T. S. Arthur

T. S. Arthur books and biography


Timothy Shay Arthur


Timothy Shay Arthur (6 June 1809 – 6 March 1885) was a popular nineteenth-century American author. He is most famous for his temperance novel Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There (1854), which helped demonize alcohol in the eyes of the American public.

He was also the author of dozens of stories for Godey's Lady's Book, the most popular American monthly magazine in the antebellum era, and he published and edited his own Arthur's Home Magazine, a periodical in the Godey’s model, for many years. Virtually forgotten now, Arthur did much to articulate and disseminate the values, beliefs, and habits that defined respectable, decorous middle-class life in antebellum America.


Early Years

Born in New Windsor, New York, Arthur lived as a child in nearby Fort Montgomery, New York. By 1820, Arthur’s father, a miller, had relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, where Arthur briefly attended local schools. At age fourteen, Arthur apprenticed to a tailor, but poor eyesight and a general lack of aptitude for physical labor led him to seek other work. He then found employment with a wholesale merchandiser and later as an agent for an investment concern, a job that took him briefly to Louisville, Kentucky. Otherwise, he lived as a young adult in Baltimore.

Smitten by literature, Arthur devoted as much time as he could to reading and fledgling attempts to write. By 1830, he had begun to appear in local literary magazines. That year he contributed poems under his own name and pseudonyms to a giftbook called The Amethyst. Also during this time he participated in an informal literary coterie called the Seven Stars (the name drawn from that of the tavern in which they met) that also included Edgar Allan Poe.

Professional Success

The 1830s saw Arthur mount a number of efforts to become a professional author and publisher. All failed, but collectively they gave Arthur numerous chances to hone his craft. In 1838 he co-published The Baltimore Book, a giftbook that included a short tale contributed by Poe called "Siope." Toward the end of the decade, Arthur published in ephemeral format a novel called Insubordination that in 1842 appeared in hardcover. In 1840 he wrote a series of newspaper articles on the Washingtonian Temperance Society, a local organization formed by working-class artisans and mechanics to counter the life-ruining effects of drink. The articles were widely reprinted and helped fuel the establishment of Washingtonian groups across the country. Arthur’s newspaper sketches were collected in book form as Six Nights with the Washingtonians (1842). Six Nights went through many editions and helped establish Arthur in the public eye as an author associated with the temperance movement.

1840 also saw Arthur place his first short tale in Godey's Lady's Book. Called “Tired of Housekeeping,” its subject is a middle-class family who tire of supervising recalcitrant cooks and servants. Encouraged by his success, Arthur moved to Philadelphia in 1841 to be near the offices of America’s most popular home magazines. He continued to write tales for Godey’s and other periodicals. Almost yearly he issued collected editions of his tales and published novel-length narratives as well. He also authored children's stories, conduct manuals, a series of state histories, and even an income-tax primer. Interested in publishing a magazine under his own name, after several aborted efforts he launched the monthly Arthur’s Home Magazine in 1852. Helped by a very capable assistant, Virginia Townsend, the magazine survived until several years after Arthur’s death in 1885. The magazine featured Arthur’s own tales and other original fare, as well as articles and stories reprinted from other sources. In 1854, for example, Arthur published, apparently with permission, Charles Dickens’ Hard Times.

1854 was also the year Arthur published Ten Nights in a Bar-Room. The story of a small-town miller (perhaps based on Arthur’s father) who gives up his trade to open a tavern, the novel’s narrator is an infrequent visitor who over the course of several years traces the physical and moral decline of the proprietor, his family, and the town’s citizenry due to alcohol. The novel sold well, but insinuated itself in the public consciousness largely on the basis of a very popular stage version that appeared soon after the book. The play remained in continuous production well into the twentieth century when at least two movie versions were made.


Arthur attained great popularity while he lived, but was not well regarded by the era’s literati. Conscious of his own lack of brilliance, Arthur thought stories should impart beneficial life lessons by means of plainly written, realistically depicted scenes. Though often ruined by strident moralism and pious sentimentalism, at their best—as in parts of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room—Arthur’s tales can attain both briskness and poignancy. Their messages seem simplistic, even oppressive, today, but many readers in his time found Arthur relevant, helpful, reassuring, and compelling.


