North American Scholar

EVERETT, Edward

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1794-04-11
  • Born City: Dorchester
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: Rev. Oliver & Lucy Hill E.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1865-01-15
  • Death City: Boston
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Charlotte Gray Brooks, 1822.
  • Education:

    A.B. Harvard, 1811; M.A. (divinity), 1814; Ph.D. Göttingen, 1817.

  • Professional Experience:

    Pastor, Brattle Street Church (Unitarian), 1814; appointed to chair in Gk. lit., Harvard, 1815; assumed duties of same, 1819-25; ed. North American Review, 1820-3; U.S. representative Mass., 1825-35; governor, 1836-9; minister to Court of St. James's, 1841-5; pres. Harvard, 1846-9; U.S. sec. state, 1853; U.S. senator, 1853-4 (resigned); nominated for vice-president of U.S., 1860.

  • Publications:

    “Inscription from the Columbarium of the Freedmen and Slaves of Livia Augusta,” Mem. AAAS 4 (1821) 399-408; “An Account of Some Greek Manuscripts Procured at Constantinople in 1819 and Now Belonging to the Library of the University of Cambridge,” Mem. AAAS 4 (1821) 409-15; Philipp Buttmann, Greek Grammar (trans.) (Boston, 1822); Friedrich Jacobs, Greek Reader (trans.) (Boston, 1823); Selections from the Works of Edward Everett, with a Sketch of His Life (Boston, 1839); Orations and Speeches on Various Occasions vols. 1 & 2 (6th ed., Boston, 1860); 3 (Boston, 1859); 4 (Boston, 1868).

  • Notes:

    Edward Everett has pride of place as the earliest pioneer in the promotion of classical scholarship in the United States. He received his degrees from Harvard during a grim time for classical studies in America, with superficiality of scholarship, sterile teaching methods, and vigorous assaults on the very existence of classical education, particularly the study of Greek. At the age of 21, he was appointed the first professor of Greek literature at Harvard (later the Eliot Professorship) and was granted leave at once to fit him for his post as Greek scholar. After two years of intensive study at Göttingen he was granted the Ph.D. degree, the first American to be awarded the degree, but he received it without a dissertation and without defense of thesis.On his return he served as professor of Greek literature from 1819 to 1825. There he strove to introduce systematic German scholarship and neo-humanism, and he gave priority to the study of Greek and Hellenic culture, in the midst of age-old tradition of the study of Latin and Roman history. To fulfill his mission as scholar and to bring critical classical scholarship to America, Everett became the first American to write learned articles in the field of classical studies, was the first to publish a Latin inscription in America, and sought to improve the quality of school textbooks by translating German texts. At Harvard he introduced the German lecture method, but this was met with undisguised hostility. For the general public in Boston he gave immensely popular lectures on “Antiquities” and “Ancient Art.” Everett was also the leader in an effort from 1820 to 1830 to tilt classical studies from Latin and Rome to Greek and Hellenism, a movement that was stillborn.His efforts were not appreciated and his German-style scholarship and lecture method were sharply criticized as “useless learning.” After ten years, he turned to more congenial fields. He edited the North American Review for years and won acclaim as an orator. When he was elected to congress, his professorship was declared vacated, much to his chagrin. In addition to his political offices, he had the lesser distinction in 1863 of delivering a lengthy oration at Gettysburg in the shadow of Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address.”Everett was far ahead of his time in the field of classical scholarship. It required another generation before classical learning became a professional field in the United States

  • Sources:

    DAB 6:223-6; Paul Revere Frothingham, Edward Everett, Orator and Statesman (Boston, 1825); Andrew P. Peabody, Harvard Reminiscences (Boston, 1888); Meyer Reinhold, “Philhellenism in America in the Early National Period,” CO 55 (1978) 86-8; idem, “A 'New Morning': Edward Everett's Contributions to Classical Learning” CO 59 (1981-2) 37-41; WhAm HS: 242; Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York, 1992) 41-55.

  • Author: Meyer Reinhold