John Lesslie Hall

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John Lesslie Hall (March 2, 1856 – February 23, 1928), also known as J. Lesslie Hall, was an American literary scholar and poet known for his translation of Beowulf.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Jacob Hall, Jr., Hall attended Randolph–Macon College and received a PhD from Johns Hopkins University. He taught English history and literature at the College of William & Mary from 1888 to 1928 (becoming head of the English department and dean of the faculty, and receiving an honorary LLD in 1921); he "was one of the original members of the faculty which reopened the college in 1888".[1] He was also concerned with the history of his native Virginia; he frequently spoke at Jamestown and "compared Jamestown's Great Charter of 1618[clarification needed] and the assembly of 1619 with the Magna Charta at Runnymede."[2]

In 1889 he married Margaret Fenwick Farland, of Tappahannock, Virginia.[3] Their children were Channing Moore Hall, John L. Hall Jr., Joseph Farland Hall, and Sarah Moore Hall.[4]

Hall's Beowulf follows the text closely, with alliteration:

Grendel reaches Heorot: Beowulf 710–714
Old English verse Hall's verse[5]

Ðá cóm of móre     under misthleoþum
Grendel gongan·     godes yrre bær·
mynte se mánscaða     manna cynnes
sumne besyrwan     in sele þám héan·

’Neath the cloudy cliffs came from the moor then
Grendel going, God’s anger bare he.
The monster intended some one of earthmen
In the hall-building grand to entrap and make way with:

Selected works[edit]

  • (tr.) Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem (D. C. Heath, 1897)
  • Judas: A Drama in Five Acts (H. T. Jones, 1894)
  • (tr.) Judith, Phœnix, and Other Anglo-Saxon Poems (Silver, Burdett and Company, 1902)
  • Old English Idyls (Ginn & Company, 1899), original poems in the style of Old English verse
  • Half-hours in Southern History (B. F. Johnson Publishing Co., 1907)
  • English Usage: Studies in the History and Uses of English Words and Phrases (Scott, Foresman and Company, 1917)


  1. ^ Shirley Spain, "Vice-Admiral Hall Will Deliver Address at Commencement Exercises on June 12," The Flat Hat, May 24, 1949.
  2. ^ James Michael Lindgren, Preserving the Old Dominion: Historic Preservation and Virginia Traditionalism (University of Virginia Press, 1993: ISBN 0-8139-1450-7), p. 97.
  3. ^ Mildred Lewis Rutherford, The South in History and Literature, a Handbook of Southern Authors, from the Settlement of Jamestown 1607, to Living Writers (Franklin-Turner, 1906), p. 704.
  4. ^ rootsweb.
  5. ^ Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Poem. Project Gutenberg

External links[edit]