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Harry Thurston Peck

Harry Thurston Peck (November 24, 1856 – March 23, 1914) was an American classical scholar, author, editor, and critic.

BiographyEdit

Peck was born in Stamford, Connecticut. He was educated in private schools and at Columbia College, graduating in 1881, where his literary gifts attracted wide attention. His address at the conclusion of that year's commencement exercises was "witty, pathetic, and fully of clever allusions" according to the New York Times. "Bouquets fell at his feet by the score as he bowed his way off the stage." [1] Upon graduation he immediately joined the faculty as a Latin tutor, becoming a professor in 1888.[2] In 1904, at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Columbia's founding, he was among several distinguished faculty members appointed to newly created chairs: he became Anthon Professor of Latin Language and Literature.[3]

In addition to a distinguished academic publishing career, he wrote travel guides and produced translations and works for children under a number of pseudonyms.

Peck was a frequent and forceful contributor to magazines and newspapers. He was editor in chief of Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities and editor of the Students' Series of Latin Classics and Columbia University Studies in Classical Philology. He served as the first editor in chief of The Bookman magazine, worked on its staff from 1895 to 1906, and, in 1895, created America's first bestseller list for its pages. Peck was also editor in chief of the International Cyclopaedia from 1890 to 1901 and co-editor of the first edition of its successor, the New International Encyclopedia (1902–1904).

In 1910, various newspapers reported that Peck was being sued by a former secretary for breach of promise—specifically, promise of marriage. The stories included alleged excerpts from his love letters to her. The romance had purportedly occurred around the time Peck divorced his first wife and married his second. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed and the facts of the dispute were never established definitively. Nonetheless, the implication that Peck might have been involved with three women at once made for a titillating controversy.

Nicholas Murray Butler, the president of Columbia, was a longtime friend and former schoolmate of Peck's. However, he promptly terminated the scholar's relationship with Columbia based on the press reports. Peck fought his dismissal without success.[4] Various Columbia scholars tried to support Peck's right to more considerate treatment or due process. Among them was Joel Spingarn, who soon found himself dismissed as well.[5]

Peck lived out his remaining years cut off from his former colleagues relying on income from occasional writing assignments. Increasingly depressed and unable to find work, he was sighted one day near the end of his life on the streets of Manhattan "walking in a dazed sort of way...., dressed, as was his custom, in a frock coat and silk hat, but both were extremely shabby. He passed, looking neither right nor left; he seemed entirely oblivious to his surroundings."[6]

He committed suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot in Stamford, Conn. on March 23, 1914.[7] He was buried in Christ Church Cemetery in Greenwich, CT.[8]

Works (partial list)Edit

ClassicalEdit

  • The Semitic Theory of Creation (1886)
  • Latin Pronunciation: A Short Exposition of the Roman Method (1890)
  • Suetonius (1889)
  • Roman Life in Latin Prose and Verse: Illustrative Readings from Latin Literature (1894)
  • International Library of Masterpieces, Literature, Art and Rare Manuscripts (1901)
  • A History of Classical Philology from the Seventh Century BC to the Twentieth Century AD (1911)

Edited worksEdit

  • Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities
  • The International Cyclopedia (1890–1901)

Children's storiesEdit

EssaysEdit

  • The Personal Equation (1899)
  • What is Good English? and Other Essays (1899)
  • The New Baedeker: Being Casual Notes of an Irresponsible Traveler (1910)

OtherEdit

  • William Hickling Prescott (1905)
  • Twenty Years of the Republic, 1885–1905 (1906)
  • Studies in Several Literatures (1909)

PoetryEdit

  • Greystone and Porphyry (1899)

TranslationEdit

  • Trimalchio's Dinner (1898)

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit