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Ardrey, Robert (16 October 1908–14 January 1980), anthropologist, playwright, and novelist, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Robert Lesley Ardrey, an editor and publisher, and Marie Haswell. Ardrey earned a Ph.D. in the natural and social sciences from the University of Chicago in 1930. After taking a writing course taught by ...

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Binns, Archie (30 July 1899–28 June 1971), novelist and historian, was born Archie Fred Binns in Port Ludlow, Washington, the son of Frank Binns, one of the early pioneers of western Washington, and Atlanta Sarah McQuah. Growing up in the Puget Sound area of northern Washington, Binns was nourished by both the soil and the sea. He spent his childhood working on the farm his father had cleared near Shelton and attending the district school he had established. Although Binns’s upbringing was distinctly rural, the Puget Sound region—which he would later describe as the “Sea in the Forest”—helped to sustain his interest in seafaring. Family tradition may have also fueled his sea-interests; his mother had been born aboard the SS ...

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Boyesen, Hjalmar Hjorth (23 September 1848–04 October 1895), author and educator, was born in Fredriksvaern, Norway, the son of Sarolf Boyesen, a mathematics instructor in the naval academy there, and Hanna (or Helga) Tveten Hjorth, the foster daughter of Judge Hjorth of Systrand. In 1854 Sarolf Boyesen, out of favor because he had joined the Swedenborgian church, sent his family to Judge Hjorth and entered the American army, for a period of two years. Hjalmar Boyesen loved the natural setting of Systrand, relished the servants’ folktales there, was sad when he was sent away to school, and found consolation in reading and writing. He attended Latin school at Drammen and Gymnasium at Christiania and graduated from the Royal Fredriks University in 1868—adept in several languages. He obtained family permission to go to the United States, which his father had extolled as the land of freedom and opportunity....

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Charles Brockden Brown. Watercolor on ivory, 1806, by William Dunlap. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; given in loving memory of Katharine Lea Hancock by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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Brown, Charles Brockden (17 January 1771–22 February 1810), novelist, historian, and editor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Elijah Brown, a merchant and land conveyancer, and Mary Armitt. The fifth of six children in a prosperous Quaker family in the nation’s most cosmopolitan city and first capital, Brown was shaped in his early years by his Quaker background and the era’s tumultuous revolutionary politics. From 1781 to 1786 he received a classics-oriented secondary education under Robert Proud at the Friends’ Latin School of Philadelphia and displayed an enthusiasm for literary composition. Although his earliest work is lost, he composed derivative poetry in the “primitive” vein, based on the Psalms and Ossian and planned but never completed verse epics on the exploits of Columbus, Pizarro, and Cortez. The period’s political and ideological conflicts touched Brown’s family directly when revolutionary authorities exiled his father to Virginia for several months, deeming the father’s Quaker position of principled neutrality an aid to the British. While Brown’s Quaker background facilitated his early exposure to progressive British dissenting writers such as William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who would become crucial influences, it left him outside the period’s Congregationalist and Presbyterian cultural elite and predisposed him to his lifelong stance of reasoned skepticism of utopian or perfectionist notions for political change. That is, Brown’s background and early years helped shape his career-long concern with the violent ideological controversies of the early republic, as well as his characteristic tendency to see both the destructive and productive aspects of the period’s far-reaching political upheavals....

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Brown, William Wells (1814?–06 November 1884), author and reformer, was born near Lexington, Kentucky, the son of George Higgins, a relative of his master, and Elizabeth, a slave. Dr. John Young, Brown’s master, migrated with his family from Kentucky to the Missouri Territory in 1816. Eleven years later the Youngs moved to St. Louis. Although Brown never experienced the hardship of plantation slavery, he was hired out regularly and separated from his family. He worked for a while in the printing office of abolitionist ...

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Elizabeth A. Archuleta and Susan E. Gunter

Campbell, Walter Stanley (15 August 1887–25 December 1957), historian and author, was born Walter Stanley Vestal near Severy, Kansas, the son of Walter Mallory Vestal, a lawyer, and Isabella Louise Wood, a teacher. His father died shortly after his birth. In 1895 his mother met James Robert Campbell, whom she married in August 1896, and Walter assumed his stepfather’s name. James Campbell’s research work for H. H. Bancroft fostered Walter Campbell’s love for the Old West and developed his sympathetic views toward Native Americans....

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Cantwell, Robert Emmett (31 January 1908–08 December 1978), writer and historian, was born in Little Falls (now Vader), Washington, the son of Charles James Cantwell, a teacher and engineer, and Nina Adelia Hanson, a former teacher. His paternal grandfather founded Little Falls in the 1840s. In 1912 the family moved to Onalaska, a lumber-company town, where Charles Cantwell became a builder, then the superintendent of the lumber mill and the town. Later he was the superintendent of Carlisle, another company town nearby. Robert Cantwell attended schools in Onalaska, Chehalis, and Aberdeen, all in Washington, and beginning at age sixteen studied for one year at the University of Washington in Seattle, where his older brother James was also a student. Their father’s illness forced them to leave school, however, and Cantwell spent the next four years primarily as a veneer clipper operator in a plywood factory in Hoquiam, Washington. His father died in 1927....

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Clark, Walter Van Tilburg (03 August 1909–10 November 1971), novelist and teacher, was born in East Orland, Maine, the son of Walter Ernest Clark, a teacher and university president, and Euphemia Abrams. Clark once suggested that landscape creates character, implying that landscape not only forms the person but also the writer. He was speaking of the American West, which was essential to his own writing, giving him theme and setting for all of his best works. But the irony is that, Clark was not a native westerner. He was born in the East, and instead of spending his childhood on a ranch, he was reared as the eldest child of intellectuals. His father was head of the department of economics at City College of New York and was selected president of the University of Nevada in 1917; and his mother was a talented amateur musician. Being an outsider and an intellectual made Clark even more aware not only of landscape, but also of people’s relations to one another and to the natural world....

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Coffin, Charles Carleton (26 July 1823–02 March 1896), novelist, journalist, and lecturer, was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, the son of Thomas Coffin and Hannah Kilburn, farmers. He grew up on the family farm, attended the village school, and studied for a year at the local academy. Coffin, after his marriage to Sallie Russell Farmer in 1846, earned his living by farming and surveying, a skill he had taught himself. The couple had no children. In 1852, with his brother-in-law ...

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Crawford, F. Marion (02 August 1854–09 April 1909), novelist and historian, was born Francis Marion Crawford in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, the son of Thomas Crawford, an American sculptor, and Louisa Cutler Ward. The family lived in Rome, where Crawford began a cosmopolitan education in places that would later form the settings of his novels. Crawford’s parents made certain that their children never lost sight of their American roots. After her husband’s death in 1857 Louisa married Luther Terry, an American painter, and continued to make her home in Rome. Crawford’s early education was conducted mainly by private tutors until 1866 when he was sent to St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. After his return to Rome in 1869, he studied in a variety of places: Rome, England, Germany, and India. He left India in 1880, returned to Rome, and the following year came to Boston to seek literary employment and perhaps to enter politics....

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Davis, Samuel Post (04 April 1850–17 March 1918), journalist, author, and historian, was born in Branford, Connecticut, the son of the Reverend George R. Davis, an Episcopalian priest, and Sylvia Nichols. As Davis’s father accepted different pulpits, the family moved to Ansonia, Connecticut; Newark, New Jersey; and Racine, Wisconsin. In Racine, Samuel attended the Racine College private school but apparently did not complete the secondary curriculum. He accompanied his parents when they subsequently moved to Brownsville, Nebraska, then to Nevada City, California, and finally to Carson City, Nevada....

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Davis, William Stearns (30 April 1877–15 February 1930), historian and novelist, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, the son of William Vail Wilson Davis, a Congregational minister, and Frances Stearns, both from old New England stock. Davis stated that one of the strongest influences of his boyhood was his maternal grandfather’s large library. William Augustus Stearns was president of Amherst College, Massachusetts, and Davis was born in his mansion. Because of the family’s frequent moves when William Davis accepted calls to new parishes, the library became a constant in his education. One of his favorite boyhood occupations was to study world atlases, which he read while standing on a hassock at a library table....

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Dixon, Thomas (11 January 1864–03 April 1946), author, clergyman, and lecturer, was born Thomas Dixon Jr. near Shelby, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Dixon, a Baptist minister and farmer, and Amanda McAfee Dixon. Thomas, the third of five children, was born during the Civil War. The Dixon family, which had once been prosperous, was reduced to extreme poverty by the war's end in 1865, owing to the collapse of the Southern economy and the destruction of farmland. During the ensuing years of Reconstruction, as lawlessness stalked the South, the elder Dixon struggled to support his wife and children, and their humiliation and degradation led him, like many other formerly prosperous Southerners, to join the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, a vigilante organization of white males that proclaimed the supremacy of the white race, had been founded in 1866 to restore honor to the South and to oppose social and political advancement by Negroes, as African Americans were then called. Both the senior Dixon and his brother, the favorite uncle of Thomas Dixon Jr., became leaders in the Klan, and young Thomas grew to adulthood revering the Klan and its teachings....

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Eggleston, Edward (10 December 1837–03 September 1902), author and historian, was born in Vevay, Indiana, the son of Joseph Cary Eggleston, a lawyer, and Mary Jane Craig. Often too ill to attend school, he read widely in his father’s private library but took too seriously such priggish books as ...

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Greeley, Andrew Moran (05 February 1928–29 May 2013), Catholic priest, sociologist, popular theologian, and novelist, was born in Oak Park, Illinois, the son of Andrew T. Greeley, a businessman, and the former Grace McNichols, who worked prior to marriage and in widowhood as a billing clerk at Sears. His grandparents emigrated from Ireland. Raised in moderate comfort and interested from childhood in becoming a priest, Greeley entered Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago at the age of fourteen and attended St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in suburban Mundelein from 1947 until 1954, when he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Assigned initially to a prosperous parish in the city’s southwest corner, Greeley developed an interest in the affluent, highly educated Catholics whose numbers were growing rapidly in the 1950s. Their impact on what had hitherto been a predominantly working-class, immigrant church was the subject of his first book, ...

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Herrick, Robert Welch (26 April 1868–23 December 1938), writer and university professor, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of William Augustus Herrick, an attorney, and Harriet Peabody Emery. Both parents came from long-settled New England families. After growing up in genteel near-poverty, he managed in 1885 to enroll in Harvard University with the help of his uncle ...

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Horgan, Paul (01 August 1903–08 March 1995), writer, was born Paul George Vincent O'Shaughnessy Horgan in Buffalo, New York, the son of Edward Daniel Horgan, a printing company owner of English-Irish descent, and Rose Marie Rohr Horgan, the daughter of an émigré German poet. The family was Roman Catholic, and Paul Horgan professed that faith throughout his life. In 1915 Edward Horgan, suffering from tuberculosis and seeking a better climate, moved his wife and three children to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Young Paul was immediately captivated by the vast, sparsely settled landscape of his new frontier home, and its historic associations fired his romantic imagination. Legends of the conquistadors, the original Spanish settlers, abounded, as did tales of Apache warfare and the ways and wiles of local denizen ...

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Johnston, Richard Malcolm (08 March 1822–23 September 1898), educator and writer, was born near Powelton, in Hancock County, Georgia, the son of Malcolm Johnston, a planter and preacher, and Catherine Smith Davenport. A member of the first graduating class of Mercer University (1841), Johnston conducted a rural school in Mt. Zion before studying law under prominent attorneys in Augusta. He was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1843 and, returning to Hancock County, alternated between the occupations of schoolmaster and lawyer. In 1844 he married Mary Frances Mansfield of Sparta, Georgia. Their marriage, which produced twelve children, ended with her death in 1897....

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Jones, James Athearn (17 October 1791–07 July 1854), novelist, poet, and folklorist, was born in Tisbury, on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the son of Ebenezer Jones, a farmer, and Susanna Athearn, the daughter of a county probate judge in Tisbury. Several bands of Gay Head Indians lived within a few miles of the Joneses. Young Jones’s grandfather had a lonely coastal farm, where the boy was born and lived, where Indians were employed as field hands, and where an Indian nurse cared for him until he was fifteen. Her stories about fabulous Indians inspired his lifelong fascination with Native-American folklore. Denied formal schooling by the remoteness of his home, he read voraciously and studied under ministers at Tisbury and nearby Edgartown. He visited the West Indies on a few occasions and also sold or bartered food and other items with sailors anchored off Martha’s Vineyard. Jones has been described as tall, slender, a little vain and quarrelsome, and in later years slightly deaf....