Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Francis Brooks


"BROOKS, Francis, lawyer and physician, b. Memphis, Tenn., 1867; drowned, Lake Geneva, Wis., 1898. Entered the class of 1889 at Harvard, but left before graduating; and subsequently obtained a degree from the Chicago College of Law; and later studied at the University of Virginia. For a few months a lawyer; then a doctor of no mean distinction; and always devoted to literature, Francis Brooks died at what seemed to be the beginning of his true career. His initial volume, 'Margins,' appeared in 1897, and a posthumous edition of his complete poems, edited, with a prefatory memoir, by Wallace Rice, was issued in 1898." [Edmund Clarence Stedman (ed.), An American Anthology 1787-1899 782 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1900)]

"Francis Brooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 7, 1867. His father is a physician . . . ; his mother, a Ramsey by birth, comes of combined Scotch and Huguenot blood. . . . [H]e was duly sent into the heart of New England, and during three years of application at the Phillips Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, prepared himself for matriculation in Harvard College [beginning with the class of 1890] . . . . In his sophomore year, the explosion of chemicals with which he was experimenting, changed the course of his life and, as the sequel proved, of his thoughts. By the powerful acids which escaped from his control the young man's face was sadly marked; not to a degree which would cause repulsion or even criticism, but internally, reacting rather upon his intellectual than his physicial features; setting him apart from his fellows . . . .

It was from choice that Francis Brooks left college; it was rather from association that he determined to enter upon the practice of law. To an extent unknown in other nations, the American with proper ambition is accustomed to look to the life at the bar as a stepping-stone to great preferment. . . . His home being in Chicago, it was from the Chicago College of Law that he obtained his bachelor's degree, supplementing the course of study there by a sojourn in the University of Virginia . . . . Though Francis Brooks practiced his profession but a few months, there will be seen in a certain precision and exactitude of thought, a formality of phrase and habit, the result of this legal training. Law and poetry are not close companions, and before this, many metrical essays . . . had displayed the young man's mind." [Wallace Rice, "Francis Brooks," in The Poems of Francis Brooks v-xviii, at vii-ix (Chicago: R.R. Donnelley, 1898)(edited by Wallace Rice)]

Some time after publication of his first collection of poetry, titled Margins, which was published in Chicago in 1897, he undertook a journey from Michigan to the Pacific Ocean. "On foot for the most part, the modern crusader went his way from Illinois to California, working himself across the enormous expanses . . ." [Id. at xiv]




Francis Brooks, Margins; Collected Poems (Chicago: Searle & Gorton, 1896)

____________, The Poems of Francis Brooks (Chicago: R.R. Donnelley, 1898)(edited by Wallace Rice)


Francis Brooks (ed.), Greek Lyric Poets (London: David Nutt, 1896)