Ridgely Torrence

Ridgely Torrence (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

(November 27, 1874 – December 25, 1950)

Born Frederic Ridgely Torrence in Xenia, Ohio, he was the grandchild of John Torrence, the man who founded both Xenia and Lexington, Kentucky. Raised in a wealthy family, he was tutored at home until he attended college. He was enrolled at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio from 1892 to 1895. He then transferred to Princeton University. An illness prevented him from returning and finishing his degree.

Torrence had a variety of professions during his lifetime. He was a librarian, magazine editor, poet, playwright, and a special envoy for the Japanese government.  His first publication, The House of a Hundred Lights, was edited by Edmund Clarence Stedman and published in 1900. He produced both verse plays and verse dramas, along with his poetry. In particular, he is known for his plays that featured realistic portrayals of African Americans, which later created opportunities for black actors to perform for public audiences. In 1917, his plays, Three Plays for a Negro, premiered in public by the Negro Players, an all-Black actors company.

Locally, he was the poet in residence at Antioch College (1928) and the Fellow of Creative Writing for Miami University (1941-1942).  He was the poetry editor for The New Republic from 1920-1933, and, in 1939, he organized the National Survey of the Negro Theatre for the Rockefeller Foundation.  His last book of poetry, Poems, was published posthumously in 1952.

Torrence married a fellow author, Olivia Howard Dunbar, a successful writer, editor, and reporter herself. They were joined in matrimony in 1914 and resided in Lower Manhattan.  He passed away on December 25, 1950. His archive of personal papers is held at Princeton University. He is buried in Xenia, Ohio, at Woodland Cemetery, Section I, Lot 13, Grave 14.  Ridgely Torrence


  • The House of a Hundred Lights (1900)
  • Hesperides (1925)
  • Poems (1952)


  • El Dorado: A Tragedy (1903)
  • Abelard and Heloise: A Drama (1907)
  • Granny Maumee, The Rider of Dreams, Simon the Cyrenian: Plays for a Negro Theater (1917)


  • The story of John Hope (1948)
  • Selected letters of Edwin Arlington Robinson (Ridgely Torrence, editor) (1940)


  • "The Lesser Children" (Jessie B. Rittenhouse, editor) (1917)
  • "The Bird and the Tree" (Louis Untermeyer, editor) (1941)

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