Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Thomas Green Fessenden

New Hampshire & Vermont

Porter Gale Perrin, The Life and Works of Thomas Green Fessenden, 1771-1837
(Orono, Maine: University Press, 1925)

Thomas Green Fessenden was born in Walpole, New Hampshire on April 11, 1771, the oldest of Rev. Thomas K. and Elizabeth (Kendall) Fessenden's nine children. He spent his early years on the family farm in Walpole and at age sixteen began teaching school at New Salem, Massachusetts. Friend's with Walpole's Joseph Dennie, editor of The Farmer's Weekly Museum he became a writer for the publication and friends with Royall Tyler.

Fessenden began college studies at Dartmouth in 1792 and received his degree in 1796. There were only thirty-five or thirty-six members in this Dartmouth class and Fessenden was valedictorian. Nine members of the class became lawyers; the number of the poets in the class has not yet been determined.

Fessenden then undertook a law study with Nathaniel Chipman at Rutland, Vermont. During the time that Fessenden studied with Chipman, his mentor served as Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court and then as U.S. Senator. Fessenden was admitted to the bar in 1799. Thereafter, "[h]e appears always to have taken his profession seriously, and to have followed it as long as he lived—when he could find nothing else to take his attention. His real interests seem to have been in other fields, for he is always ready to leave his law for writing or for mechanical pursuits. Indeed, [many poems] were composed during this period of law study and practice." [Porter Gale Perrin, The Life and Works of Thomas Green Fessenden, 1771-1837 31 (Orono, Maine: University Press, 1925)]

He was, at various times in his life, not only a lawyer and poet, but a farmer, journalist, and newspaper editor. Fessenden also served several terms in the Massachusetts legislature.

Fessenden edited the Brattleboro, Vermont Reporter (1815-6), the Bellows Falls Advertiser (1817-22), and in Boston, the New England Farmer (1822-37). During his years in Boston, Fessenden authored various agricultural handbooks including The New American Gardener (1828), which was reputed to have been one of the most popular gardening books of the early 1800s. Fessenden also wrote the widely-used Complete Farmer and Rural Economist, published in 1834. In 1836 he was elected judge to the Massachusetts General Court.

William C. Spengemann notes that Fessenden's

satirical poem Democracy Unveiled (1805) helped to inspire The Embargo (1808), the first published poem of William Cullen Bryant, and his verse narrative called 'Jonathan's Courtship' gave James Russell Lowell the model for his popular dialect poem 'The Courtin'."

[William C. Spengemann, The Study of American Literature: A View from the Hill]

[Partial source of the Fessenden biographical information: Walter John Coates (ed.), A Bibliography of Vermont Poetry and Gazetteer of Vermont Poets 134-136 (Montpelier: Vermont Historical Society, 1942)] [Vol. 1] [Vol. 2, apparently, was never published]

Thomas Green Fessenden
Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2001

Thomas Green Fessenden
Nathaniel Hawthorne
American Monthly Magazine (1838)

[Note: Nathaniel Hawthorne's biographical sketch of Thomas Green Fessenden comes from first hand knowledge of his subject. When Hawthorne worked at the Boston Custom-House, he roomed in Fessenden's house.] [See William C. Spengemann, The Study of American Literature: A View from the Hill]

Tory Satirists
Cambridge History of English and American Literature


Thomas Green Fessenden, Terrible Tractoration!! A Poetical Petition Against Galvanising Trumpery, and the Perkinistic Institution. In Four Cantos (London: Printed for T. Hurst, 2nd ed., 1803)(by Christopher Caustic)

The Modern Philosopher, Or, Terrible Tractoration!: In Four Cantos (Philadelphia: From the Lorenzo Press of E. Bronson, 2nd American ed. 1806) [online text]

____________________, Original Poems (Philadelphia: Lorenzo Press of E. Bronson, 1806) [online text]

____________________, Pills, Poetical, Political, and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed for the author, 1809)("Prescribed for the purpose of purging the publick of fiddling philosophers, of puny poetasters, of paltry politicians, and petty partisans. By Peter Pepper-box, poet and physician")

____________________, The Ladies Monitor, a Poem (Bellows Falls: Printed by Bill Blake & Co., 1818) [online text]

____________________, Terrible Tractoration, and Other Poems (Boston: Tuttle, Weeks And Dennett, 1836)("By Christopher Caustic, M. D. Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Aberdeen, and honorary member of no less than nineteen very learned societies.")(2 vols.)(Boston: Samuel Colman, 4th American ed., 1837) [online text]


Thomas G. Fessenden, Democracy Unveiled, or, tyranny stripped of the garb of patriotism. By Christopher Caustic, L. L. D. &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. (New York: Printed for I. Riley, & Co., 3rd ed. 1806)(2 vols.)

_________________, The Register of Arts, or a Compendious View of Some of the Most Useful Modern Discoveries and Inventions (Philadelphia: C. & A. Conrad, 1808)

____________________, An Essay on the Law of Patents for New Inventions: With an Appendix, Containing the French Patent Law (Boston: D. Mallory, 1810)(Boston: Charles Ewer, 2nd ed., 1822 ) [online text]

__________________, The New American Gardener: Containing Practical Directions on the Culture of Fruits and Vegetables: Including Landscape and Ornamental Gardening, Grape-Vines, Silk, Strawberries, &c. &c. (Boston: J.B. Russell, 1828) [online text] (Boston: Carter, Hendee, and Babcock, 5th ed. 1831)(Boston: Carter & Hendree, 6th ed., 1832) [online text] (Boston: Otis, Broaders, & Co., 15th ed., 1842) [online text]

___________________, The New England Farmer's Almanack for the Year of Our Lord 1828 (John B Russell, 1828)

___________________, The Complete Farmer and Rural Economist: Containing a Compendious Epitome of the Most Important Branches of Agricultural and Rural Economy (New York: C.M. Saxton, Agricultural Book Publisher, 10th rev. ed., 1852)

___________________, The American Kitchen Gardener; Containing Practical Directions for the Culture of Vegetables, also Garden Fruits, Strawberry, Raspberry, Gooseberry, Currants, Melons, &c. (New York: O. M. Saxton, 1855)(New York: C.M. Saxton & Co., 1856) [online text]


Porter Gale Perrin, The Life and Works of Thomas Green Fessenden, 1771-1837 (Orono, Maine: University Press, 1925)