag 34 (1893)

Judge Horace Biddle's Desk, Jerolaman-Long House
Cass County Historical Society and Museum, Logansport Indiana

[The Museum & the Society]

[Photo used here with the gracious permission of the
Cass County Historical Society and Museum]


Horace P. Biddle, The Musical Scale (Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1867)

_____________, A Review of Prof. Tyndall's Work on Sound. Reprinted from Benham's Review (Chicago: Phoenix Book and Job Printing Co., 1872)

_______________, Glances at the World (Mundus: Published by Cadmus Faustus, 5878 [1873])(By Hieronymus Anonymous)

_____________, The Definition of Poetry: An Essay (Chicago: Phoenix Book and Job Printing Co., 1873)

____________, My Scrap Book (Logansport, Indiana: Printed by Robert Clarke, 1874)

_____________, The Analysis of Rhyme; An Essay (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1876)

_____________, Russian Literature (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1877)

_____________, Prose Miscellany (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Co., 1881)

_____________, A Discourse on Art (Lafayette, Indiana: J.P. Luse, 1885)


"Horace P. Biddle," in Arthur W. Shumaker, A History of Indiana Literature 90-96 ([Indianapolis]: Indiana Historical Society, 1962)

Eva Peters Reynolds, Horace P. Biddle: A Study (1895)