North American Scholar

KIRK, William Hamilton

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1857-05-21
  • Born City: Dorchester
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: John Foster, editor of Lippincott's Magazine, & Mary Weed K.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1947-12-24
  • Death City: New Brunswick
  • Death State/Country: NJ
  • Married: Olga Schroeder.
  • Education:

    B.A. (extraord.) Johns Hopkins, 1893; Ph.D., 1895.

  • Professional Experience:

    French & Germ. tchr. Episcopal Acad. (Philadelphia), 1880-92; instr. Lat. Vanderbilt, 1895-1900; prof. Lat. Rutgers, 1900-25; prof, class, langs. & chair dept. class, langs. & lits., 1925-34.

  • Dissertation:

    "Demosthenic Style in the Private Orations" (Johns Hopkins, 1895); printed (Baltimore, 1895).

  • Publications:

    "De quoque Adverbio," AJP 21 (1900) 303-9; "Ad Catull. XXX 4-5," Studies Gildersleeve, 29-36; "Necdum," AJP 24 (1903) 484-5; "Notes on the First Book of the Aeneid," AJP 25 (1904) 274-84; "Studies in the First Book of the Aeneid," AJP 28 (1907) 311-23; "Letter," NYTimes (3 Jan. 1917) 10; "And and Or," AJP 42 (1921) 1-11; "Ne and Non," AJP 44 (1923) 260-74; "Aeneid I, 599, Exhaustis or Exhaustos?," AJP 45 (1924) 179-81; "Observations on the Indirect Volitive in Latin," AJP 48 (1927) 111-21; "Adfatim, Fatisci, Fessus," AJP 53 (1932) 364-8; "The Syntax of the Gerund and the Gerundive," TAPA 73 (1942) 293-307, ibid. 76 (1945) 166-76.

  • Notes:

    Weakened by ill health as a boy, Kirk was educated at home by his father and by private tutors until late in his teens he was sent to a special gymnasium in Tubingen. His year in Germany restored his health and he returned home sufficiently fit and well-trained to teach at the Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia without benefit of any formal schooling in this country. A year of graduate work at Johns Hopkins under Gildersleeve and particularly Minton Warren earned him a B.A. extraordinarius and he received his Ph.D. two years later. After five years at Vanderbilt, he went to Rutgers where he served for 34 years and was instrumental in the establishment of classics at the New Jersey College for Women (now Douglass College), where he taught from its founding in 1918 until 1928. His lack of formal training made his teaching style unique: his overnight assignments were frequently a simple "Do what you will"; yet he got excellent work from generations of students. Rutgers president Robert C. Clothier said that Kirk represented "the best in intellectual tradition at Rutgers" and G. L. Hendrickson said of him in a letter, "So far as I can survey the field I feel confident that Kirk's studies were among the best things that were produced in all that long period down to his death, and yet they did not receive here in America the recognition they deserved, nor did they give him in person the name and rank which was his due." A lean, witty, elegant figure with a passion for detective novels, Kirk also contributed his informed views on politics and foreign relations to the popular press.

  • Sources:

    C/44 (1948-9) 63.

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.