Charles Astor Bristed

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Charles Astor Bristed

Charles Astor Bristed (October 6, 1820 – January 14, 1874) was an American scholar and author, sometimes writing under the pen name Carl Benson. He was the first American to write a full-length defense of Americanisms.


Charles was born in New York City, New York, the son of the Reverend John Bristed and Magdalena Astor (eldest daughter of fur-trader John Jacob Astor and Sarah Todd). He graduated from Yale College in 1839 with honors, and from Trinity College, Cambridge, England, in 1845, taking numerous prizes and being made a foundation scholar of the college.[1][2] He returned to the United States in 1847, where married as his first wife Laura Whetten Brevoort (1823-1860), sister of James Carson Brevoort.[3] His second wife was Grace Ashburner Sedgwick (1833-1897), the daughter of Charles Sedgwick and Elizabeth Buckminster Dwight, by whom he had two sons (Charles Astor, Jr. & John) and a daughter (Cecilia).

He amused himself contributing articles, poetical translations, critical papers on the classics, and sketches of society to various journals, and in 1849 edited Selections from Catullus, for school use. In 1850 he published "Letters to the Hon. Horace Mann", being a reply to some strictures upon the characters of Girard and Astor. In 1852 a collection of his sketches on New York Society entitled "The Upper Ten Thousand", appeared in the Fraser Magazine. At the same time he published Five Years in an English University, in which he described the manners, customs, and mode of life but little understood in the United States.

Bristed exhibited in his writings a keen appreciation of men and books. His wide scholarship makes his essays valuable, and marks his criticisms with the best qualities of a trained university man. He also published many clever poetical translations from the classics. In his later years he resided in Washington, D.C. He was a frequent contributor to the Galaxy under the pen-name "Carl Benson", and published The Interference Theory of Governments, a book denunciatory of tariff and prohibitory liquor laws, and Pieces of a Broken-down Critic.

He was one of the trustees of the Astor Library from its founding. He died in Washington, D.C.


  1. ^ "Bristed, Charles [Astor] (BRST840CA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Bristed, Charles Astor (1852). Five years in an English university. G. P. Putnam. 
  3. ^ Clarke, Robert Gordon. Early New Netherlands Settlers. Retrieved on May 8, 2014.
  • The National Cyclopædia of American Biography, Volume 6. New York: James T. White & Company (1929) 366.

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