Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Wetmore Story


Library of Congress

"MR. STORY was born in Salem, Mass., February 19, 1819, and was son of Justice Joseph [Story] and Sarah Waldo (Wetmore) Story. He entered Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1838, at the age of nineteen. He pursued a course of legal studies under his father's supervision [attending lectures given by his father at the Harvard Law School], and wrote and published several treatises on law subjects. He also published other volumes of prose, among them being 'Roba di Roma,' published in 1862, 'Graffiti d'Italia,' published in 1869, and an exhaustive life of his father, which was published in two volumes in 1851. He was a frequent and entertaining contributor, in both prose and verse, to the Boston Miscellany. He is a good German scholar, and has made a number of poetical translations from that language. . . . He is also an accomplished musician, and widely known as a sculptor. Among the works of sculpture for which he has become distinguished are busts of Josiah Quincy, James Russell Lowell, and Theodore Parker, and statues of his father and George Peabody. His 'Cleopatra and the Sibyl' and 'Delilah' are much admired. . . ." [Sidney Perley, The Poets of Essex County, Massachusetts 155-156 (Salem, Massachusetts: Sidney Perley, 1889]

Story's interest in sculpture was promoted when his father died and he was asked to create a sculpture of his then famous father. He agreed to do so only if the patrons of the sculpture would finance a trip to Italy so he could engage in further studies. Story took up residence in Rome in 1856 with his family and became a major social figure in the city as he acquired friends in arts and literary circles. His home in the Palazzo Barberini became a center for Americans living in Rome.

William Wetmore Story

William Wetmore Story

Three Lawyer-Poets of the 19th Century
M.H. Hoeflich & Lawrence Jenab

Writers On Art
Cambridge History of English and American Literature

Transcendental Period Poets
Cambridge History of English and American Literature

Painting & Sculpture: Beginnings
American History Files

William Wetmore Story
Sidney Perley, The Poets of Essex County, Massachusetts 155-157
(Salem, Massachusetts: Sidney Perley, 1889)

William Wetmore Story: American Art Masterpieces

Across an Untried Sea: Discovering Lives Hidden
in the Shadow of Convention and Time

Piazza Barberini

[Chandler B. Beach, The New Student's Reference Work for Teachers Students and Families (Chicago: F. E. Compton and Company, 1909)]

[Used with permission of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology]


[Cleopatra] [Io Victis] [L'Abbate] [Snowdrop] [Black Eyes] [In the Rain] [Praxiteles and Phryne] [A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem, First Century] [Nature and Art - (1844)]


William Wetmore Story, Nature and Art. A Poem (Boston: C. C. Little and J. Brown, 1844) [online text]

__________________, Poems (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1847) [online text] (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856) [online text] (London: Chapman and Hall, 1863) [online text]

__________________, Graffiti d' Italia: Poems (New York: C. Scribner & Co., 1868)(Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1868)(Edinburgh: Blackwood, 2nd ed., 1875)(reprint: Elibron Classics, 2001) [online text]

__________________, A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem: First Century (Boston: Loring, [Reprinted from Blackwood], 1870)(Boston: Colby and Rich, 1875) [online text]

["A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem," Ina Russelle Warren (ed.), The Lawyer's Alcove: Poems by the Lawyer, for the Lawyer and about the Lawyer 5-20 (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1900)(Buffalo, New York: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 1990)]

[In Defense of Judas:Being a Reprint of A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem (Wausau,Wisconsin: The Philosopher Press,1902)]

__________________, He and She: or, A Poet's Portfolio (Boston & New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1883) [online text] (12th ed., 1889) [1894 ed., online text] [online text]

__________________, Poems (Edinburgh & London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1885) [online text] (Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1886)(2 vols.)(7th ed., 1897)(Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1890)(2 vols.)

