John Jay Chapman

John Jay Chapman
Photo of John Jay Chapman.jpg
BornJohn Jay Chapman
(1862-03-02)March 2, 1862
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 4, 1933(1933-11-04) (aged 71)
Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.
OccupationLiterary Critic, Essayist, Lecturer, Journalist, Writer
EducationHarvard University
Notable worksCauses and Consequences, Practical Agitation
Minna Timmins
(m. 1889; her death 1898)

Elizabeth Astor Winthrop Chanler
(m. 1899; his death 1933)
Children4, including Victor
RelativesJohn Jay (grandfather)


John Jay Chapman (March 2, 1862 – November 4, 1933) was an American author.[1]

Early life

Chapman was born in New York City on March 2, 1862.[2] He was the son of Henry Grafton Chapman Jr. (1833–1883),[3] a broker who became president of the New York Stock Exchange,[1] and Eleanor Kingsland Jay (1839–1921).

His paternal grandmother, Maria Weston Chapman, was one of the leading campaigners against slavery and worked with William Lloyd Garrison on The Liberator.[4] His maternal grandparents were John Jay (1817–1894), the U.S. Minister to Austria-Hungary, and Eleanor Kingsland (née Field) Jay (1819–1909). His grandfather was the son of William Jay and a grandson of Chief Justice John Jay of the United States Supreme Court.[1]

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.[5]


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.[6][7]

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.

Chapman became involved in politics[8] 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.[9] He lectured on the need for reform and edited the journal The Political Nursery (1897-1901).[10]

Personal life

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

On July 2, 1889, he married Minna Timmins (d. 1898) and they had three children before Timmins died giving birth to their third child.

  • Victor Emmanuel Chapman (1890–1916), the first American aviator to die in France during World War I.[1][11]
  • John Jay Chapman, Jr. (1893–1903), who died in his youth in Switzerland.[1]
  • Conrad Chapman (1896–1989), who married Judith Daphne McBurney in 1934.[12]

On April 23, 1899, Chapman married Elizabeth Astor Winthrop Chanler (1866–1937), second daughter of John Winthrop Chanler and Margaret Astor Ward of the Astor family, and sister of soldier and explorer William A. Chanler.[13] Elizabeth and John Jay had one child born in 1901:

  • Chanler Armstrong Chapman (1901–1982),[14] who married Olivia James, a niece of Henry James. They divorced and he married the former Helen Riesenfeld, a writer, in 1948.[15] After her death in 1970, he married Dr. Ida R. Holzbert Wagman in 1972.[16] Reportedly, Chapman served as the model for Saul Bellow's 1959 novel Henderson the Rain King.[14]

Chapman died on November 4, 1933 in Poughkeepsie, New York.[1] His funeral, held at Christ Church on 71st Street, west of Broadway in New York City, was attended by hundreds.[17] His widow died in 1937.[13]



  • (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.


  • (1909). "The Harvard Classics and Harvard," Science, Vol. 30, No. 770 (Oct. 1, 1909), 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.


  • (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. ^ a b c d e f "JOHN J. CHAPMAN, AUTHOR, POET, DIES; New Yo;ker Succumbs to Long Illness at Age of 71 in Poughkeepsie Hospital. ABANDONED LAW TO WRITE Was Central Figure in Several Controversies Funeral in This City Next Wednesday". The New York Times. 5 November 1933. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Retrospections." In John Jay Chapman and his Letters, De Wolfe Howe (ed.), Houghton Mifflin Company, 1937.
  3. ^ "Obituary -- Henry G. Chapman". The New York Times. 17 March 1883. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  4. ^ "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. 17, p. 74.
  5. ^ http://harvardmagazine.com/2001/01/john-jay-chapman.html
  6. ^ Hovey, Richard B. (1959). John Jay Chapman - An American Mind, Columbia University Press.
  7. ^ Wilson, Edmund (1976). "John Jay Chapman: The Mute and the Open Strings." In The Triple Thinkers, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  8. ^ Crawford, Allan Pell (2013). "The Anti-Alinsky," The American Conservative, August 7.
  9. ^ https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Jay-Chapman
  10. ^ Stocking, David (1960). "John Jay Chapman and Political Reform," American Quarterly, Vol. 2, No.1, pp. 62-70.
  11. ^ "FRANCE AWARDS MEDAL FOR VICTOR CHAPMAN; Sends Decoration Here to Father of First Flier Killed in Lafayette Escadrille". The New York Times. 29 July 1924. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  12. ^ "DAPHNE M'BURNEY; Announcements Received From London of Her Betrothal . to Conrad Chapman. BoTH'ARE LIVING ABROAD Prospective Bride Educated in England -- Wedding to Take Place in Near Future". The New York Times. 23 October 1934. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  13. ^ a b "MRS. JOHN JAY CHAPMAN; Widow of Essayist and Poet Dies at Her Home in Barrytown" (PDF). The New York Times. 6 June 1937. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Chanler Chapman dead at 80". Poughkeepsie Journal. March 24, 1982. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  15. ^ "HELEN RIESENFELD MARRIED AT HOME; Vassar Graduate, a Writer, Becomes Bride of Chanler A. Chapman, Also an Author". The New York Times. 10 August 1948. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  16. ^ Times, Special To the New York (5 March 1972). "Chanler A Chapman and Dr. Ida Wagman Are Wed". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  17. ^ "HUNDREDS ATTEND CHAPMAN FUNERAL; Bishop Manning Officiates at Service in Christ Church for Lawyer and Author". The New York Times. 9 November 1933. Retrieved 12 October 2017.

Further reading

  • Baltzell, E. Digby (1987). The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy & Caste in America, Yale University Press.
  • Bernstein, Melvin H. (1957). The Mind of John Jay Chapman, Monthly Review Press.
  • Bernstein, Melvin H. (1964). John Jay Chapman, Twayne Publishers.
  • Brown, Stuart Gerry (1952). "John Jay Chapman and the Emersonian Gospel," The New England Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 147–180.
  • De Wolfe Howe, M. A. (1937). John Jay Chapman and his Letters, Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Paul, Sherman (1960). "The Identities of John Jay Chapman," The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 59, 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, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, pp. 197–224.
  • Wilson, Edmund (1938; 1948). The Triple Thinkers, Harcourt, Brace and Company; Oxford University Press, pp. 133–164.

External links

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