North American Scholar

GUMMERE, Richard Mott

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1883-08-09
  • Born City: Burlington
  • Born State/Country: NJ
  • Parents: Francis Barton & Amelia Smith Mott G.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1969-12-03
  • Death City: Cambridge
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Christine Robinson, 30 June 1908.
  • Education:

    A.B. Haverford, 1902; A.M. Harvard, 1904; Ph.D., 1907; A.M (hon.) U. Pennsylvania, 1923; L.H.D. Haverford, 1952.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. to asst. prof. Lat. Haverford, 1907-18; asst. to president, 1915-18; headmaster William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia), 1918-35; pres. Headmasters' Association, 1934-35; chair of comm. on admission & lctr. Lat. Harvard, 1935-52; chair College Entrance Examination Board, 1937-40; curator Lowell Inst., Boston, 1952-69; trustee Haverford, 1920-40; pres. Colon. Soc. Mass., 1957-61; fellow, A A AS; pres. CAAS, 1919-20.

  • Dissertation:

    “De variis similitudinum generibus apud poetas Latinos ante aetatem Augusteam” (Harvard, 1907).

  • Publications:

    “The Britons in Roman Poetry,” PAPA 39 (1908) xxix-xxx; “Seneca the Philosopher in the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance,” PAPA 41 (1910) xxxviii-xl; “Further Notes on the Senecan Tradition,” PAPA 43 (1912) xxvi-xxix; “The Modern Note in Seneca's Letters,” CP 10 (1915) 139-50; Seneca's Epistulae Morales (trans.), LCL, 3 vols. (Cambridge & London, 1917, 1920, 1925); “Early European Migration of Classical Ideas to Colonial North America,” PAPA 63 (1932) xl-xli; “Walt Whitman and his Reaction to the Classics,” HSCP 60 (1951) 263-89; “The Classics in a Brave New World,” HSCP 62 (1957) 119-39; The American Colonial Mind and the Classical Tradition: Essays in Comparative Culture (Cambridge, 1963); Seven Wise Men of Colonial America (Cambridge, 1967).

  • Notes:

    A very outgoing and friendly man, Richard Mott Gummere was primarily a Latinist and administrator in three different important institutions where he exerted considerable influence on college student selection and admission, setting standards that always kept in mind the role of the classics, especially Latin. Always conscious of the role of the classics in American life, late in his career he wrote especially on the impact that Greece and Rome had on American colonial history, opening up a mostly unexplored and unrecognized field of investigation whose importance is only now beginning to be mined for the new perspective it provides for a more accurate understanding of American colonial history. Despite his “biographical, discursive, exaggerated claims of classical influence,” Gummere “demonstrated that the Founding Fathers were familiar not only with English and French writers on government but also the classical sources; and he introduced the concept of refraction to characterize how early Americans selected and adapted classical theory and practice of politics and government to their own needs” (Meyer Reinhold).

  • Sources:

    Meyer Reinhold, Classica Americana: The Greek and Roman Heritage in the United States (Detroit, 1984) 286-89; WhAm 7:242-43.

  • Author: John E. Rexine