Thomas Bulfinch

Thomas Bulfinch books and biography


Thomas Bulfinch


Thomas Bulfinch (July 15, 1796 - May 27, 1867) was an American writer, born in Newton, Massachusetts to a highly-educated but not rich Bostonian merchant family. His father was Charles Bulfinch, the architect of the Massachusetts State House in Boston and parts of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C..

Thomas Bulfinch, who reorganized Psalms to illustrate the history of the Hebrews, is best known as the author of The Age of Fable, first published in 1855, and known since the 1880s as Bulfinch's Mythology, a three-part work consisting of:

  1. The Age of Fable; or Stories of Gods and Heroes
  2. The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur
  3. Legends of Charlemagne, or Romance of the Middle Ages

Compare these to the matter of Rome, the matter of Britain and the matter of France, respectively.

"Our work is not for the learned, nor for the theologian, nor for the philosopher, but for the reader of English literature, of either sex, who wishes to comprehend the allusions so frequently made by public speakers, lecturers, essayists, and poets, and those which occur in polite conversation."

The volume was dedicated to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and described on the title page as an "Attempt To Popularize Mythology, And Extend The Enjoyment Of Elegant Literature."

In his preface Bulfinch outlined his purpose which was

"an attempt to solve this problem, by telling the stories of mythology in such a manner as to make them a source of amusement. We have endeavored to tell them correctly, according to the ancient authorities, so that when the reader finds them referred to he may not be at a loss to recognize the reference. Thus we hope to teach mythology not as a study, but as a relaxation from study; to give our work the charm of a story-book, yet by means of it to impart a knowledge of an important branch of education. The index at the end will adapt it to the purposes of a reference, and make it a Classical Dictionary for the parlor."

The versions Bulfinch gives for the classical myths are those in Ovid and Virgil. His Norse myths are abridged from Mallet's Northern Antiquities.

The Bulfinch version of myth, published for genteel Americans just as the first studies of mythography were appearing in Germany, presents the myths in their literary versions, without unnecessary violence, sex, psychology or ethnographic information. The Bulfinch myths are an indispensable guide to the cultural values of the American 19th century, yet the Bulfinch version is still the version being taught in many American public schools. Marie Sally Cleary, The Bulfinch Solution: Teaching the Ancient Classics in American Schools (1990), sets the book in the context of "democratizing" classical culture for a wider American antebellum readership.

Bulfinch was the product of Boston Latin School, Phillips Exeter Academy, and Harvard College, where he graduated in 1814.

The Bulfinch retellings were largely superseded in American high schools by Edith Hamilton's works on mythology.

Table of Contents

The Age of Fable or Beauties of Mythology

By Thomas Bulfinch
New Edition, Revised and Enlarged
Volume I: Stories of Gods and Heroes

Review of Reviews Company
New York 1914
Copyright, 1913, By Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

[Note: This edition does not have the Longfellow dedication.]

