North American Scholar

WETMORE, Monroe Nichols

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1863-11-10
  • Born City: Lebanon
  • Born State/Country: CT
  • Parents: William Augustus & Abby Frances Peckham W.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1954-11-18
  • Death City: Williamstown
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Helen Green Leonard, 26 Mar. 1889.
  • Education:

    B.A. Yale, 1888; M.A., 1900; Ph.D., 1904.

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst. princ. Naugatuck (CT) HS, 1888-9; prin. Brunson (SC) schools, 1889-90; asso. prin. Harrisburg (PA) Acad., 1890-5; instr. Gk. & Lat. Staten Island (NY) Acad., 1895-1902; Foote fell. Lat. Yale, 1902-4; instr. to prof. Lat. Williams Coll., 1904-32; pres. CANE, 1935-6.

  • Dissertation:

    "The Plan and Scope of a Vergil Lexicon, with Specimen Articles" (Yale, 1904); printed (New Haven, 1904).

  • Publications:

    Index Verborum Vergilianus (New Haven, 1911; repr. New Haven, 1930; Hildesheim, 1961); Index Verborum Catullianus (New Haven & London, 1912; repr. Hildesheim, 1961); A Selection of Latin Verse, ed. with H. D. Wild et al. (New Haven, 1914); "The Work of the American Academy in Rome," CJ 17 (1921-2) 324-9.

  • Notes:

    While still a graduate student, Wetmore perceived that with the establishment of Ribbeck's scientific text of Virgil, a lexicon was needed that would give the scholar control over the vocabulary, diction, and syntax of their author, since the only ones in existence were that of Heyne's edition, based on Erythaeus' 1583 index, and Koch's (6th ed. 1885). He sent copies of his published dissertation to scholars both here and in Europe in 1905 and, assuming by the lack of response that no scholars were working on similar projects, began the job in earnest. In 1909, after he had prepared 1000 pages of manuscript, H. Merguet, to whom Wetmore had sent a copy of his proposal and who had already produced lexica to Cicero's speeches (1873-84) and philosophical works (1886-94) as well as Caesar's writings (1886), announced the publication of the first fascicle of his Lexicon zu Vergilius mit Angabe sdmtlicher Stellen (Leipzig, 1909-12). Wetmore nobly abandoned his plans for a lexicon and produced instead an index based on Ribbeck's 1905 edition of Virgil and the poems of the Appendix Vergiliana. The work is extremely accurate and easy to use; its organization, particularly in its classifications of the prepositional constructions and listings of common phrases at the end of each lemma, shows that, had Wetmore had less ethical scruple, he could have produced a lexicon superior to Merguet's. The book was faulted for its description of variants, with the variants of the ancient commentators missing, and others misleadingly represented. He followed the same outline in his index to Catullus, based on Ellis' OCT and the variants of six editions.Though Wetmore followed the general outline of Lodge's Lexicon Plautinum (Leipzig, 1901-11), he established a standard form and gave inspiration to the numerous American makers of concordances like Oldfather (who completed Wetmore's and A.M. Dame's index to Cicero's letters) and Deferrari. In a relatively isolated college without a research library, he contributed reference works that have immeasurably affected scholarship in Latin poetry. How many young scholars have risen on the tenure ladder with articles analyzing the use of a single word in one or the other of these authors?

  • Sources:

    NatCAB 47:408-9; NYTimes (20 Nov. 1954) 17; WtiAm 3:906.

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.