__________________, A Poet's Portfolio. Later Readings (Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1894) [online text]


W.W. Story, "A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem," in J. Greenbag Croke (ed.), Poems of the Law 34-64 (San Francisco: Sumner Whitney & Co., 1885)(Buffalo, New York: William S. Hein & Co., reprint ed., 1986)

William Wetmore Story, "A Roman Lawyer in Jerusalem," in Ina Russelle Warren (ed.), The Lawyer's Alcove: Poems by the Lawyer, for the Lawyer and about the Lawyer 5-20 (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1900)(Buffalo, New York: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 1990)]


Gertrude Reese Hudson (ed.), Browning to His American Friends: Letters Between the Brownings, the Storys and James Russell Lowell, 1841-1890 (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965)

Leigh Hunt, Six Letters of Leigh Hunt Adressed [sic] to W. W. Story, 1850 1856 (New York: Macmillan, 1913)(Folcroft: The Folcroft Press, 1969)(reprint of the 1913 edition)


William Wetmore Story, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of the United States, for the First Circuit (Boston: C.C. Little and J. Brown, 1842)(3 vols.)

__________________, Commentaries on the Law of Agency: As a Branch of Commercial and Maritime Jurisprudence, with Occasional Illustrations From the Civil and Foreign Law (Boston: C.C. Little and J. Brown, 3rd ed., 1846)

__________________, A Treatise on the Law of Sales of Personal Property: With Illustrations From the Foreign Law (Boston: C.C. Little and J. Brown, 1847)(2nd ed., 1853)(3rd ed., 1862)(4th ed., by Edmund H. Bennett, 1871)

__________________ (ed.), Life and Letters of Joseph Story: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University (Boston: Little, Brown, 1851)(2 vols.) [vol. 2: online text]

__________________ (ed.), The Miscellaneous Writings of Joseph Story (Boston: Little, Brown, 1852)

__________________, A Treatise on the Law of Contracts Not Under Seal (Boston: C.C. Little and J. Brown, 1844)(2nd ed., 1847 (A Treatise on the Law of Contracts, Boston: Little, Brown, 4th ed., 1856)(2 vols.) [vol. 2: online text]

__________________, The American Question (London: George Manwering, 1862)

__________________, Roba di Roma (London: Chapman and Hall, 1863)(2 vols.)(Chapman and Hall, 3rd ed., 1864)(London: Chapman & Hall; New York: D. Appleton & Co., 4th ed., 1864)(Chapman & Hall, 5th ed., 1866)(Chapman & Hall, 6th ed., 1871)(Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 7th ed., 187_)(Chapman & Hall, 7th ed., 1876)(Boston, New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 8th ed., 1887)(2 vols.) [vol. 1: online text]

__________________, A Treatise on the Law of Sales of Personal Property (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 4th ed., 1871) [online text]

__________________, Nero: An Historical Play (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1875; New York: Scrigner, Welford, & Armstrong, 1875) [online text]

__________________, Stephania: A Tragedy in Five Acts, with a Prologue (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1875)(Edinburgh: Printed by William Blackwood and sons, 1876)

__________________, Castle St. Angelo. Being Additional Chapters to "Roba di Roma" (London: Chapman and Hall, 1877) [online text]

_________________, Second Thoughts: A Comedy in Three Acts (New York, 1878)

_________________, Vallombrosa (Edinburgh & London: W. Blackwood, 1881) [online text]

_________________, Fiammetta: A Summer Idyl (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1886)

__________________, Conversations in a Studio (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 5th ed., 1891)(1890)(2 vols.)

__________________, Excursions in Art and Letters (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 3rd ed., 1893)(1891)

Misc. Writings

Reports of The United States Commissioners To The Paris Universal Exposition, 1878. Vol. 2: Fine Arts, Education, Wood Carving (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880)("The Fine Arts" section of the report is written by William Wetmore Story)


Mary Elizabeth Phillips, Reminiscences of William Wetmore Story,
the American Sculptor and Author
(Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1897)

Henry James, William Wetmore Story and His Friends; From Letters, Diaries, and Recollections being incidents and anecdotes chronologically arranged, together with an account of his association with famous people and his principal works in literature and sculpture (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1903)(2 vols.)(New York: Kennedy Galleries, 1969)(2 vols.)

