Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

John Reuben Thompson


James Grant Wilson & John Fiske, Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography 92
(New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889)(vol. 6)

John Reuben Thompson was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1823 and attended school in East Haven, Connecticut and Richmond. He was educated at the University of Virginia where he studied ancient languages, natural philosophy, mathematics, and chemistry and received his degree in 1842. (When Thompson attended the University of Virginia, his biographer, Gerald M. Garmon, notes that the University had only twelve professors and 179 students.) Thompson returned to Richmond and associated himself with the law office of James A. Seddon. He spent two years with Seddon and then returned to the University of Virginia to study law with Henry St. George Tucker. He received his law degree in 1845. Gerald Garmon, in John Reuben Thompson, tells the story of Thompson's ensuing legal career in a single paragraph:

When he returned to Richmond this time, he found that Seddon was serving a term in Congress. This may be why Thompson decided to set up his own law practice over his father's store at Fourteenth and Main streets. What success he had has a lawyer is not recorded. He continued for at least two years, but law seems to have held little interest for him. Much of his energy and interest was diverted into his social life. His father was prospering, and young Thompson saw no reason to work at his profession. [Gerald M. Garmon, John Reuben Thompson 20 (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979)]

In 1847 Thompson, with the help of his father, purchased the Southern Literary Messenger and at age twenty-four became editor, of a distinguished Southern magazine. In 1860 he left the Southern Literary Messenger and for a short time served as editor of the Southern Field and Fireside in Augusta, Georgia. During the Civil War, Thompson spend several years in London, and contributed articles to various journals. After the war he served as literary editor of William Cullen Bryant's New York Evening Post. He died in New York in 1873.

John Reuben Thompson

John Reuben Thompson
Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography
(New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889)(James Grant Wilson & John Fiske eds.)(6 vols.)


The Window-Panes at Brandon

Lee to the Rear

Obsequies of Stuart
(May 12, 1864)

Music in Camp

The Burial of Latane

Turner Ashby

A Word With the West

On to Richmond

A Farewell to Pope


John Reuben Thompson, Poems of John R. Thompson (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1920) [online text]


John Reuben Thompson, The Genius and Character of Edgar Allan Poe (Richmond, Virginia: Priv. print [Garrett & Massie, Inc.], 1929)(James H. Whitty & James H. Rindfleisch eds.)


John O. Eidson, "John Reuben Thompson," in Louis D. Rubin, Jr. (ed.), A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of Southern Literature 306 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1969)

Gerald M. Garmon, John Reuben Thompson (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1979)

Mildred Lewis Rutherford, The South in History and Literature, A Hand-Book of Southern Authors From the Settlement of Jamestown, 1607, to Living Writings 423-425 (Atlanta: Franklin-Turner Company, 1907)(1906)

Research Resources

John Reuben Thompson Manuscripts & Papers
Virginia Historical Society
Richmond, Virginia