Paul Elmer More

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Paul Elmer More
Born(1864-12-12)12 December 1864
St. Louis, Missouri
Died9 March 1937(1937-03-09) (aged 72)
OccupationJournalist, essayist
GenreChristian apologetics, Poetry

Paul Elmer More (December 12, 1864 – March 9, 1937) was an American journalist, critic, essayist and Christian apologist.


Paul Elmer More, the son of Enoch Anson and Katherine Hay Elmer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri.[1] He was educated at Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University.[2] More taught Sanskrit at Harvard (1894-1895) and Bryn Mawr (1895-1897).

After his short career as an academic, he worked as a literary editor on The Independent, the New York Evening Post and The Nation.[3] He started on his Shelburne Essays in 1904; they were to run to 11 published volumes, drawing on his periodical writing, and were followed later by the New Shelburne Essays, in three volumes from 1928.

In his literary criticism, More generally upheld the classical English authors who display, as he put it, a "deep-rooted sense of moral responsibility"—Shakespeare, Johnson, Trollope, Newman—while also accepting those lusty writers of France and America who cannot help but be a little too honest.[2] As Francis X. Duggan notes, "the immorality More most objects to, the most serious offence an artist can commit, is not the obvious one of obscenity or suggestiveness, but a falsification of human nature, the denial of moral responsibility".[4]

He wrote several books after his retirement from journalism, including Platonism (1917); The Religion of Plato (1921); Hellenistic Philosophies (1923); and his last published work, the autobiographical Pages from an Oxford Diary (1937). His Greek Tradition, 5 vols. (1917–27), is generally thought to be his best work.

During the last 15 years of his life, More wrote several books of Christian apologetics, including The Christ of the New Testament (1924), Christ the Word (1927), and The Catholic Faith (1931). As Byron C. Lambert notes, "More's final mission was profoundly religious and what he wanted to leave to the world".[5]

Nevertheless, although Russell Kirk judged him "the twentieth century's greatest apologist", More is little read by Christians today. In Lambert's view, the reason is that More's "Christianity was altogether too idiosyncratic for most Christians". "[T]oo exotic to be intelligible and too conditional to be authoritative", he lacked the power of "unabashedly orthodox" writers like C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton "to bring Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and even fringe believers together in a way that is the surprise of divided Christendom".[5]

That said, the man of whom Russell Kirk wrote, "as a critic of ideas, perhaps there has not been his peer in England or America since Coleridge," has much to offer the discriminating Christian reader. Kirk cites, for instance, More's insight into the "enormous error" of secular humanists. When the religious impulse is replaced by "mere 'brotherhood of man,' fratricide is not far distant." More wrote that the one effective way of "bringing into play some measure of true justice as distinct from the ruthless law of through the restoration in the individual human soul of a sense of responsibility extending beyond the grave." The alternative is a society "surrendered to the theory of ceaseless flux, with no principle of judgement except the shifting pleasure of the individual."[6]

More saw the loss of Christian culture as entailing intellectual as well as moral collapse. He once remarked to Alfred Noyes that "the ability to think clearly and deeply has been vanishing from all sections of the modern world except those that have some grasp of the philosophy of religion, as it has been developed through two thousand years in the central tradition of Christendom".[7]

More collaborated with Irving Babbitt from before 1900 in the project later labelled New Humanism.

More lived in Princeton, New Jersey. He died on March 9, 1937, at the age of 72.[8]

See also[edit]


