Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bullfinch's Mythology

Thomas Bulfinch (July 15, 1796 – May 27, 1867) was an American writer born in Newton, Massachusetts. Bulfinch belonged to a well-educated Bostonian merchant family of modest means. 

Although Thomas Bulfinch reorganized Psalms to illustrate the history of the Hebrews, he is best known as the author of Bulfinch's Mythology, an 1881 compilation of his previous works: The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855) The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur (1858) Legends of Charlemagne, or Romance of the Middle Ages (1863) Bulfinch's Mythology is a classic work of popularized mythology, still in print 150 years after the first work, Age of Fable, was published in 1855. The compilation, assembled posthumously by Edward Everett Hale, includes various stories belonging to the mythological traditions known as the Matter of Rome, the Matter of Britain and the Matter of France, respectively.

Bulfinch wrote in his preface: "Our work is not for the learned, nor for the theologian, nor for the philosopher, but for the reader of English literature, of either sex, who wishes to comprehend the allusions so frequently made by public speakers, lecturers, essayists, and poets, and those which occur in polite conversation." ~wiki

Interestingly enough, this "book was the primary resource for the study of ancient mythology for over a century, and was the most commonly consulted resource for classical and medieval literature throughout the Victorian Age in the English-speaking world." (p. xi)

"The religions of ancient Greece and Rome are extinct. The so-called divinities of Olympus have not a single worshipper among living men. They belong now not to the department of theology, but to those of literature and taste. There they still hold their place, and will continue to hold it, for they are too closely connected with the finest productions of poetry and art, both ancient and modern, to pass into oblivion..." (p. 11). ~Thomas Bullfinch, Chapter 1, Introduction (to The Age of Fable)

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