Authors: Thomas Nelson Page

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

American novelist, short-story writer, and essayist.

April 23, 1853

Hanover County, Virginia

November 1, 1922

Hanover County, Virginia


Thomas Nelson Page was a product of the antebellum South, and the romance of the pre-Civil War period influenced all his thinking and his writing, as did the Civil War itself. He was born on a plantation in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1853 and lived there until he entered college. He attended Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) from 1869 to 1872 but was forced to leave before graduation because of lack of sufficient money for his expenses. An important influence on him during those undergraduate years was Robert E. Lee, president of the institution, who took a personal interest in young Page. After leaving college, Page found employment as a tutor and studied law with his father. In 1873 he entered the University of Virginia and received the LL.B. degree in 1874. During the following decade he practiced law, married, and continued the writing he had begun while at Washington College.

Thomas Nelson Page.

By Frances Benjamin Johnston, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Page’s first fame came with the publication of a story in black dialect, "Marse Chan," in Century Magazine. In 1893 he left the practice of law altogether and moved to Washington, D.C.; by that time he had acquired sufficient reputation as a writer and a lecturer to assure himself of an income. For the next twenty years he lectured and wrote, and his stories, novels, and social studies almost all concerned the South before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. His works reflected his own romantic and idealized notions about the South. He truly believed that the antebellum South had been a generally happy place for both slaves and masters, and he attempted in his writings to present such a sympathetic picture that the North would change its views and the breach between the North and South would be healed.

Page became a diplomat in 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson appointed him ambassador to Italy, a post he held until 1919. He was sympathetic toward the Italians and tried to support Italy’s position in the peace negotiations at Paris after World War I. Failing to be helpful that way, he wrote a highly sympathetic volume, Italy and the World War. Ill health prevented any further serious writing during the remainder of his life, and his last novel, The Red Riders, was left unfinished when he died at his Hanover County home on November 1, 1922.

Author Works Long Fiction: On Newfound River, 1891 Two Prisoners, 1897 Red Rock, 1898 Gordon Keith, 1903 Under the Crust, 1907 John Marvel, Assistant, 1909 The Red Riders, 1924 Short Fiction: "Marse Chan," 1884 In Ole Virginia, 1887 Befo' de War: Echoes in Negro Dialect, 1888 (with A. C. Gordon) Elsket and Other Stories, 1891 Pastime Stories, 1894 The Burial of the Guns, 1894 Bred in the Bone, 1904 The Land of the Spirit, 1913 Nonfiction: The Old South, 1892 Social Life in Old Virginia, 1897 The Negro: The Southerner's Problem, 1904 The Old Dominion: Her Making and Her Manners, 1908 Robert E. Lee, The Southerner, 1908 Robert E. Lee: Man and Soldier, 1911 Italy and the World War, 1920 Dante and His Influence: Studies, 1922 Washington and Its Romance, 1923 Children’s/Young Adult Literature: Among the Camps, or Young People's Stories of the War, 1891 Two Little Confederates, 1888 The Old Gentleman of the Black Stock, 1897 Santa Claus's Partner, 1899 Tommy Trot's Visit to Santa Claus, 1908 Poetry: The Coast of Bohemia, 1906 Bibliography Field, Henry. A Memoir of Thomas Nelson Page. Miami: Field Research Projects, 1978. Provides biographical insight into Page's life and works. Gross, Theodore L. Thomas Nelson Page. New York: Twayne, 1967. A standard reference biography of Page. Hagood, Taylor. "Thomas Nelson Page (1853–1922)." Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 6 July 2016, Accessed 18 Sept. 2017. Hubbell, Jay B. The South in American Literature, 1607-1900. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1954. Provides context for and examination of Page's writings. Provides a biographical overview of Page, along with a list of major works, a timeline, and some basic critical analysis. Longest, George C. Three Virginia Writers: Mary Johnston, Thomas Nelson Page, and Amelia Rives Troubetzkoy—A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978. Discusses Page's status as a high-profile Virginian writer of his day. Page, Rosewell. Thomas Nelson Page: A Memoir of a Virginia Gentleman. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923. Provides biographical information on Page. Romine, Scott. The Narrative Forms of Southern Community. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.This examination of Southern literature and culture provides insight into Page's narrative style.

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