Selected articles



  1. ^ Mather Jr., Frank Jewett (1938). "Paul Elmer More (1864-1937)," Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 72, No. 10, p. 368.
  2. ^ a b Domitrovic, Brian (2003). "Paul Elmer More: America's Reactionary" Modern Age 45, pp. 343-349.
  3. ^ "Former Editors of the 'Nation'," The Nation 101, p. 69.
  4. ^ Duggan, Francis X. (1966). Paul Elmer More. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., p. 57.
  5. ^ a b Lambert, Byron C. (1999). "The Regrettable Silence of Paul Elmer More", Modern Age 41, pp. 47-54.
  6. ^ Kirk, Russell (1985). The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, Seventh Revised Edition. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, pp. 423–4. ISBN 0-89526-171-5.
  7. ^ Noyes, Alfred (1944). The Edge of the Abyss. London: John Murray, p. 53.
  8. ^ "Paul Elmer More, 72, is Dead," The New York Times, March 10, 1937, p. 23.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bandler II, Bernard (1930). "Paul Elmer More and the External World." In: The Critique of Humanism. New York: Brewer & Warren, Inc, pp. 281–297.
  • Bart, Peter J. (1932). "The Christianity of Paul Elmer More," The Catholic World, Vol. 135, pp. 542–547.
  • Brown, Stuart Gerry (1939). "Toward an American Tradition: Paul Elmer More as Critic," The Sewanee Review, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 476–497.
  • Chamberlain, John (1930). "The 'New Humanists' Formulate Their Fourteen Points," The New York Times, February 23, p. 60.
  • Dakin, Arthur Hazard (1960). Paul Elmer More. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Davies, Robert M. (1958). The Humanism of Paul Elmer More. New York: Bookman Associates.
  • Dunham, Barrows (1966). "Paul Elmer More," The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 157–164.
  • Eliot, T.S. (1920). "A Note on the American Critic." In: The Sacred Wood. London: Methuen & Co., pp. 34–39.
  • Elliott, G.R. (1929). "Mr. More and the Gentle Reader," The Bookman, Vol. 69, No. 2, pp. 143–147.
  • Elliott, G.R. (1937). "More's Christology," American Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 35–46.
  • Elliott, G.R. (1937). "The Religious Dissension of Babbitt and More," American Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 252–265.
  • Jamieson, T. John (1982). "The Oxford Adventures of Paul Elmer More," The University Bookman, Vol. XXIII, No. 1, pp. 3–8.
  • Lambert, Byron (1969). "Paul Elmer More and the Redemption of History," The Modern Age, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 277–288.
  • Lambert, Byron C., ed., (1972). The Essential Paul Elmer More. New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House.
  • Moore, C.A. (1915). "Berkeley's Influence on Popular Literature," The South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. XIV, pp. 263–278.
  • More, Louis T. (1940). "Shelburne Revisited: An Intimate Glimpse of Paul Elmer More," The Sewanee Review, Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 457–460.
  • Munson, Gorham B. (1928). "Paul Elmer More: A Religious Dualist." In: Destinations. New York: J.H. Sears & Company, pp. 11–23.
  • Peck, Harvey W. (1918). "Some Aspects of the Criticism of Paul Elmer More," The Sewanee Review, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 63–84.
  • Rinaker, Clarissa (1917). "The Dualism of Mr. P.E. More," The Philosophical Review, Vol. XXVI, pp. 409–420.
  • Shafer, Robert (1935). Paul Elmer More and American Criticism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Tanner, Stephen L. (1971). "T.S. Eliot and Paul Elmer More on Tradition," English Language Notes, Vol. VIII, No. 3, pp. 211–215.
  • Tanner, Stephen L. (1973). "Paul Elmer More: Literary Criticism as the History of Ideas," American Literature, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 390–406.
  • Tanner, Stephen L. (1990). "Sinclair Lewis and the New Humanism," The Modern Age, Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, pp. 33–41.
  • Tanner, Stephen L. (1998). "Paul Elmer More and the Critical Temper," The Modern Age, Vol. XL, No. 2, pp. 186–194.
  • Warren, Austin (1959). "The 'New Humanism' Twenty Years After," The Modern Age, Vol. III, No. 1, pp. 81–84.
  • Warren, Austin (1969). "Paul Elmer More: A Critic in Search of Wisdom," Southern Review, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 1091–1111.
  • Wilson, Edmund (1930). "Notes on Babbitt and More." In: The Critique of Humanism. New York: Brewer & Warren, Inc, pp. 39–60.

External links[edit]