William Wetmore Story

(1819-1895 / USA)

Biography of William Wetmore Story

William Wetmore Story (February 12, 1819 - October 7, 1895) was an American sculptor, art critic, poet and editor.

William Wetmore Story was the son of jurist Joseph Story and Sarah Waldo (Wetmore) Story. He graduated at Harvard College in 1838 and at the Harvard Law School in 1840, continued his law studies under his father, was admitted to the Massachusetts bar, and prepared two legal treatises of value — Treatise on the Law of Contracts not under Seal (2 vols., 1844) and Treatise on the Law of Sales of Personal Property (1847).

Abandoning the law, he devoted himself to sculpture, and after 1850 lived in Rome, whither he had first gone in 1848, and where he was intimate with the Brownings and with Walter Savage Landor. In 1856, he received a commission for a bust of his late father, which resides in the Memorial Hall/Lowell Hall. Story's apartment, in Palazzo Barberini, became a central location for Americans in Rome. His most famous work, Cleopatra, (1858) was described and admired in Nathaniel Hawthorne's romance, The Marble Faun, and is on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia. Another work, the Angel of Grief, has been replicated near the Stanford Mausoleum at Stanford University.

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 considerable influence on English opinion.

Story submitted a design for the Washington Monument, then under construction. Although the Washington National Monument Society concluded that his design seemed "vastly superior in artistic taste and beauty" to the obelisk already under construction, the obelisk continued to be built, and is what we see today as the monument. In addition, Story sculpted a bronze statue of Joseph Henry on the Mall in Washington, D.C., the scientist who served as the Smithsonian Institution's first Secretary. His Libyan Sibyl is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Story died at Vallombroso, Italy. He is buried with his wife, Emelyn Story, in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome, under a statue of his own design (Angel of Grief).

William Wetmore Story's Works:

* Joseph Henry Memorial, Washington D.C., 1883
* John Marshall Memorial, Washington D.C., 1884
* Angel of Grief (this statue was on the Once album cover of Nightwish, as well as on the covers of works by other bands)
* Statue of Joseph Story, his father, in Harvard Law School's Langdell Hall

PoemHunter.com Updates

The Violet

O faint, delicious, spring-time violet!
Thine odor, like a key,
Turns noiselessly in memory's wards to let
A thought of sorrow free.

The breath of distant fields upon my brow
Blows through that open door
The sound of wind-borne bells, more sweet and low,
And sadder than of yore.

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