An American essayist and fiction writer, he is particularly known for his essay collection, Reveries of a Bachelor, which focuses on the dream-like lives of mid-nineteenth-century Americans. His other works include Doctor Johns (1866) and My Farm of Edgewood: A Country Book (1863).
He graduated from Yale College, where he studied both law and literature. He subsequently served as a U.S. consul in Venice, Italy.
His Reveries of a Bachelor was a favorite book of poet Emily Dickinson.
He was the Connecticut-born son of politician Stephen Mix Mitchell.
He and Harry Whitney were both members of the Skull and Bones society at Yale.