Bulfinch’s Mythology Tales

Bulfinch and Mythology

Thomas Bulfinch was an American writer born on July 15, 1796 in Newton, Massachusetts. Bulfinch belonged to a well-educated merchant family, and he himself had an extensive classical education at such illustrious institutions as Boston Latin School, Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard College. Although he composed other works including books based on Shakespeare , the Hebrew Book of Psalms and a biographical study of Matthew Edwards, today Bulfinch is remember best as the author of  Bulfinch’s Mythology, an 1881 compilation of his three previous works:

  • The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855)
  • The Age of Chivalry, or Legends of King Arthur (1858)
  • Legends of Charlemagne, or Romance of the Middle Ages (1863)

These books were, as Bulfinch would write in his preface, “not for the learned, nor for the theologian, nor for the philosopher, but for the reader of English literature, of either sex, who wishes to comprehend the allusions so frequently made by public speakers, lecturers, essayists, and poets, and those which occur in polite conversation.” Polite conversation it must have been indeed, because Bulfinch himself was a morally strict man and, as his obituary would note, the contents of his Tales were “expurgated of all that would be offensive.” While this is beneficial for younger and more impressionable readers, because of their beauty and poetry we here at EIL still recommend the source works drawn on by Bulfinch, particularly those of Ovid and Virgil, to more mature readers.

Enjoy these tales from Bulfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable, by Thomas Bulfinch.

Cupid and Psyche

Pygmalion and Galatea

Daedalus and Icarus


When will you read Thomas Bulfinch’s writing in Excellence in Literature?

You will study Bulfinch in several places in our curriculum, including as a reading for EIL Unit 1 (Module E1.5)  and in EIL Unit 2 (Literature and Composition)