Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Henry Beck Hirst


"A lawyer and verse-writer of Philadelphia."

[Oscar Fay Adams, A Dictionary of American Authors 187 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1899)]

"Hirst, Henry Beck, poet, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 23, 1817, son of Thomas and Emma (Beck) Hirst. His father was a merchant of some prominence. He began early to study law at the age of eighteen, but circumstances prevented him from completing his course, and for some years he was occupied in mercantile pursuits. He was admitted to the bar in 1843, and established himself in the practice of his profession in his native city. His leisure was devoted to literary work, and for three or four years he was a regular contributor to 'Graham's Magazine.' His poems were extremely popular and were widely copied." [11 The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White & Co., 1901]

Hirst's poems "appeared in the Ladies' Companion, the Southern Liteary Messenger, and Graham's. Some of them were signed Anna Marie Hirst. In the forties Hirst was on the staff of two Philadelphia papers." [Carl F. Schreiber, "Henry Beck Hirst," in Dictionary of American Biography (American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936)] Schreiber, in his biographical profile of Hirst, goes on to note that "[t]oward the close of his life he became an object of pity: 'Purring like a cat and swaying his body to and fro to the rhythm he was trying, he would jot down words here and there with intervals left to be filled in.' His former inordinate self-esteem had developed into insanity. He moved about the streets of Philadelphia in strange habiliments, 'imagining himself by turns the President of the United States and the various emperors, kings, and queens of Europe.' He was finally placed in the insane department of the Blockley Almshouse, where he died at age of sixty." [Id.]

Henry B. Hirst
The Ridpath Library of Universal Literature

Henry B. Hirst
Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia and Register
of Important Events


The Fringilla Melodia

The Funeral of Time


Henry B. Hirst, The Coming of the Mammoth, The Funeral of Time, and Other Poems (Boston: Phillips & Sampson, 1845) [online text]

___________, Endymion, a Tale of Greece (Boston: W.D. Ticknor, 1848) [online text]

___________, The Penance of Roland, a Romance of the Peine Forte et Dure, and Other Poems (Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1849) [online text]


Henry B. Hirst, The Book of Cage Birds (Philadelphia: B. Duke, 1842)(Philadelphia: Bernard Duke, 2nd ed., 1843) [online text] (contains several Hirst poems)(described by Carl F. Schreiber as a "rare and queer little volume"; "Henry Beck Hirst," in Dictionary of American Biography (American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936))


Angela Hope Pettey, Henry Beck Hirst and Beulah Cornelia Hirst of Philadelphia: Their Lives and Work, A.M., Dissertation Thesis, Brown University (1948)(including uncollected poems)

Helen Lucile Watts, The Life and Writings of Henry Beck Hirst of Philadelphia, Master's essay, Columbia University, 1926

Henry Beck Hirst Papers
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia