John Jay Chapman

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John Jay Chapman
Photo of John Jay Chapman.jpg
Born John Jay Chapman
(1862-03-02)March 2, 1862
New York City, New York
Died November 4, 1933(1933-11-04) (aged 71)
Poughkeepsie, New York
Occupation Literary Critic, Essayist, Lecturer, Journalist, Writer
Nationality American
Education Harvard University
Notable works Causes and Consequences, Practical Agitation
Spouse Minna Timmins
Elizabeth Astor Winthrop Chanler
Children Victor Emmanuel Chapman
John Jay Chapman, Jr.
Conrad Chapman
Relatives Henry Grafton Chapman
Eleanor Jay


John Jay Chapman (2 March 1862 – 4 November 1933) was an American author.


He was born in New York City.[1] His father, Henry Grafton Chapman, was a broker who eventually became president of the New York Stock Exchange. His grandmother, Maria Weston Chapman, was one of the leading campaigners against slavery and worked with William Lloyd Garrison on The Liberator.[2] He was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord and Harvard, and after graduating in 1884, Chapman traveled around Europe before returning to study at the Harvard Law School. He was known for injuring himself so badly, in remorse after a student brawl, that medical staff amputated his left hand.[3] He was admitted to the bar in 1888, and practiced law until 1898. Meanwhile, he had attracted attention as an essayist of unusual merit. His work is marked by originality and felicity of expression, and the opinion of many critics has placed him in the front rank of the American essayists of his day.[4][5]

In 1912, on the one year anniversary of the lynching of Zachariah Walker in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Chapman gave a speech in which he called the lynching "one of the most dreadful crimes in history" and said "our whole people are...involved in the guilt." It was published as A Nation's Responsibility.

He married Minna Timmins in 1889 and they had three children, one the military aviator Victor Chapman. Timmins died giving birth to their third child, Conrad. Chapman later married Elizabeth Astor Winthrop Chanler, second daughter of John Winthrop Chanler and Margaret Astor Ward of the Astor family, and sister of soldier and explorer William A. Chanler. Elizabeth and John Jay had one child, a son named Chanler Armstrong, in 1901.

Chapman became involved in politics[6] and joined the City Reform Club and the Citizens' Union. He was opposed to the Tammany Hall political and business grouping, which at that time dominated New York City.[7] He lectured on the need for reform and edited the journal The Political Nursery (1897-1901).[8]


Chapman's second wife Elizabeth Astor Winthrop Chanler (1866-1937) by John Singer Sargent


  • (1898). Emerson and Other Essays.
  • (1898). Causes and Consequences.
  • (1900). Practical Agitation.
  • (1911). Learning and Other Essays.
  • (1913). William Lloyd Garrison — second edition, revised and enlarged, 1921.
  • (1914). Deutschland Uber Alles; or, Germany Speaks.
  • (1915). Notes on Religion.
  • (1915). Memories and Milestones.
  • (1915). Greek Genius and Other Essays.
  • (1917). Victor Chapman's Letters from France — with memoir by John Jay Chapman.
  • (1922). A Glance toward Shakespeare.
  • (1924). Letters and Religion.
  • (1931). Lucian, Plato and Greek Morals.
  • (1932). New Horizons in American Life.


  • (1892). The Two Philosophers: A Quaint, Sad Comedy.
  • (1908). Four Plays for Children.
  • (1908). The Maid's Forgiveness: A Play.
  • (1909). A Sausage from Bologna: A Comedy in Four Acts.
  • (1910). The Treason and Death of Benedict Arnold: A Play for a Greek Theater.
  • (1911). Neptune's Isle and Other Plays for Children.
  • (1914). Homeric Scenes: Hector's Farewell, and The Wrath of Achilles.
  • (1916). Cupid and Psyche.
  • (1919). Songs and Poems.

Selected articles

  • (1909). "The Harvard Classics and Harvard," Science, Vol. XXX, No. 770, pp. 440–443.
  • (1910). "Professorial Ethics," Science, Vol. XXXII, pp. 5–9.
  • (1920). "A New Menace to Education," Meredith College: Quarterly Bulletin, Series 13, Nos. 1-2, pp. 3–6.


  • (1927). Dante.
  • (1928). Two Greek Plays.
  • (1930). The Antigone of Sophocles.

Collected works

  • (1957). The Selected Writings of John Jay Chapman, Jacques Barzun (Editor).
  • (1970). The Collected Works of John Jay Chapman, 12 Vol., Melvin H. Bernstein (Editor).
  • (1998). Unbought Spirit: A John Jay Chapman Reader, Richard Stone (Editor), (Foreword by) Jacques Barzun.


  1. "Retrospections." In: John Jay Chapman and his Letters, De Wolfe Howe (ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1937.
  2. "The relationship between Chapman's writings and his family history received more attention at midcentury. Chapman's grandmother was an ardent abolitionist and colleague of William Lloyd Garrison. Her grandson inherited her crusading spirit, but substituted the influence of money in politics for slavery." — Russello, Gerald J. (1999). "A Hero for the Truth," The New Criterion, Vol. XVII, p. 74.
  3. Freeman, Jr., Castle (2001). "John Jay Chapman," Harvard Magazine. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  4. Hovey, Richard B. (1959). John Jay Chapman—An American Mind. New York: Columbia University Press.
  5. Wilson, Edmund (1976). "John Jay Chapman: The Mute and the Open Strings." In: The Triple Thinkers. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  6. Crawford, Allan Pell (2013). "The Anti-Alinsky," The American Conservative. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  7. "John Jay Chapman," Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  8. Stocking, David (1960). "John Jay Chapman and Political Reform," American Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 1, pp. 62–70.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Baltzell, E. Digby (1987). The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy & Caste in America. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Barzun, Jacques (1947). "Against the Grain: John Jay Chapman," The Atlantic, Vol. CLXXIX, pp. 120–124.
  • Bernstein, Melvin H. (1957). The Mind of John Jay Chapman. New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • Bernstein, Melvin H. (1964). John Jay Chapman. New York: Twayne Publishers.
  • Brown, Stuart Gerry (1952). "John Jay Chapman and the Emersonian Gospel," The New England Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 2, pp. 147–180.
  • Paul, Sherman (1960). "The Identities of John Jay Chapman," The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. LIX, No. 2, pp. 255–262.
  • Peel, Robin (2005). "John Jay Chapman, 'Social Order and Restraints': The Custom of the Country (1913)." In: Apart from Modernism: Edith Wharton, Politics, and Fiction Before World War I. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, pp. 197–224.
  • Wilson, Edmund (1938; 1948). The Triple Thinkers, Harcourt, Brace and Company; Oxford University Press, pp. 133–164.
  • Wister, Owen (1934). "John Jay Chapman," The Atlantic, Vol. CLIII, pp. 524–539.

External links