  • The Baltimore Book (1838)
  • Insubordination (1842)
  • Six Nights with the Washingtonians: A Series of Original Temperance Tales (1842)
  • Bell Martin; or, The Heiress (1843)
  • Fanny Dale; or, The First Year of Marriage (1843)
  • The Seamstress: A Tale of the Times (1843)
  • The Tailor's Apprentice: A Story of Cruelty and Oppression (1843)
  • The Little Pilgrims: a Sequel to The Tailor's Apprentice (1843)
  • Cecilia Howard (1844)
  • Lady's Magazine, also known as “Arthur's Lady's Magazine” and as “Arthur's Magazine” (February 1844 – April 1846) founder and editor
  • The Martyr Wife: a Domestic Romance (1844)
  • The Maiden: a Story for My Young Countrywomen (1845)
  • The Beautiful Widow (1847)
  • "Deacon Smith and His Violin" (1847) (in Godey's Lady's Book)
  • Agnes; or, The Possessed. A Revelation of Mesmerism (1848)
  • All's For the Best (1850)
    • “Angels in the Heart”
    • “Cast Down, But Not Destroyed”
    • “The Christian Gentleman”
    • “Faith and Patience”
    • “Giving That Doth Not Impoverish”
    • “Into Good Ground”
    • “Is He A Christian?”
    • “My Father”
    • “Not As A Child”
    • “The Nursery Maid”
    • “Rich and Rare Were the Gems She Wore.”
    • “Was it Murder, Or Suicide?”
  • Arthur's Home Gazette (1850-?)
  • Golden Grains from Life’s Harvest Field (1850)
  • Illustrated Temperance Tales (1850)
  • The Lady at Home; or, Leaves from the Every-Day Book of an American Woman (1850)
  • The Debtor's Daughter; or, Life and Its Changes (1850)
  • Lessons in Life, for All Who Will Read Them (1851)
    • ‘Coals of Fire’
    • ‘The Daughter-in-Law’
    • ‘For the Fun of it’
    • ‘Forgive and Forget’
    • ‘Had I Been Consulted’
    • ‘He Must Have Meant me’
    • ‘The Means of Enjoyment’
    • ‘The Mistakes of A “Rising Family.”’
    • ‘A New Pleasure’
    • ‘Paying the Minister’
    • ‘The Right of Way’
    • ‘Smith and Jones; or, the Town Lot’
  • Off-Hand Sketches (1851)
    • “Almost A Tragedy”
    • “The Circuit-Preacher”
    • “The Code of Honour”
    • “Driving A Hard Bargain”
    • “Hunting Up A Testimonial”
    • “Job’s Comforters; Or, the Lady with Nerves”
    • “Marrying A Count”
    • “Much Ado About Nothing; or, the Reason Why Mrs. Todd Didn’t Speak to Mrs. Jones”
    • “A New Way to Collect an Old Debt”
    • “Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire; or, the Love of A House”
    • “The Protest”
    • “Retrenchment; or, What A Man Saved by Stopping His Newspaper”
    • “A Shocking Bad Memory”
    • “Taking A Prescription”
    • “That John Mason”
    • “A Tipsy Parson”
    • “Treating A Case Actively”
    • “Trying to Be A Gentleman”
    • “The Yankee and the Dutchman; Or, I’ll Give Or Take”
  • The Two Wives (1851)
  • Woman's Trials (1851)
    • “Aunt Mary's Preserving Kettle”
    • “Going Home”
    • “Home At Last”
    • “I Didn't Think of That!”
    • “Jessie Hampton”
    • “A Lesson of Patience”
    • “The New Year's Gift”
    • “Plain Sewing; or How to Encourage the Poor”
    • “Taking Boarders”
  • Words For the Wise (1851)
    • “A Fine, Generous Fellow”
    • “I Knew How it Would Be”
    • “Jacob Jones; Or, the Man Who Couldn’t Get Along in the World”
    • “Just Going to Do It”
    • “Let Her Pout it Out”
    • “Love and Law”
    • “Making Haste to Be Rich”
    • “The Poor Debtor”
    • “Starting A Newspaper – An Experience of Mr. John Jones”
    • “The Sunday Christian”
    • “Taking It for Granted”
    • “The Way of Transgressors”
  • Arthur's Home Magazine, also known as “Arthur's Lady's Home Magazine” and as “Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine” (1852-1885) founder and editor
  • Heart-Histories and Life Pictures (1852)
  • Married Life: Its Shadows and Sunshine (1852)
    • “The First and Last Quarrel”
    • “The Fortune-Hunter”
    • “Guess Who It Is!”
    • “The Invalid Wife”
    • “The Maiden's Choice”
