Born: October 2, 1835, Man­hat­tan, New York.

Died: May 29, 1907, Par­is, France.

Buried: Cim­e­ti­ère de Chail­ly-en-Bi­ère, Chail­ly-en-Bi­ère, Seine-et-Marne, Île-de-France, France.



Theodore was the son of Si­las and Eu­se­bia Til­ton, and hus­band of Eli­za­beth Ri­chards (mar­ried 1855).

He is remembered as a news­pa­per ed­it­or, po­et and abo­li­tion­ist.

Tilton at­tend­ed the 1866 Sou­thern Loy­al­ist Con­ven­tion in Phi­la­del­phia, Penn­syl­va­nia. Fred­er­ick Doug­lass’ au­to­bio­gra­phy says of Tilton:

There was one man pre­sent who was brave enough to meet the du­ty of the hour; one who was ne­ither af­raid nor ashamed to own me as a man and a bro­ther; one man of the pur­est Cau­ca­sian type, a po­et and a schol­ar, bril­liant as a writ­er, el­o­quent as a speak­er, and hold­ing a high in­flu­en­tial po­si­tion—the ed­it­or of a week­ly jour­nal hav­ing the larg­est cir­cu­la­tion of any week­ly pa­per in the ci­ty or state of New York—and the man was Mr. Theo­dore Til­ton.

He came to me by the hand in a most bro­ther­ly way, and pro­posed to walk with me in the pro­cess­ion.

From 1860–71, Til­ton was Henry Ward Beech­er’s as­sist­ant. The two had a fall­ing out in 1874, at which time Til­ton moved to France.



The King’s Ring

Once in Persia reigned a king
Who, upon his signet-ring,
Graved a maxim true and wise,
Which, if held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel, at a glance,
Fit for every change or chance:
Solemn words, and these are they:
Even this shall pass away!

Trains of camels through the sand
Brought him gems from Samarcand;
Fleets of galleys through the seas
Brought him pearls to rival these;
But he reckoned not as gain
Treasures of the mine or main:
What is wealth? the king would say—
Even this shall pass away!

In the revels of his court,
At the zenith of the sport,
When the palms of all his guests
Burned with clapping at his jests,
He, amid his figs and wine,
Cried, O loving friends of mine,
Pleasure comes, but not to stay
Even this shall pass away!

Lady fairest ever seen
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on his marriage-bed,
Whispering to his soul, he said,
Though a bridegroom never prest
Dearer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay:
Even this shall pass away!

Fighting on a furious field,
Once a javelin pierced his shield.
Soldiers with a loud lament
Bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning from his tortured side,
Pain is hard to bear, he cried,
But with patience, day by day,
Even this shall pass away!

Towering in the public square
Twenty cubits in the air,
Rose his statue carved in stone.
Then the king, disguised, unknown,
Gazing at his sculptured name,
Asked himself, And what is fame?
Fame is but a slow decay:
Even this shall pass away!

Struck with palsy, sere and old,
Waiting at the Gates of Gold,
Spake he with his dying breath,
Life is done, and what is death?
Then, in answer to the king,
Lo, the legend on his ring
Seemed to mock at death, and say,—
Even this shall pass away!

Theodore Tilton (1835–1907)