North American Scholar
LEWIS, Charlton Thomas
A.B. Yale, 1853; studied law, 1853-4; LL.D. (hon.), NYU, 1877.
- Professional Experience:
Admitted to Philadelphia Conf. Method. Epis. Church, 1856; prof. lang., State Normal U. Illinois (Bloomington), 1857-8; prof. math. & Gk., Troy (NY) U., 1859-62; actng. pres., 1862; depth commissioner, IRS 1963-4; attorney, 1865-7, 1871-1904; ed. NY Evening Post, 1868-70; mng. ed., 1870-1; counsel Mutual Life Insurance Co., lectured on life insurance, Cornell, Harvard, Columbia.
The Place of Mathematics in University Education (Troy, NY, 1859); John Albert Bengel's Gnomon of the Greek Testament (trans, with Marvin R. Vincent) (Philadelphia & New York, 1860-2); A History of Germany, from the Earliest Times, founded on Dr. David Mailer's History of the German People (New York, 1874); Harper's Latin Dictionary, Based on Freund's Latin-German Lexicon, ed. E. A. Andrews, rev., enlarged & in great part rewritten by Lewis & Charles Short (New York & Oxford, 1879); idem, under title A New Latin Dictionary (New York, 1879); A Latin Dictionary for Schools (New York, 1889); An Elementary Latin Dictionary (New York, 1891); Karl Emil Franzos, Judith Trachtenberg (trans. L. P. & C. T. Lewis) (New York, 1891); Harper's Book of Facts (ed.) (New York, 1895); Philosophers and Scientists (New York, 1899); "Francis Bacon," in Warner Classics vol. 1 (New York, 1899) 35-74; The Love Letters of Bismarck (trans.) (New York & London, 1901); "Principles of Reform in Penal Law," Ann. Am. Acad. Pol. & Soc. Sc. 21 (1903) 419-25; "The Scope and Limits of Congressional Legislation against the Trusts," ibid., 24 (1904) 111-22; Harper's Book of Facts (New York & London, 1906).
Charlton Thomas Lewis's father, Joseph Jackson Lewis (1801-83), wrote favorable biographical publications that Abraham Lincoln credited with helping him win the presidency in 1860. As a reward, Lewis was made commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and his son Charlton, who had studied the law and prepared for the ministry but was teaching classical languages at Troy, was named Deputy Commissioner. Lewis began the practice of law in New York City in 1865 but interrupted his practice to serve as editor of the Evening Post for William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). He returned to his law practice in 1871and thus was called by J.E. Sandys "a busy lawyer in New York," won fame as co-editor with Charles Short of Harper's Latin Dictionary, known as "Lewis and Short." Lewis was trained in the law and ministry, both of which professions were his prime interests. For a number of years he taught the classical languages, but left teaching to return to the ministry and a law career, and plunged into politics as well. He became an expert in insurance law and was an ardent proponent of prison reform. His participation in the dictionary took place in the spare time he took from his legal and ministerial occupations.When Charles Short failed to meet his contractual deadline for revision of Andrews' Lexicon in 1874, Harper's hired Lewis to complete the dictionary from the letter D through Z. Lewis completed his work in four years, the amount of time it had taken Short to do his three letters. (Ultimately Harper's lost Short's text of B and C, which were done anew by Lewis.) "Lewis and Short" was nearly 20 percent longer than Andrews' Lexicon and included "a good deal of information that nowadays would be put in a classical encyclopedia rather than in a lexicon" (Sypher). Published simultaneously by Harpers and the Clarendon Press, the dictionary remained in print in this country until 1954, and copies were imported from England until the publication of the Oxford Latin Dictionary in 1982. Although Lewis never returned to teaching, he was much in demand as a lecturer on insurance, speaking at Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia in 1898-9.
Arthur E. Case, DAB 11:208-9; Sandys, 467-8; Francis J. Syphen, "A History of Harper's Latin Dictionary," Harvard Library Bulletin 20 (1972) 349-66.
- Author: Meyer Reinhold / Ward W. Briggs, Jr.