Royall Tyler: Author, Wit and Judge, or Early BrattleboroA roundtable discussion
The life and times of Royall Tyler, the most important Vermont writer of the Federalist era, will be in the spotlight at three upcoming events over the next month and a half beginning with a free Thursday, September 13th 7:30 p.m. Brattleboro Words Project Roundtable Discussion at at Brooks Memorial Library, as well as a play and exhibit about the prolific author, jurist and playwright at this year’s Brattleboro Literary Festival, which takes place in mid-October, 2018.
True As Steel, a play about Tyler’s life kicks off the annual Literary Festival on Thursday October 11th at 7 p.m., 118 Elliot Street, while his life and writings will be on exhibit at Brooks Memorial Library, just a few blocks from where the writer made his final Vermont home in the early 1800s.
The Royall Tyler Primer
Tyler moved to Vermont in 1791, living here for the rest of his life. A Harvard graduate, he became a lawyer, and State’s Attorney for Windham County, then served on the Vermont Supreme Court, including several terms as Chief Justice. He wrote Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Judicature of the State of Vermont, which became the only written record of Vermont cases between 1797 and 1814. In Jacob vs. Town of Windsor, August 1802, Tyler argued that a slave bill of sale is null and void once the slave is brought to the State of Vermont where slavery was illegal.
After five years, Tyler brought his wife, Mary (1775-1866) to a home in Guilford Center. Mary Palmer Tyler, was eighteen years his junior, and they had eleven children. Mary outlived him by forty years. She was author of The Maternal Physician, America’s first child rearing manual, published in 1811. Her memoirs were published by her descendants as Grandmother Tyler’s Book in 1925.
In 1801, the Tylers moved to Brattleboro, living, first, on a farm in the West Village, and finally in a house on the Town Common. Royall & Mary Palmer Tyler are buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery. Tombstone photos and links to other family members may be found at FindAGrave, findagrave.com
In addition to court opinions, Royall Tyler wrote prolifically. His verse and prose pieces, often witty, satirical and topical, were published in many newspapers. He also penned one of America’s first novels, The Algerine Captive: or the Life and Adventures of Doctor Updike Underhill: Six Years a Prisoner among the Algerines, published in 1797. The work makes the argument against slavery, years before the abolitionist movement emerged.
In 1991 to commemorate the Vermont statehood Bicentennial, Christina Gibbons and Don McLean co-wrote a play True as Steel, using entirely the words of Royall and Mary Palmer Tyler, drawn from their writings. The play was performed at Brooks Memorial Library and at Guilford’s Broad Brook Grange.
The Brattleboro Literary Festival will feature a reprise of the play on Thursday, October 11, 2018, at 118 Elliot, 118 Elliot Street in Brattleboro, Vermont at 7:30 pm.
with Tom Ragle moderating.
When & Where
Thursday, September 13th 7:30 p.m.
Brooks Memorial Library
Complementing the events will be an exhibit at Brooks Memorial Library of books and documents relating to the Tylers, including original, handwritten letters, early newspapers, limited-edition pamphlets and books, and other materials, from private and regional collections. Both events welcome the public, and are admission-free.
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