William Ross Wallace

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William Ross Wallace (1819 – May 5, 1881) was an American poet, with Scottish roots, best known for writing "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World".


Wallace was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1819.[a] His father, a Presbyterian preacher, died when Wallace was still an infant.[1] Wallace was educated at Indiana University and Hanover College, Indiana, and studied law in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1841, he moved to New York City, where he practiced law, and at the same time engaged in literary pursuits.[2] His first work that attracted favorable criticism, a poem entitled "Perdita", published in the Union Magazine, was followed by "Alban" (1848), a poetical romance, and "Meditations in America" (1851). Other poems that attained popularity include "The Sword of Bunker Hill" (1861), a national hymn; "Keep Step with the Music of the Union" (1861); "The Liberty Bell" (1862); and his most famous poem, "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World" (1865), a poem praising motherhood.[2][3] He contributed to Godey's Lady's Book, Harper's Magazine, Harper's Weekly, the New York Ledger, and the Louisville Daily Journal.[3] William Cullen Bryant said of his writings: "They are marked by a splendor of imagination and an affluence of diction which show him the born poet."[2] Edgar Allan Poe, a friend of Wallace's, referred to him as "one of the very noblest of American poets".[4] Wallace died at his home in New York City on May 5, 1881, a week after suffering a stroke.[5] He was working on a book to be titled Pleasures of the Beautiful at the time of his death.[5]

Books by Wallace[edit]

  • The Battle of Tippecanoe, Triumphs of Science, and Other Poems (1837)
  • Wordsworth: A Poem (1846)
  • Alban the Pirate: A Romaunt of the Metropolis (1848)
  • Meditations in America, and Other Poems (1851)
  • Prattsville, an American Poem (1852)
  • The Loved and the Lost (1856)
  • Progress of the United States: Henry Clay, an Ode "Of Thine Own Country Sing" (1856)
  • Patriotic and Heroic Eloquence: A Book for the Patriot, Statesman and Student (1861)
  • The Liberty Bell (1862)


  1. ^ Wallace's obituary in The New York Times lists his place of birth as Paris, Kentucky. Most sources state he was born in Lexington, however.
  1. ^ Coggeshall, William T. (1860). Poets and Poetry of the West. New York: Follett, Foster, and Company. pp. 227–37.
  2. ^ a b c Wilson & Fiske 1891.
  3. ^ a b Johannsen, Albert (1950). House of Beadle & Adams and its Dime and Nickel Novels: The Story of a Vanished Literature. University of Oklahoma Press.
  4. ^ Willis, Nathaniel Parker; James Russell Lowell (1857). The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe. 3. J. S. Redfield. pp. 240–241.
  5. ^ a b "Death Of Wm. Ross Wallace. Poems That He Wrote, His Illness, And His Friendship With Poe". The New York Times. May 7, 1881.


External links[edit]