Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Littell


The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Kentucky of the Dead and Living Men of the Nineteenth Century 318 (Cincinnati, Ohio: J.M. Armstrong & Company, 1878):

LITTELL, WILLIAM, Lawyer, Author, and Poet; probably a native of England; came to Kentucky in 1804. In 1805, he entered into a contract with the State, to publish, in three volumes, the statute laws, the first appearing in 1809, in 1822, he published his digest of the statutes from 1799 to that date, the work also containing notes on the decisions of the Court of Appeals, prepared, in part, by Jacob Swigert; his reports finally extended to five volumes, and included the decisions of the Court of Appeals from the Spring of 1822 to 1824; also published the unreported decisions of the court between 1795 and 1821, in what was termed his "Select Cases:' also published a volume of miscellaneous writings, and a small volume of poems of his own composition, called "Festoons of Fancy," and a narrative of events in Kentucky, before the organization of the State. He died, September 26, 1824, at Frankfort, Kentucky, not leaving behind hi much of this world's goods. Throughout his life he was a hard student, was exceedingly eccentric in his habits, and retiring in his manners. In 1818, Transylvania University conferred upon him the title of LL.D.

[Littell's date of birth is given as 1780 in New Jersey and his death in Frankfort in 1825 in Edwin Anderson Alderman & Joel Chandler Harris (eds.), Library of Southern Literature 260-61 (New Orleans: Martin & Hoyt Co., 1910)(1907)(Vol. 15, Biographical Dictionary of Southern Authors, 1929, Lucian Lamar Knight ed.)]

"There was, before 1841 [in the "middle western frontier"], a vast amount of verse . . . but for the most part so little marked by its Western origin that it might have been the product of almost any English-speaking community.

As early as 1801, William Littell, a Kentucky lawyer, had contributed to the newspaper press a series of commonplace verses, some original, some translated, and others imitated from foreign models; and in 1914 these fugitive pieces were gathered together to form a small section in the author's Festoons of Fancy, Consisting of Compositions Amatory, Sentimental and Humorous." [Source: Ralph Leslie Rusk, 1 The Literature of the Middle Western Frontier 326 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1926)]

Littell Family


"The Author's Account of Himself," "Raptures," "To a Haughty Decayed Beauty," "To Angelina," "To a Sentimental Lady," & "The Silent Eloquence of Love," in William Littell, Festons of Fancy 3-10 (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Publications Committee, 1940)(Louisville, William Farquar, 1814)


William Littell, Principles of Law and Equity (Frankfort, Kentucky: Press of William Gerard, 1808)

__________, Political Transactions in and Concerning Kentucky from the First Settlement thereof until it Became an Independent State in June, 1792 (Frankfort, Kentucky: Press of W. Hunter, 1806)(Louisville: Filson Club, 1926)

__________, An Epistle From William, Surnamed Littell, to the People of the Realm of Kentucky (Frankfort, Kentucky, 1806)

__________, Festons of Fancy (Louisville, William Farquar, 1814)(Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Publications Committee, 1940)

__________, et. al., The Statute Law of Kentucky (Frankfort, Kentucky, 1819)(1809)


Robert S. Cotterill, William Littell, 25 Filson Club Quarterly (October, 1951)

Research Resources

William Littell
Miscellaneous Papers, 1818-1874
Library Special Collection and Archives
Kentucky Historical Society
Frankfort, Kentucky

William Littell (1798-    )
a nephew of William Littell

Spaniards, Scoundrels, and Statesmen: General James Wilkinson and the Spanish Conspiracy, 1787-1790