|Strangers to Us All||Lawyers and Poetry|
Rufus Dawes was born in Boston, the son of Judge Thomas Dawes, Judge of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts and a poet. Dawes studied law and was admitted to the bar but never pacticed. He is the author of The Valley of the Nashaway, and Other Poems (1830); Athena of Damascus (1839)(a tragedy); Nix's Mate, an historical romance novel; and Geraldine, a long narrative poem, published in 1840.
"His ancestors were among the earliest settlers of Boston; and his grandfather, as president of the Council, was for a time acting governor of the state [of Massachusetts]. . . . His father Thomas Dawes, was for ten years one of the associate judges of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, and was distinguished among the advocates of the Federal Constitution, in the state convention called for its consideration. He was a sound lawyer, a man of great independence of character, and was distinguished for the brilliancy of his wit, and for many useful qualities.
Rufus Dawes was born in Boston, on the twenty-sixth of January, 1803, and was the youngest but one of sixteen children. He entered Harvard College in 1820; but in consequence of class disturbances, and insubordination, of which it was afterward shown he was falsely accused, he was compelled to leave that institution without a degree. This indignity he retaliated by a severe satire on the most prominent members of the faculty—the first poem he ever published. He then entered the office of General William Sullivan, as a law-student, and was subsequently admitted a member of the Suffolk county bar. He has however never pursued the practice of the legal profession, having been attracted by other pursuits more congenial with his feelings.
In 1829 he was married to the third daughter of Chief Justice Cranch, of Washington. In 1830 he published 'The Valley of the Nashaway, and other Poems,' some of which had appeared originally in the Cambridge 'United States Literary Gazette;' and in 1839, 'Athenia of Damascus,' 'Geraldine,' and his miscellaneous poetical writings. . . . '[N]ix's Mate,' an historical romance, appeared in the following year.
With Mr. Dawes poetry seems to have been a passion, which is fast subsiding and giving place to a love of philosophy. He has been said to be a discipline of Coleridge, but in reality is a devoted follower of Swendenborg; and to this influence must be ascribed the air of mysticism which pervades his later productions. He has from time to time edited several legal, literary, and political words, and in the last has shown himself to be an adherent to the principles of the old Federal party. As a poet, his standing is yet unsettled, there being a wide difference of opinion respecting his writings."
[See also, [William Thomas Davis, Bench and Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 293 (Boston: Boston History Co., 1895)(vol.1)(a short biographical entry)]
Edgar Allen Poe commented on Mr. Dawes poetics as follows:
[Source: Edgar Allan Poe, "A Chapter on Autography (Part I)," Graham's Magazine, November 1841, pp. 224-234]
"The later years of Mr. Dawe's life were passed as a clerk in one of the Government departments at Washington, in the District of Columbia. He died in that city, at the age of fifty-six, Novmeber 30, 1859." [Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck, The Cyclopedia of American Literature (Philadelphia: William Rutter & Co., 1880)]
Rufus Dawes, The Valley of the Nashaway: and Other Poems (Boston: Carter & Hendee, Waitt & Dow's Printers, 1830)
__________, Geraldine, Athenia of Damascus: And Miscellaneous Poems (New York: Samuel Colman, 1839) [online text]
Rufus Dawes, American Dramatic Library: Comprising Athenia of Damascus, Bianca Visconti, Tortesa the Usurer (New York: J.P. Giffing, 1839)
__________, Athenia of Damascus, a tragedy (New York: Samuel Colman, 1839) [online text]