Piergiacomo Petrioli, William Wetmore Story. Un Americano al Palio (Siena, Italy: Betti, 2000)

Jan Seidler Ramirez, A Critical Reappraisal of the Career of William Wetmore Story (1819-1895): American Sculptor and Man of Letters, Ph.D. thesis, Boston University, 1985

Mary Laurentina Taffee, William Wetmore Story: Cultural Interpreter in the New England Renaissance, M.A. thesis, University of Detroit, 1952

Brooks Van Wyck, The Dream of Arcadia: American Writers and Artists in Italy, 1760-1915 (New York: Dutton, 1958)(chapter devoted to William Wetmore Story)

Bibliography: Articles

M.H. Hoeflich & Lawrence Jenab, Three Lawyer-Poets of the Nineteenth Century, 8 (3) The Green Bag 249 (2005) [online text]

Piergiacomo Petrioli, Arte e poesia a Marciano. Il circolo senese dei Browning, in "Bullettino senese di Storia patria," CVIII, 2001, pp. 297-332.

_______________, "Robert Browning and his Sienese Circle," in 24 Studies in Browning and His Circle 78-109 (Fall, 2001)

Research Resources

Willie Tolliver, Henry James as a Biographer: Self Among Others (London: Routledge, 2000)(New York: Garland Pub., 2000)(including a discussion of Jame's biography of William Wetmore Story)

Editor's Note

We have learned, in communications with Simonetta Berbeglia, in Italy, that her Italian translation of Story's Vallombrosa which was originally published by Blackwood & Sons, in Edinburgh, in 1881 was published by Clinamen, in Florence, in 2002. The Berbeglia text consists of the original English text, its Italian translation, and extensive notes.

Berbeglia tells us that Story was a "famous American neo-classical sculptor and poet" whose Vallombrosa begins with a reference to Milton: "In the latter part of last October I found myself in the lower slopes of the Appenines, on the shadowy hills of Vallombrosa. Its very name, which Milton has made familiar to English ears, has a poetic and romantic attraction; and wherever is pronounced, there rises in the memory his famous simile of the innumerable legions of angelic forms:

Who lay entranced,
As thick as autumn leaves that strew the brooks
In Vallombrosa, when the Etrurian shades
High overarched embower

Story goes on to say: "But of the many who know by heart these magical lines, how few there are to whom Vallombrosa is more than a sounding name, suggesting at best some vague place in the ideal realm of dreams."

Berbeglia notes that Story

had been invited by a friend "to pass a few days with her and her family." His friend was in reality his daughter Edith, the wife of the Florentine Marchese Peruzzi. The Peruzzi owned a country house in Vallombrosa, which was once a hunting box of the Medici. Story complains about the pulling down of the two tall towers that once flanked the building, and the loss of its earlier castellated form. He then writes about the convent founded by St. John Gualberto, the Merciful Knight, who inspired Edward Burne-Jones and Robert Southey. The descriptions of the abbey calls up emperors, popes, saints, scholars and poets.

Story takes us into the depths of the great forest, on which the peasant relies for his winter store. He portrays the simple joys and sorrows of the poor people, whose existence seems to be summarized in just one word, pazienza!

But the forest also offers the artist "singing brooks," light and shade, "a wealth of autumnal leaves," while, in the distance, the glittering Arno flows slowly, and the towers of misty Florence bask in the sun.

W.W. Story died in Vallombrosa on October 7, 1895.

Curious as to how Berbeglia came by her interest in William Wetmore Story, she tells us that she has long been interested in English literature and has spent her spare time studying it. It was her interest in English literature that lead to research on the Brownings, and of course, Elizabeth and Robert Browning were close friends of the Storys. Berbeglia goes on to note that:

As far as Vallombrosa, the convent is in the Apennines, not very far from where I live. I went up there trying to discover something about the Brownings, who spent their holidays under the Etrurian shades in 1847. The librarian monk was so moved by my love for the place and its connections with English literature, that he gave me an old copy of Story's "Vallombrosa." I decided to translate the small book in order to make the place and Story better known. I think it is a shame that an artist who loved Italy so much, is completely unknown in his adoptive country.

In Vallombrosa there still exists the house where Story lived and died. Unfortunately it is unoccupied and it is falling into ruin.

I also went to the Protestant cemetery in Rome to see Story's grave and the wonderful angel he sculpted for his wife's grave. I went to Siena and saw Villa Belvedere where the Story family spent their holidays from 1857 on.

Vallombrosa has now been translated for the first time into Italian by Simonetta Berbeglia.

Italian majolica pavement, Siena, Italian Renascence

F. S. Meyer, Handbook of Ornament
(New York: The Bruno Hessling Company, 1917)

[Used with permission of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology]