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Lester, Charles Edwards (1815-1890)

Historian, Translator

Charles Edwards Lester was born in Griswold, Connecticut, a descendant of Jonathan Edwards. After graduating from the bar, he entered Auburn theological seminary but stopped preaching due to frequent hemorrhages of the lungs. Venturing to Great Britain in 1840 to improve his health, he was appointed U.S. consul in Italy and remained there six years before returning to New York City. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia notes that his literary works, Lester’s focus upon his return to the U.S., include The Glory and Shame of England (1841), Our First Hundred Years (1874), and a History of the United States, considered in Five Great Periods (1883). He also translated several works, including Alfieri’s Autobiography (1845) and Cebaz’s Citizen of a Republic (1846) (Grant & Fiske, eds., 698). Lester attended the Anti-Slavery Society Convention in 1840 (“The Anti-Slavery Society Convention”). The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore has collected a 1846 letter to Lester from Poe inviting him to a gathering, but notes that the letter may be a forgery.

A. L. Rawson identifies Lester as a Pfaffian, writing that he "was more suave and polite [than some of the other Pfaffians]. If he differed from any one it was in a cordial way. His strong point was criticism of England’s course during our Civil War. On that theme he held forth to willing ears, some of which had been stunned by the roar of conflict. He afterward wrote a book on ’The Glory and Shame of England,’ which brought him money and fame and the consulship at Venice" (106). Lester’s link to Pfaff’s is uncertain, as no source confirms Rawson’s statements.