    • “Is Marriage a Lottery?”
    • “Marrying a Tailor”
    • “Ruling a Wife”
    • “Three Ways of Managing a Husband”
    • “The Unloved One”
  • Finger Posts on the Way of Life (1853)
    • “Blessing of A Good Deed”
    • “Euthansy”
    • “Gentle Hand”
    • “How to Destroy A Good Business”
    • “The Lay Preacher”
    • “The Little Bound-boy”
    • “Marrying Well”
    • “Match-making”
    • “Paying the Doctor”
    • “The Return; Or, Who is It?”
    • “Shadows From A Clouded Brow”
    • “Three Scenes in the Life of A Worldling”
    • “The Two Invalids”
    • “Will it Pay?”
  • Home Lights and Shadows (1853)
    • “Aunt Mary’s Suggestion”
    • “Both to Blame”
    • “Common People”
    • “A Dollar on the Conscience”
    • “The Fatal Error”
    • “Following the Fashions”
    • “Helping the Poor”
    • “The Humbled Pharisee”
    • “It’s None of My Business”
    • “Making a Sensation”
    • “The Mother’s Promise”
    • “Not at Home”
    • “The Portrait”
    • “Rights and Wrongs”
    • “Romance and Reality”
    • “Something for a Cold”
    • “The Two Husbands”
    • “Very Poor”
    • “Visiting as Neighbors”
  • The Home Mission (1853)
    • ‘Bear and Forbear’
    • ‘The Brother’s Temptation’
    • ‘Brothers’
    • ‘The Daughter’
    • ‘Engaged At Sixteen’
    • ‘The Evening Prayer’
    • ‘The Gentle Warning’
    • ‘A Gleam of Sunshine on the Path of A Money-lender’
    • ‘The Good Match’
    • ‘Home’
    • ‘The Home of Taste’
    • ‘Kate’s Experiment’
    • ‘The Love Secret’
    • ‘“My Fortune’s Made.”’
    • ‘Passing Away’
    • ‘A Peevish Day, and Its Consequences’
    • ‘Power of Kindness’
    • ‘Sisters’
    • ‘The Social Serpent’
    • ‘The Step-mother’
    • ‘The Two Systems’
    • ‘A Vision of Consolation’
    • ‘The Young Mother’
  • The Iron Rule (1853)
  • Trials of a Needlewoman (1853)
  • Home Scenes and Home Influence: a Series of Tales and Sketches (1854)
    • “Children – A Family Scene”
    • “The Christmas Party”
    • “Going Into Mourning”
    • “Haven’t the Change”
    • “I Will!”
    • “If That Were My Child!”
    • “Is She A Lady?”
    • “Losing One’s Temper”
    • “The Mother and Boy”
    • “A Mother’s Influence”
    • “Old Maids’ Children”
    • “An Old Man’s Recollections”
    • “The Power of Patience”
    • “Taking Comfort”
    • “Trouble with Servants”
  • Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There (1854)
  • Steps to Heaven (1855)
  • The Good Time Coming (1855)
  • The Fireside Angel (1856)
  • The Mother’s Rule; or, The Right Way and the Wrong Way (1856)
  • Our Homes; Their Cares and Duties, Joys and Sorrows (1856)
  • The Angel and the Demon: A Tale of Modern Spiritualism (1858)
  • The Hand but Not the Heart; or, The Life-Trials of Jessie Loring (1858)
  • Lizzy Glenn: or, The Trials of a Seamstress (1859)
  • Trials and Confessions of a House-Keeper (1859)
  • Advice to Young Men on Their Duties and Conduct in Life (1860)
  • The Allen House, or Twenty Years Ago and Now (1860)
  • Growler’s Income Tax (1864)
  • Home-Heroes, Saints, and Martyrs (1865)
  • After A Shadow & Other Stories (1868)
    • “After A Shadow”
    • “"Alice and the Pigeon”
    • “"Amy's Question”
    • “Andy Lovell”
    • “An Angel in Disguise”
    • “Coffee vs. Brandy”
    • “Dressed for a Party”
    • “A Good Name”
    • “Hadn't Time For Trouble”
    • “Little Lizzie”
    • “A Mystery Explained”
    • “On Guard”
    • “Other People's Eyes”
    • “A Visit With the Doctor”
    • “In The Way of Temptation”
    • “What Can I Do?”
    • “Which Was Most the Lady?”
  • Cast Adrift (1872)
  • Woman to the Rescue (1874)
  • Danger; or, Wounded in the House of a Friend (1875)
  • Strong Drink: The Curse and the Cure (1877)
  • The Bar-Rooms at Brantley; or, The Great Hotel Speculation (1877)
  • Death-Dealing Gold; or, The Miser’s Fate (?)
  • Hidden Wings, and Other Stories (?)

