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Earliest Members of the Century Association

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William Allen Butler


Centurion, 1857–1902

Born 20 February 1825 in Albany, New York

Died 9 September 1902 in Yonkers, New York

Buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York

Proposed by John H. Gourlie

Elected 7 June 1857 at age thirty-two

Archivist’s Note: Brother of Benjamin F. Butler; nephew of Charles Butler; uncle of Charles Butler, Willard Parker Butler, and Edmund Dwight

Century Memorial

The year that saw Mr. William Allen Butler elected to The Century there appeared in the November issue of Harper’s Magazine the soon-to-be-famous verses with the title of “Nothing to Wear.” No name was attached to the verses, and it was only after the authorship had been confidently and falsely claimed by another that the young lawyer acknowledged them. During the forty-five years that have elapsed, The Century certainly has not been indifferent to the achievements in his profession of one of its oldest members; but he has still remained for us the kindly, witty, keen, and gentle critic and companion whom the rhymed story of Miss Flora McFlimsey revealed. When, a few years since, the Club celebrated the semi-centennial of its foundation, it was its good fortune to have Mr. Butler for one of its trio of sympathetic poets. Mr. Butler was the son of one of the great lawyers of the State and the Union,—the Benjamin Franklin Butler who served in the Cabinets of Jackson and Van Buren,—and as a lawyer he was worthy of his descent. Probably no one practising at the Admiralty bar commanded more respect, as was amply testified when, in 1896, the fiftieth year of his legal work was appropriately recognized by the leading members of that bar. But the absorbing duties of this peculiarly intricate branch of his profession did not prevent him exercising his unusual and attractive gifts in varied literary composition, so that at the close of his long and busy life he had accumulated what the French call a literary baggage which many a professional writer would have envied. Most of his writing was in the nature of the social satire with which it was begun so fortunately, but much of it also was serious, and all of it expressed his firm moral principles, the elevation of his character, and the genial warmth of his heart. Though never in public office, Mr. Butler was a zealous patriot and an enlightened citizen, and his counsel was sought and valued in public affairs, both local and national. Though, since 1865, a resident of Yonkers, he was a familiar presence at the meetings of The Century, with which his associations were intimate and cordial.

Edward Cary
1903 Century Association Yearbook