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William James Rolfe
 Rolfe, William James.

From: One of a Thousand. A Series of Biographical Sketches of One Thousand Representative Men Resident in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, A.D. 1888-89. Compiled under the editorial supervision of John C. Rand. Boston: First National Publishing Company, 1890.

Rolfe, William James, son of John and Lydia Davis (Moulton) Rolfe, was born in Newburyport, Essex county, December 10, 1827.

His boyhood was mainly passed in Lowell where he was fitted for college in the high school. He entered Amherst College in 1845. After remaining three years he gave up his studies in order to become a teacher. After teaching in Kirkwood Academy, Maryland, he became principal of Day?s Academy, Wrentham, where he remained until December, 1852; then took the mastership of the Dorchester high school, and remained there until the summer of 1857, when he was invited to take charge of the high school in Lawrence. After four years in Lawrence he removed to Salem, but after one year, he was offered the mastership of the Cambridge high school. This he accepted, and has since continued to reside in Cambridge, though he resigned his position in the school in 1868. Since that time he has devoted himself to editorial and literary work.

Since 1869 he has been one of the editors of ?Popular Science News? (formerly ?Boston Journal of Chemistry?), and for several years has had charge of ?Shakespeariana? in the ?Literary World,? besides contributing to other literary and scientific periodicals.

In 1865 he published a ?Hand-book of Latin Poetry? in conjunction with J.H. Hanson, A.M., of Waterville, Me. In 1867 he published an edition of Craik?s ?English of Shakespeare.? Between 1867 and ?69, in connection with J.A. Gillet, he brought out the ?Cambridge Course of Physics,? in six volumes. This series has since been entirely re-written by the authors. In 1870 he prepared a school edition of Shakespeare?s ?Merchant of Venice,? and followed it up with editions of the ?Tempest,? ?Julius Caesar,? and ?Henry VIII.? Others were eagerly called for both by students and the general reading public, and the edition is now complete in forty volumes. Its sale has far exceeded that of any other American edition, amounting to more than a third of a million volumes.

Mr. Rolfe has also published a volume of selections from Gray?s poems, and others from Goldsmith?s and Wordsworth?s in style similar to that of Shakespeare also the ?Minor Poems of Milton,? Scott?s ?Lady of the Lake,? ?Marmion,? and ?Lay of the Last Minstrel;? Tennyson?s ?Princess,? three volumes of selections from Tennyson; Byron?s ?Childe Harold,? and two volumes of selections from Browning. With his son, John C. Rolfe, Ph.D., he has edited Macaulay?s ?Lays of Ancient Rome.? He has also begun a series of more elementary ?English Classics,? three volumes of which have already appeared. It is generally understood that he is the author of the Satchel ?Guide to Europe,? though his name does not appear on the title-page.

Mr. Rolfe received the honorary degree of A.M. at Harvard, in 1859, and the same degree subsequently at Amherst, where he was enrolled as a regular graduate of the class of 1849, at the suggestion of President Seelye his old classmate and ?chum.? In 1887 he received the further honor of the degree of doctor of letters from Amherst. Mr. Rolfe was elected to the presidency of the Martha?s Vineyard Summer Institute, on the resignation of Colonel Sprague,in the spring of 1882, and held the office until 1888.

Mr. Rolfe was married in Dorchester, July 30, 1856, to Eliza Jane Carew (a graduate of his school), daughter of Joseph and Eleanor (Griffiths) Carew. Of this union are three children: John Carew, George William and Charles Joseph Rolfe.

Mr. Rolfe is foremost among the Shakespearian scholars of America, and is acknowledged as one of the most delicately critical interpreters of the ?Prince of Poets.? As a specialist in some lines of scientific research, he has been widely quoted both in this country and Europe.


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Created: November 23, 2005   Modified: November 23, 2005