Publishers' Preface

Author's Preface

Stories of Gods and Heroes

  1. Introduction
  2. Prometheus and Pandora
  3. Apollo and Daphne—Pyramus and Thisbe—Cephalus and Procris
  4. Juno and her Rivals, Io and Callisto—Diana and Actæon—Latona and the Rustics
  5. Phaëton
  6. Midas—Baucis and Philemon
  7. Proserpina—Glaucus and Scylla
  8. Pygmalion—Dryope—Venus and Adonis—Apollo and Hyacinthus
  9. Ceyx and Halcyone
  10. Vertumnus and Pomona—Iphis and Anaxarete
  11. Cupid and Psyche
  12. Cadmus—The Myrmidons
  13. Nisus and Scylla—Echo and Narcissus—Clytie—Hero and Leander
  14. Minerva and Arachne—Niobe
  15. The Grææ and Gorgons—Perseus and Medusa—Atlas—Andromeda
  16. Monsters: Giants—Sphinx—Pegasus and Chimæra—Centaurs—Griffin—Pygmies
  17. The Golden Fleece—Medea
  18. Meleager and Atalanta
  19. Hercules—Hebe and Ganymede
  20. Theseus and Dædalus—Castor and Pollux—Festivals and Games
  21. Bacchus and Ariadne
  22. The Rural Deities—The Dryads and Erisichthon—Rhœcus—Water Deities—Camanæ—Winds
  23. Achelous and Hercules—Admetus and Alcestis—Antigone—Penelope
  24. Orpheus and Eurydice—Aristæus—Amphion -Linus—Thamyris—Marsyas—Melampus—Musæus
  25. Arion—Ibycus—Simonides—Sappho
  26. Endymion—Orion—Aurora and Tithonus—Acis and Galatea
  27. The Trojan War
  28. The Fall of Troy—Return of the Greeks—Orestes and Electra
  29. Adventures of Ulysses—The Lotus-eaters —The Cyclopes—Circe—Sirens—Scylla and Charybdis—Calypso
  30. The Phæacians—Fate of the Suitors
  31. Adventures of Æneas—The Harpies—Dido—Paliniurus
  32. The Infernal Regions—The Sibyl
  33. Æneas in Italy—Camilla—Evander—Nisus and Euryalus—Mezentius—Turnus
  34. Pythagoras—Egyption Deities—Oracles
  35. Origin of Mythology—Statues of Gods and Goddesses—Poets of Mythology
  36. Monsters (modern)—The Phœnix—Basilisk—Unicorn—Salamander
  37. Eastern Mythology—Zoroaster—Hindu Mythology—Castes—Buddha—The Grand Lama—Prester John
  38. Northern Mythology—Valhalla—The Valkyrior
  39. Thor's Visit to Jotunheim
  40. The Death of Baldur—The Elves—Runic Letters—Skalds—Iceland—Teutonic Mythology—The Nibelungen Lied—Wagner's Nibelungen Ring
  41. The Druids—Iona
  42. Beowulf

King Arthur and His Knights

  1. Introduction
  2. The Mythical History of England
  3. Merlin
  4. Arthur
  5. Arthur (Continued)
  6. Sir Gawain
  7. Caradoc Briefbras; or, Caradoc with the Shrunken Arm
  8. Launcelot of the Lake
  9. The Adventure of the Cart
  10. The Lady of Shalott
  11. Queen Guenever's Peril
  12. Tristram and Isoude
  13. Tristram and Isoude (Continued)
  14. Sir Tristram's Battle with Sir Launcelot
  15. The Round Table
  16. Sir Palamedes
  17. Sir Tristram
  18. Perceval
  19. The Sangreal, or Holy Graal
  20. The Sangreal (Continued)
  21. The Sangreal (Continued
  22. Sir Agrivain's Treason
  23. Morte d'Arthur

The Mabinogeon

Introductory Note

  1. The Britons
  2. The Lady of the Fountain
  3. The Lady of the Fountain (Continued)
  4. The Lady of the Fountain (Continued)
  5. Geraint, the Son of Erbin
  6. Geraint, the Son of Erbin (Continued)
  7. Geraint, the Son of Erbin (Continued)
  8. Pwyll, Prince of Dyved
  9. Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr
  10. Manawyddan
  11. Kilwich and Olwen
  12. Kilwich and Olwen (Continued)
  13. Taliesin

Hero Myths of the British Race

Cuchulain, Champion of Ireland
Hereward the Wake
Robin Hood

Legends of Charlemagne

The Peers, or Paladins
The Tournament
The Siege of Albracca
Adventures of Rinaldo and Orlando
The Invasion of France
The Invasion of France (Continued)
Bradamante and Rogero
Astolpho and the Enchantress
The Orc
Astolpho's Adventures continued, and Isabella's begun
Orlando Mad
Zerbino and Isabella
Astolpho in Abyssinia
The War in Africa
Rogero and Bradamante
The Battle of Roncesvalles
Rinaldo and Bayard
Death of Rinaldo
Huon of Bordeaux
Huon of Bordeaux (Continued)
Huon of Bordeaux (Continued)
Ogier, the Dane
Ogier, the Dane (Continued)
Ogier, the Dane (Continued)

Proverbial Expressions

List of Illustrative Passages Quoted from the Poets

Index and Dictionary

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

Sponsored Links

Bulfinch's Mythology

Legends Of Charlemagne

The Age Of Chivalry

The Age Of Fable

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