Calvin Ellis Stowe

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Calvin Ellis Stowe, circa 1850

Calvin Ellis Stowe (April 6, 1802 – August 22, 1886) was an American Biblical scholar who helped spread public education in the United States, and the husband and literary agent of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Life and career[edit]

Stowe was born in Natick, Massachusetts. His father died in 1808, leaving an impoverished widow with two sons, and at the age of twelve Stowe was apprenticed to a paper maker. He had an insatiable craving for books, and acquired the rudiments of Latin by studying at odd moments during his apprenticeship in the paper mill.

His earnest desire and determined efforts to gain an education attracted the attention of benefactors who sent him to an academy in Gorham, Maine. He later entered Bowdoin College, and graduated with honors in 1824. After his graduation from Bowdoin, he remained there for a year as an instructor and librarian. In September 1825, he entered Andover Theological Seminary. There, at the instigation of Moses Stuart, a professor, he completed a scholarly translation of Jahn's Hebrew Commonwealth (Andover, 1828; 2 vols., London, 1829). He graduated in 1828.

In 1829, he became editor of the Boston Recorder, the oldest religious newspaper in the United States. In addition to his editorial labors, in 1829 he published a translation from the Latin, with notes, of Lowth's Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews. In 1830 he was appointed professor of Greek at Dartmouth College. In 1832 he married Eliza Tyler, daughter of Rev. Bennett Tyler, of Portland, Maine, and moved to Walnut Hills, near Cincinnati, Ohio, having been appointed professor of sacred literature in Lane Theological Seminary. In August 1834 his wife died childless, and in January 1836 he married Harriet Elizabeth Beecher, daughter of Lyman Beecher, the president of the seminary. They had seven children, four of whom died in Harriet's lifetime.

While in Cincinnati, Stowe became an important advocate for the development of public schools in the western United States. He was critical in the establishment of the College of Teachers there in 1833. In May 1836, he sailed for England, primarily to purchase a library for Lane Seminary, but he received at the same time an official appointment from the Ohio State Legislature to visit as agent the public schools of Europe, particularly those of Prussia. On his return he published Report on Elementary Education in Europe which urged Ohio to adopt a state-backed educational system like Prussia's. The Legislature ordered a copy of the book for each of the state's 8,500 school districts and more copies were given to other state legislatures.

He taught religion at Bowdoin from 1850 to 1852 and at Andover Theological Seminary from 1852 to 1864. While at Bowdoin, Harriet began writing her soon-to-be-acclaimed novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). In 1853 and 1856, he visited Europe with Harriet. In 1864, owing to failing health and increasing infirmities, he resigned his professorship and moved to Hartford, Connecticut. After Harriet's novel became world-known, Calvin wrote his own best-selling book, Origin and History of the Books of the Bible, both Canonical and Apocryphal (Hartford, 1867), one of the first books to examine the Bible from a historical perspective.

He also published Introduction to the Criticism and Interpretation of the Bible (Cincinnati, 1835); The Religious Element in Education, a lecture (1844); and The Right Interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, inaugural address (Andover, 1853). His childhood stories served as the basis for Harriet's books Oldtown Folks (1869) and Sam Lawson's Old Fireside Stories (1872).

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