Louis Fitzgerald Tasistro


Sections:  Biography    Criticism    Bibliography


(Born: ca. 1808 - Died: May 2, 1886)

Journalist, actor, lecturer and a translator for the U. S. State Department, as well as a teacher of languages. He used the title of Count, with uncertain (and unlikely) reason other than the personal sense of cache that it provided him. Born in Ireland, of Irish and French ancestry, and emigrated to the US about 1835 or 1836, apparently from Fife, in Scotland. On June 5, 1837, he married Adelaide Lynch (1816-), daughter of James Lynch, of New York. (They were married by Rev. Manton Eastborn). (The notice states that Taistro was from Fifeshire, North Britian.) On January 18, 1842, he married Catherine E. Baker, of New York. (They were married in Philadelphia by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Kendrick), with the notice still listing his supposed title of “Count.”. (Clippings of these notices from unidentified New York City newspapers were preserved by Elizabeth Demming Duer and are currently in the collection of the New York Society Library. These notices are in volume 1, pp. 3 and 21. A likely source for the clippings is the New York Herald, which apparently did include notices of both marriages. The first clipping appears in the Morning Herald (New York, NY) of June 8, 1837, p. 3, col. 1. A notice of the first marriage appears in the New York American.) Dominick Lynch, a brother of James Lynch, apparently discovered the false claims of peerage, and another brother, Henry Lunch, publicized them (see Walter Barrett, pseudonym of Joseph A. Scoville, The Old Merchants of New York City, New York, M. Doolady, 1870, 1:170). The first marriage was dissolved “on grounds of adultery” in 1841, and the decree notes that there was an infant, a son (born on May 31, 1838 and named after his father). (The son, who was apparently rasied by his mother and had little or no contact with his father, dropped the last name of Tasistro, and presented himself only as Louis Fitzgerald. He joined the army in 1857, and became a Brigadier General in 1882. He was later a successful banker and president of the Mercantile Trust Company. He married Galyna Verplank on September 12, 1872, and they had four children. He died at his mansion in Garrison on the Hudson, October 6, 1908.) The decree also included the interesting requirement that Tasistro would not be allowed to marry again during the lifetime of his first wife. His partner in this offence was Miss Annette Hawley Nelson (see Marysville Daily Appeal, Marysville, CA, vol. XII, no., 22, August 2, 1865, p. 2, col. 2), who later married the actor John Brougham. Tasistro may have married Miss Baker in Philadelphia in part to avoid the order of the court in New York. Catherine E. Tasistro, the second wife, died of consumption on October 28, 1852. He married a third time on April 16, 1853, at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, DC to Catharine Quin (or Quinn) of Norfolk, VA. (Married by the Rev. Dr. O’Toole.) By 1872, he had apparently suffered a stroke, and was living in abject poverty. His death was recorded by Walt Whitman in his notebook. (Whitman was apparently kept up to date on Tasistro by a mutual friend, Peter George Doyle (1843?-1907), a street conductor and poet.)

At the end of 1838, he founded the Expositor, a Weekly Review and Journal of Foreign and Domestic Intelligence, Literature, Science and the Fine Arts (New York, NY), of which he was editor and proprietor. It began on December 8, 1838 and ran 31 issues, but quickly failed, ending on July 20, 1839. On May 21, 1839, Tasistro was thrown into prison as result of legal proceedings enacted by Mr. Spencer, who for $3000 had bought the list of subscribers from Tasistro for his failed Expositor only to find that most of the names were “worthless,” presumably not actually active subscribers (see Morning Herald, May 23, 1839, p. 2, col. 1). In 1839, he wrote for the New York Mirror and the New York Sun.

By 1855, he was working at the State Department as a translator, at an annual salary of $1,800 (see Reports on the Committees of the Senate of the United States for the First Session of the Thirty-Fifth Session, Washington, DC: William A. Harris, 1858) (He appears to have been hired in 1851 or 1852, at a salary of $1,600.)

On March 11, 1874, Tasistro lectured Marini’s Hall in Washington, DC on “Stars that Have Set in the Nineteenth Century,” A notice in the Evening Star (Washington, DC) for February 28, 1874 “Mr. Tasistro, despite his physical infirmaties, retains all his mental vigor, and it is to be hoped that the attendance will be large, in recognition of the patient fortitude with which this blind, crippled, literary worker has struggled on under great adversities and the burden of old age.”

The Weekly Kansas Chief (Troy, KS) for July 2, 1874 includes the brief notice: “Louis Fitzgerald Tasistro, a famous scholar, who served this government as translator of languages for a quarter of a century, on a meagre salary, was picked up on Pennsylvania avenue in Washington, last week, starving to death. He had lived four days on half a pound of crackers. Who will say Republics are not ungrateful?” (p. 2, col. 4).

His final book was a translation of History of the Civil War in America by the Louis-Philippe-Albert D’Orléans Comte de Paris, edited by Henry Coppée (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1875). Coppee was the president of Lehigh University.

According to the Daily American (Auburn, NY) for October 15, 1856, Tasistro had been born Catholic, but converted to Episcopalianism. (He gave public statement about questions raised concerning Fremont’s history as a Catholic, which apparently disqualified him for the presidency.)

The Evening Telegram (New York, NY), includes the following sentence as one of a number of short items under the general heading of “Personals”: “L. F. Taistro publishes a letter traversing Catacazy’s pamphlet and denouncing several of his statements as lies.” The reference is to Konstantin Gavrilovich Catacazy (1830-1890), a Russian diplomat assigned to the U. S. in 1869.

In 1842, Tasistro printed a long poem, in four sections (curiously called “Chimeras”). The poem, bearing the Tasistro’s name as author and the title “Agathè, — A Necromaunt” appeared in vol. XX of Graham’s Magazine, in the consecutive issues of 1842 for January (pp. 13-16)., February (pp. 111-113), March (pp. 160-162) and April (213-217).

An original 1831 printing of Stoddart’s the poem was apparently at one time in the collection of the Mercantile Library of Philadelphia, as a copy was listed for sale in 2016 by Michael Good Books (of California) as bearing a stamp of that library, although none of the suriviving print catalogs of the Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia list the work.

A short obituary in the Evening Star (Washington, DC), May 5, 1886, reads: “DEATH OF L. F. TASISTRO. — Louis F. Tasistro, who for many years was a translator in the State department, died, Monday, at his residence, 712 G street southeast, in the eighty-second year of his age. He was master of eight languages and was a man of wide information and culture. The last years of his life was clouded by the affliction of blindness and reduced circumstances” (p. 4, col. 1). (If the statement about his age is correct, he would have been born about 1804 rather than 1808.)


  • Notice from “Autography”
    • Fitzg. Tasistro” (“A Chapter on Autography” - part II) — December 1841 — Graham’s Magazine


  • Bandy, William T., “Poe and Tasistro,” Poe Studies: Dark Romanticism, vol. XXIII, no. 2, December 1990, pp. 37-40
  • [Benjamin, Park], “L. F. Tasistro,” New World (New York, NY), vol. VI, January 28, 1843, p. 121 (quotes the divorce decree)
  • Benton, Jeffrey C., “Louis Fitzgerald Tasistro,” Through the Eyes of Others: Published Accounts of Antebellum Montgomery, Alabama, New South Books, 2014, pp. 70-??
  • Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske, eds., “Tasistro, Louis Fitzgerald,” Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, New York: D. Appleton, 1887-1890, 6:36 (the brief entry erroneously lists the year of his death as “ca. 1868,” from which it was picked up by Dwight Thomas in his disseration on Poe in Philadelphia.)
  • Grier, Edward F., ed., Walt Whitman: Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, 6 vols., New York, NY: New York University Press, 1984 (there are various minor mentions of Tasistro)
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, MS: The Book Farm, 1943.
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, ed., The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe (Vols 2-3 Tales and Sketches), Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978. (Second printing 1979)
  • Miller, Edwin Haviland, Walt Whitman and Louis Fitzgerald Tasistro, Walt Whitman Review, vol. VII, March 1961, pp. 14-16
  • Myerson, Joel, “Whitman to Curtis on Tasistro: An Unpublished Letter,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, vol. X (Fall 1992), p. 99 (prints a short letter from Walt Whitman to George Curtis, thanking him for sending $5 for the benefit of Tasistro, who had apparently fallen on bad times and was suffering from partial paralysis, perhaps from a stroke.)
  • Thomas, Dwight and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849, Boston: G. K. Hall & Sons, 1987.


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