Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Crafts

South Carolina

"William Crafts was born at Charleston, S.C., Jan. 24, 1787. 'Owing,' says his anonymous biographer, somewhat granilouently, 'to the precarious and evanescent character of the schools in Charleston' his early education suffered somewhat from frequent change of teachers. He appears to have made up for juvenile disadvantages when in the course of his education he reached Harvard, as he had a fair reputation there as a classical scholar, and judging from his advice subsequently to a younger brother, went still deeper into the ancient languages. 'I hope,' he writes, 'that you will not treat the Hebrew tongue with that cold neglect and contemptuous disdain which it usually meets at Cambridge, and which is very much like treatment a Jew receives from a Christian.' His chief reputation among his fellows is as a wit and pleasant companion.

He returned to Charleston, was admitted in due course to practice, and the remainder of his life was passed in the duties of his profession and those of a member of the State Legislature, to which he was frequently elected. He was a ready speaker, and a large portion of the volume of his Literary Remains consists of his orations on patriotic occasions. In 1817, he delivered the Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard."

[Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, The Cyclopaedia of American Literature 781-82
(Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)(Vol. 1)]

"A precocious boy, Crafts was graduated from Harvard at eighteen. He then studied law in Charleston, and after receiving his M.A. from Harvard in 1808 was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1809. Handsome, witty, and gregarious, Crafts was more or less spoiled by adulation, and wasted his talents in the easy pursuit of local celebrity. He was elected to the lower house of the state legislature in 1810, and later served another term. In 1820 he was elected to the state senate, and was still a senator at the time of his death. He did some good work for public education, but as a lawyer he had so wasted his opportunities that his chief asset in criminal cases being his eloquence. He was a famous orator, constantly in demand. His verse appeared for the most part, together with essays and dramatic criticism, in the Charleston Courier. In 1823 he married his cousin, Carolina Crafts Holmes. He died at Lebanon Springs, N.Y., where he had gone for his health, and was buried in Boston."

[Stanley J. Kunitz & Howard Haycraft (eds.), American Authors 1600-1900: A Biographical Dictionary of American Literature 187 (New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1938)]

Crafts died on September 23, 1826. [George Armstrong Wauchope, The Writers of South Carolina: With a Critical Introduction, Biographical Sketches, and Selections in Prose and Verse 127 (Columbia, South Carolina: The State Co., Publishers, 1910)] [Crafts "was admitted to the sophomore class at Harvard in the authumn of 1802. He said later of his college life: 'I had everything which could excite ambition, so I had everything which ambition could desire; of college honors I had as many as I wanted. Having graduated with high honores, he returned in 1806 to his native city, and studied law in the office of Ford and DeSaussure." Id.]

[See also, "William Crafts, Jr." in John Belton O'Neall, Biographical Sketches of the Bench and Bar of South Carolina 345-367 (Charleston, South Carolina: S.G. Courtenay & Co., 1859)(vol.2)] [online text]

Palmetto Poets: William Crafts


William Crafts, Sullivan's Island, The Raciad, and Other Poems (Charleston: T.B. Stephens,1820)

___________, A Selection in Prose and Poetry, from the Miscellaneous Writings of the Late William Crafts. To Which is Prefixed a Memoir of His Life (Charleston: Printed by C.C. Sebring and J.S. Burges, 1828)


C. Hugh Homan, "William Crafts," in Louis D. Rubin, Jr. (ed.), A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of Southern Literature 182 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1969)

"Crafts, William," in 5 American National Biography 650-651 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Research Resources

Early Essayists -- The Gloucester Sea Serpent