William James Rolfe

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William James Rolfe, Litt.D. (December 10, 1827 – July 7, 1910) was an American educator and Shakespearean scholar.[1]

Rolfe was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts on December 10, 1827.[1] He attended Amherst College from 1845 through 1848, but left without graduating after three years due to financial hardship. Amherst, though, nonetheless later awarded him an honorary degree. Between 1852 and 1868, he served as headmaster of high schools at Dorchester, Lawrence, Salem, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Early in his career, he edited selections from Ovid and Virgil and (in collaboration) the Cambridge Course of Physics (six volumes, 1867–68).

Rolfe's Shakespearean work began with an American edition of George Lillie Craik's English of Shakespeare (3rd revised ed., 1864, LCCN 28-15228), which Crosby and Ainsworth published in 1867 (LCCN 03-26761). This led to his preparation for Harper & Brothers of a complete edition of Shakespeare – the Friendly Edition (forty volumes, 1870–83; new edition, 1903–07).

Rolfe also edited a complete edition of Tennyson (twelve volumes, 1898) and verse by many of the other great English poets. He wrote a very useful Satchel Guide to Europe, revised annually for 35 years, and at least five other books:

  • Shakespeare the Boy (1896)
  • The Elementary Study of English (1896)
  • Life of Shakespeare (1901)
  • Life of William Shakespeare (1904)
  • Shakesperean Proverbs (1908)

William James Rolfe died on July 7, 1910, at the home of a son in Tisbury, Massachusetts.[1] He was the father of John Carew Rolfe, Charles J. Rolfe and George Rolfe, who may all have been academicians.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Dr. W. J. Rolfe, Author, Is Dead". The New York Times. July 8, 1910.
  2. ^ According to his New York Times obituary, "Three sons, Prof. John Rolfe of the University of Pennsylvania, Prof. George Rolfe and Prof. Charles J. Rolfe of Cambridge, survive [Dr. Rolfe]."

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