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William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) Papers

William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) Papers

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WILLIAM WETMORE STORY (1819-1895) PAPERS, 1843-1894

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Story, William Wetmore, 1819-1895
Title:William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) Papers
Quantity:0.75 Linear feet (2 boxes)
Abstract:The William Wetmore Story Papers contain correspondence and written works of this American sculptor, art critic, poet, and editor.
Collection Number:MSS 323

Series List

SERIES I. Correspondence
SERIES II. Poetry and Plays
SERIES III. Miscellaneous

Scope and Content Note

The William Wetmore Story Papers contain correspondence and written works of this American sculptor, art critic, poet, and editor. The collection has been divided into three series.

Series I. Correspondence (1862-1893) consists of letters written by William Wetmore Story to John Blackwood (1818-1879), the editor of Blackwood's Magazine in Edinburgh, Scotland, until Blackwood's death in 1879, at which point the correspondence continued with Blackwood's nephew William Blackwood. A few of the letters in the correspondence were directed to a Mr. Smith who stood in the place of the Blackwoods in their absence from the magazine. They are arranged chronologically.

The remaining letters by Story include an undated note to his wife, Emelyn, mentioning his mother's illness; a draft to the Senate and House of Representatives concerning young artists in the United States; a love poem by Story to his wife dated May 1882; an October 4, 1882 letter to Senator Sherman in regard to Story's Marshall statue commission; a letter dated Jan. 12, 1891 addressed to Miss Palpey discussing a sculpture commission; and an Oct. 18, 1892 letter that discusses The Marble Faun.

Series II. Works contains individual poems, loose-leaf poetry, and a typed and bound copy of Cleopatra in Box 1, Folder 8. Box 2 contains notebooks of poetry; Stephania (1877); Ginevra da Siena (1887); personal notes on the history of Italy; Edge Tools, a play by Story; Agrippina + Nero An Historical Play (1871); the original handwritten manuscript (July 20, 1885) of Fiammetta, A Summer Idyll; and A Sketch of Dieppe, Its Early Navigators and Their Discoveries in Africa, the Indies, and America.

Series III. Miscellaneous consists of miscellaneous papers containing historical research for Story's The Death of the Borgian Pope Alexander VI; a collection of notes on Italian decoration; J. T. Foard's Life of Mr. Justice Story, Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States; Charles A. Story's Sleep Well, Comrad Grant and Samples of the Science of Spelling.

Biographical Sketch

William Wetmore Story was born on February 12, 1819 in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Story and Sarah Waldo (Wetmore) Story. Story received his undergraduate education (1838) and law degree (1840) from Harvard University. He practiced law for almost ten years.

On October 31, 1843, Story married Emelyn Eldredge (1820-1894) of Boston. The Storys had four children: Joseph Story (who died at the age of six), Thomas Waldo Story, Julian Russell Story, and Edith Marion (Story) Peruzzi.

Although art was a hobby, he never received formal art instruction. Nonetheless, Story was commissioned to design a memorial statue of his father after his death in 1846. To prepare himself for this project, Story went to Italy to study sculpture. By 1856, after briefly returning to Boston, he abandoned the practice of law and settled in Rome, dedicating himself to making sculpture.

Some of his sculptures are "Cleopatra" (of which there is a description in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Marble Faun) and "Semiramis" in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the "Libyan Sibil", "Saul", "Sardanapalus", "Judith", "Delilah", "Jerusalem Desolate", "Alcestis", "Medea", "Electra", "Nemesis", "Sappho" and other ideal figures; and portraits of George Peabody, erected in 1869 in London; President Quincy of Harvard, at Cambridge, Massachusetts; Colonel Prescott, at Bunker Hill; Edward Everett, Public Gardens, Boston; Chief Justice John Marshall, on the west terrace of the Capitol, and Professor Henry for the Smithsonian Institution, Washington; and Francis Scott Key, San Francisco.

During the American Civil War his letters to the Daily News in December 1861 (afterwards published as a pamphlet, The American Question, i.e. of neutrality), and his articles in Blackwood's, had influence on English opinion. Among his writings are Life and Letters of Joseph Story (1851), Roba di Roma (1862), Proportions of the Human Figure (1866), Fiammetta (1885), a novel, Conversations in a Studio (1890), Excursions in Art and Letters (1891), and several volumes of poems. His poems were collected in two volumes in 1885.

The Storys came to split their years between spending the winter at Rome and the summer at St. Moritz, Switzerland. Emelyn (Eldredge) Story died in 1894. William Wetmore Story died on October 7, 1895 at Vallombrosa, Italy.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Blackwood, John, 1818-1879
Blackwood, William, 1836-1912
Story, Emelyn Eldredge, 1820-1894
Story, William Wetmore, 1819-1895
Letter writing


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

William Wetmore Story (1819-1895) Papers, MSS 323, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was acquired from various sources. An undated letter to Bradbury [Joden] and Company was purchased in 1935. The original handwritten manuscript of Fiammetta, A Summer Idyll (B2 F5) was the gift of Mrs. Edward H. Eldridge on April 25, 1945. Letters dated November 13, 1992 and January 12, 1991 (B1 F7) and a poem dated May 1882 were donated by Mrs. F. S. Whiteside in 1951. The letter to Ohio Senator John Sherman dated December 4, 1882 (B1 F7) was purchased on May 6, 1991 (acc # 91011). The letter to publisher Chapman dated September 1866 (B1 F7) was purchased in 1999 (acc # 1999.001). The letter to William Waldor Astor regarding the bust of Mrs. Astor dated February 11, 1886 (B1 F7) was purchased in 1998 (acc # 1998.020). A letter to Story's aunt dated October 20, 1845 was donated by Marian D. Devereux. The provenance is unknown for rest of the collection.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Keith E. Stone; Daniel S. Curtis, 1985; September 1991. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, July 2014.

Related Material

Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 18. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936, pp. 109-111.

Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 2. London: Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press, 1937-38, pp. 614-15.

Story Family Papers, 1832-1899, Fam. Mss. 979

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