William Peterfield Trent

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William Peterfield Trent, LL.D., D.C.L. (10 November 1862 – 1939) was a professor of English literature at Columbia University, an American editor, and a historian.


He was born in Richmond, Virginia. His grandfather, Joseph Trent, had an M.D.had degree from the University of Pennsylvania. His father, Peterfield Trent, was a surgeon for the Confederate during the war, and his mother, née Lucy Carter Burwell, came from a long line of Virginians.[1] In 1896 William P.Trent married Alice Lyman. They had two children, Lucia Trent Chaney and William P. Trent Jr.[2]

Trent was first educated at Thomas Norwood's University School. In 1880 he began studying at the University of Virginia where his fellow students included Woodrow Wilson and Oscar W. Underwood. Here he became the editor of the Virginia University Magazine before graduation. He left with a master of arts. In 1887 he began studying at Johns Hopkins University. He was a member of the Seminary of Historical Political Science that was directed by Herbert B. Adams. It was rare for a student to read more than one report per academic year for the Seminary, but Trent read three.


Trent accepted an offer to teach at Sewanee, The University of the South while still in school. He was professor of English and the acting professor of history in Sewanee, Tennessee, from 1888 until 1900, and from 1893 was dean of the academic department.[3] While there, he founded (1892) and edited The Sewanee Review. He also created the Sewannee Historical Society at the University of the South and spoke with Vanderbilt Southern History Society at Nashville. Both groups were developed in the hopes of building a stronger collection of history in the south.

In 1900, he became professor of English literature at Columbia University, in New York City. There he turned his attention to the study of Daniel Defoe and to English history and literature of the 1680 to 1730 period. He edited Robinson Crusoe and wrote a biography and bibliography of Defoe in ten volumes (in manuscript to 1916).

Original published works:

Edgar Allan Poe - A Centenary Tribute (William P. Trent, Oliver Huckel, John Prentiss Poe, Lizette Woodworth Reese and Mrs. John C. Wrenshall), 1910
  • English Culture in Virginia (1889)
  • William Gilmore Simms (1892)
  • Southern Statesmen of the Old Régime (1897)
  • The Authority of Criticism (1899)
  • Robert E. Lee (1899)
  • John Milton (1899)
  • War and Civilization (1901)
  • Progress of the United States during the Nineteenth Century (1901)
  • A History of American Literature 1807-1865 (1903)
  • A Brief History of American Literature (1904)
  • Greatness in Literature, and Literary Addresses (1905)
  • Longfellow and Other Essays (1910)
  • Great American Writers (with John Erskine) (1912)
  • Defoe — How to Know Him (1916)
  • A New South View of Reconstruction

Edited works:

  • Select Poems of Milton (1895)
  • Essays of Macaulay (1897)
  • Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (1898)
  • Balzac's Comédie Humaine, school text (1900)
  • Colonial Prose and Poetry, school text (with B. W. Wells, 3 vols., 1901)
  • Southern Writers, Selections in Prose and Verse (1905)

He collaborated in numerous literary undertakings, for example Colonial Prose and Poetry, editions of Shakespeare and Thackeray and the Cambridge History of American Literature.


  1. ^ William P. Trent as a Historian of the South at JSTOR
  2. ^ William Peterfield Trent Papers, 1865-1944 at unc.edu
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Trent, William Peterfield". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 


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