Reference Material

  • Arthur, T. S. “Brief Autobiography.” Lights and Shadows of Real Life. Philadelphia, 1842.
  • French, John C. “Poe’s Literary Baltimore.” Maryland Historical Quarterly 32.2 (June 1937): 101-112.
  • French, Warren G. "Timothy Shay Arthur: Pioneer Business Novelist." American Quarterly 10.1 (1958): 55-65. Available in electronic format via J-Stor.
  • "Godey's Portrait Gallery, No. 1: T. S. Arthur." Godey's Lady's Book 29 (November 1844): 193.
  • Gutjahr, Paul. "Introduction." Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, and What I Saw There In Popular American Literature of the 19th Century. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. 651.
  • Koch, Donald A. "Introduction." Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, and what I Saw There. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1964. v-lxxxiii.
  • Koch, Donald A. “The Life and Times of Timothy Shay Arthur.” Diss. Western Reserve University, 1954.
  • Palen, Edward P. “Reminisces and Analysis of his Writings by T.S. Arthur.” 1882. Chapel Hill: General and Literary Manuscripts, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
  • Ruppel, Tim. “Gender Training: Male Ambitions, Domestic Duties, and Failure in the Magazine Fiction of T.S. Arthur.” Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 24 (1999), 311-337.


This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Sponsored Links

After A Shadow And Other Stories

After The Storm

All's For The Best

Cast Adrift


Finger Posts On The Way Of Life

Friends And Neighbors

Grappling With The Monster

Heart Histories And Life Pictures

Home Lights And Shadows

Home Scenes And Home Influence,

Lessons In Life, For All Who Will Read Them

Lizzy Glenn

Married Life Its Shadows And Sunshine

Off Hand Sketches

Ten Nights In A Bar Room

The Allen House

The Good Time Coming

The Hand But Not The Heart

The Home Mission

The Iron Rule

By T. S. Arthur
Short Stories

The Iron Rule
Details Report
Share this Book!

The Lights And Shadows Of Real Life

The Son Of My Friend

The Two Wives

The Wedding Guest

Trials And Confessions Of A Housekeepe

Woman's Trials

By T. S. Arthur
Short Stories

Woman's Trials
Details Report
Share this Book!

Words For The Wise

Words Of Cheer For The Tempted, The Toiling, And T

message of the week Message of The Week

Bookyards Youtube channel is now active. The link to our Youtube page is here.

If you have a website or blog and you want to link to Bookyards. You can use/get our embed code at the following link.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Bookyards Facebook, Tumblr, Blog, and Twitter sites are now active. For updates, free ebooks, and for commentary on current news and events on all things books, please go to the following:

Bookyards at Facebook

Bookyards at Twitter

Bookyards at Pinterest

Bookyards atTumblr

Bookyards blog

message of the daySponsored Links