• Courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard.
  • Date of Birth: November 16, 1827
  • Born City: Cambridge
  • Born State/Country: MA
  • Parents: Andrews, Unitarian leader and Dexter Professor of Sacred Literature, Harvard, & Catherine Eliot N.
  • Date of Death: October 21, 1908
  • Death City: Cambridge
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Susan Ridley Sedgwick, May 21 1862.
  • Education:

    B.A., Harvard, 1846; Litt. D., Cambridge, 1884; L.H.D., Columbia, 1885; LL.D., Harvard, 1887; LL.D., Yale, 1901; L.H.D., Oxford; 1900.

  • Professional Experience:

    Editor, North American Review, 1864-8; prof. History of Art, Harvard, 1874-98; President, AIA, 1879-90. 

  • Publications:

    Books: Considerations on Some Recent Social Theories (Boston: Little, Brown, 1853); The New Life of Dante: An Essay, with Translations (Cambridge, MA: privately printed, 1859); The New Life of Dante Alighieri, Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867; rev. ed. 1892); William Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1875);  Notes of Travel and Study in Italy (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1860); The Soldier of the Good Cause (Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1861); The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough with a Memoir (ed.) (Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1862); List of the Principal Books Relating to the Life and Works of Michelangelo (Cambridge, MA: John Wilson & Son, 1879; Historical Studies of Church Building in the Middle Ages: Venice, Siena, Florence (New York, Harper and Bros., 1880; repr. 1902); The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and Ralph Waldo Emerson, (ed.), 2 vols. (Boston: John R. Osgood, 1884; rev. and expanded, 1884); Early Letters of Thomas Carlyle, (ed.) 2 vols. (London Macmillan, 1886); Correspondence between Goethe and Carlyle (New York: Macmillan, 1887); Reminiscences by Thomas Carlyle (ed.) 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1887); Letters of Thomas Carlyle 1826-36 (ed.) 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1888); The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (trans.) 3 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1891-2; rev. ed., 1902); The Writings of James Russell Lowell(co-ed., see Turner, 490) 10-12 vols. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1890-2); Latest Literary Essays and Addresses of James Russell Lowell (ed.) (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1891); Orations and Addresses of George William Curtis (ed.), 3 vols. (New York: Harper and Bros., 1894); Last Poems of James Russell Lowell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1895); The Poems of John Donne (ed.) 2 vols. (New York: Grolier Club, 1895); Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Sketch of His Life, Together with Longfellow’s Chief Autobiographical Poems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906).

    Bibliography: Turner, 481-94.

    Papers: Houghton Library, Harvard.

    Letters: Letters of Charles Eliot Norton, ed. Sara Norton & M.A. De Wolfe Howe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913).

  • Notes:

           Charles Eliot Norton was a prominent scholar of the second half of the nineteenth century. He was part of the large intellectual community which developed around the universities of New England and he befriended some of the most important authors of his era such as Henry W. Longfellow (1807-82). His contribution to the classical studies mostly resides in the foundation of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in 1879, preceding the creation of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in 1881, with William Watson Goodwin (1831-1912) as its first director and himself as a member of the Managing Committee. The School at Athens triggered the development of classical studies in the United States, as Norton said it himself in 1900: “how great is the debt which America already owes to [the School] in the raising of American classical scholarship.” Thanks to his many connections in the universities of New England, Norton gave an essential impulse to the subscriptions of the most prestigious American universities to the American School, giving it the opportunity to attract more students, and thus to form more specialists of the Greek culture, language and history. 

           Norton is also famous for his passionate idealization of ancient Greece as well as his role in the promotion of cast collections by the upper society of New England, mainly through his years spent as an art history professor at Harvard (1874-1898), where he co-founded the Dante Society in 1881. This passion for Greece famously led Norton, and the AIA, to overlook Native American archaeology. Norton’s numerous trips to Europe (though never in Greece), allowed him to be in frequent contact with some of the most famous British archaeologists of the late nineteenth century and to entertain a close relationship between scholars on the two sides of the Atlantic, which marks the history of the British and American Schools in Athens. Charles Eliot Norton was a member of the Imperial German Archaeological Institute and was a friend of the classical art historian Adolf Michaelis (1835-1910). His work and reputation led him to be honored with several honorary degrees from some of the most prestigious European and American universities.

  • Sources:

    Archaeological Institute of America, First, Second and Third Annual Reports of the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Cambridge, MA: John Wilson and Sons, 1884); Dowling, Linda C., Charles Eliot Norton: The Art of Reform in Nineteenth-Century America (Durham, NH: University Press of New England, 2007); Dyson, Stephen L., “The Creation of Classical Archaeology in America”, in Ancient Marbles to American Shores (Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1998); Dyson, Stephen L., “Where Caesar Never Trod. Classical Archaeology and Ideology in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century America”, Fragmenta, Vol.2, 2008; H. N. F., “Charles Eliot Norton,” AJA 12, 4 (1908) 395–97; Lord, Louis E., A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 1882-1942 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1947); Norton, Sara, Letters of Charles Eliot Norton with Biographical Comment, 2 vols. (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1913); Stebbins, Theodore E. & Virginia Evans, The Last Ruskinians: Charles Eliot Norton Charles Herbert Moore and Their Circle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Art Museums, 2007); Thayer, William Roscoe, “Professor Charles Eliot Norton,” Annual Reports of the Dante Society, no. 28 (1909): 1–6; Turner, James, The Liberal Education of Charles Eliot Norton (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2019); Vanderbilt, Kermit, Charles Eliot Norton: Apostle of Culture in a Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1959). 

  • Author: Tanguy Gil