Moses Coit Tyler

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Moses Coit Tyler

Moses Coit Tyler (August 2, 1835 – December 28, 1900) was an American author and professor of American history.


He was born Moses Tyler in Griswold, Connecticut. At an early age he removed with his parents to Detroit, Michigan. He entered the University of Michigan in 1853, but in the next year went to Yale College, where he was a member of Skull and Bones[1] and from which he graduated AB in 1857, and received the degree of A.M. in 1863. He studied for the Congregational ministry at the Yale Divinity School (1857–1858) and at the Andover Theological Seminary (1858–1859), and held a pastorate at Owego, New York, in 1859-1860 and at Poughkeepsie in 1860-1862.

In 1862, at the request of his cousin, Dr. Daniel T. Coit of Boston, he adopted the name "Coit" as his middle name.

Owing to ill-health and a change in his theological beliefs, he left the ministry. He became interested in physical training, and for some time (partly in England) wrote and lectured on the subject, besides other journalistic work. He became professor of English language and literature in the university of Michigan in 1867, and held that position until 1881, except in 1873-1874 when he was literary editor of the Christian Union; from 1881 until his death at Ithaca, New York, he was professor of American history at Cornell University and chairman of the Department of History. Tyler was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1879.[2]

In 1881 he was ordained deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church and in 1883 priest, but he never undertook parochial work. Most important among his works are his valuable and original History of American Literature during the Colonial Time, 1607-1765 (2 vols, 1878; revised in 1897), and Literary History of the American Revolution, 1763-1783 (2 vols, 1897). Supplementary to these two is his Three Men of Letters (1895), containing biographical and critical chapters on George Berkeley, Timothy Dwight and Joel Barlow.

In addition he published:

  • The Brawnville Papers (1869), a series of essays on physical culture
  • a revision of Henry Morley's Manual of English Literature (1879)
  • In Memoriam: Edgar Kelsey Apgar (1886), privately printed
  • Patrick Henry (1887), an excellent biography, in the "American Statesmen" series
  • Glimpses of England; Social, Political, Literary (1898), a selection from his sketches written while abroad.

See "Moses Coit Tyler," by Professor William P. Trent, in The Forum (Aug. 1901), and an article by Professor George L Burr, in the Annual Report of the American Historical Association for 1901 (vol. i.).


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