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John Lothrop Motley

John Lothrop Motley (Dorchester, near Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 1814–near Dorchester, England, May 29, 1877) was an American historian.

Contents

Biography

The son of Thomas Motley, he was born at Dorchester (now a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts), attended the Round Hill School, Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard in 1831. His boyhood was in Dedham, near the site of the present day Noble and Greenough School.[1] During 1832 and 1833 studied at Göttingen, where he became a friend of Otto von Bismarck, and afterward at Frederick William University, Berlin, meeting him at both universities. After a period of European travel he returned in 1834 to America, where he continued his legal studies.

In 1837 he married Mary Benjamin (died 1874), a sister of Park Benjamin, and in 1839 he published anonymously a novel entitled Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial. In 1841 he entered the diplomatic service as secretary of legation in St. Petersburg, Russia, but resigned his post within three months , because, according to him in a letter to his mother, of the harsh climate, the expenses living there and his reserved habits. Returning to America, he soon entered definitely upon a literary career. Besides contributing various historical and critical essays to the North American Review, such as "life and Character of Peter the Great, (1845) and a remarkable essay on the Polity of the Puritans, he published in 1849, again anonymously, a second novel, entitled Merry Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony, based again on the odd history of Thomas Morton and Merrymount.

In about 1846 he had begun to plan a history of the Netherlands, in particular the period of the United Provinces, and he had already done a large amount of work on this subject when, finding the materials at his disposal in the United States inadequate, he went with his family, wife and children, to Europe in 1851. The next five years were spent at Dresden, Brussels and The Hague in investigation of the archives, which resulted in 1856 in the publication of The Rise of the Dutch Republic, which became very popular. It speedily passed through many editions, was translated into French, and also into Dutch, German and Russian. In 1860 Motley published the first two volumes of its continuation, The United Netherlands. This work was on a larger scale, and embodied the results of a still greater amount of original research. It was brought down to the truce of 1609 by two additional volumes, published in 1867.

The reception of Motley's work in The Netherlands itself was favorable also, especially as Motley described the Dutch struggle for independence in a flattering light (some might say he was biased against their opponents). Historians like Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer (whom Motley extensively quotes in his work) viewed him very favorably. However, the eminent Dutch historian Robert Fruin, (who was inspired by Motley to do some of his own best work), and who had reported already in 1856 in the "Westminster Review" Motley´s edition on the "Rise of the Dutch republic", was critical of Motley's tendency to make up "facts" if they made for a good story (though he admired Motley's gifts as an author and stated that he continued to hold the work as a whole in high regard)[2]

In 1861, just after outbreak of the American Civil War, Motley wrote two letters to The Times defending the Federal position, and these letters, afterwards reprinted as a pamphlet entitled Causes of the Civil War in America, made a favourable impression on President Lincoln.

Partly owing to this essay, Motley was appointed United States minister to the Austrian Empire in 1861, a position which he filled with great success until his resignation in 1867.[3] Two years later he was sent to represent his country in London, but in November 1870 he was recalled by President Grant. After a short visit to the Netherlands, he again went to live in England, where the Life and Death of John Barneveld, Advocate of Holland, : with a View of the Primary Causes and Movements of the Thirty Years War appeared in two volumes in 1874. Ill health now began to interfere with his literary work, and he died at Frampton Court, near Dorchester, Dorset, leaving three daughters. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

Motley's merits as an historian are undeniably great. He told the story of a stirring period in the history of the world with full attention to the character of the actors and strict fidelity to the vivid details of the action, but his writing is best where most unvarnished, and probably no writer of his calibre has owed less to the mere sparkle of highly polished literary style.

An edition of his historical works was published in nine volumes in London in 1903–1904. See the Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley, edited by George William Curtis (New York, 1889); Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., John Lothrop Motley, a Memoir (Boston, 1878); and John Lothrop Motley and his Family: Further Letters and Records (1910), edited by his daughter, Mrs Susan St John Mildmay.

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Selected works

  • Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial, 1839
  • Merry Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony, 1849
  • The Rise of the Dutch Republic, 3 vol., 1856
  • History of the United Netherlands, 4 vol., 1860–67
  • The Life and Death of John of Barneveld, 1874

References

  1. ^ Guide Book To New England Travel. 1919. http://www.oldandsold.com/articles16/new-england-roads-26.shtml.  
  2. ^ See Fruin's discussions of Motley's work in R. Fruin, "Motley's Geschiedenis der Vereenigde Nederlanden", in: De Gids. Jaargang 1862 (1862) part 1 and part 2
  3. ^ "FORMER U.S. AMBASSADORS TO AUSTRIA". U.S. Embassy in Vienna. http://vienna.usembassy.gov/en/embassy/former_amb.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-31.  
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., John Lothrop Motley: A Memoir, 1879, reprinted by Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, New York, (1972), ISBN: 0-8369-6775-5, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number : 71-38358 .
  • G. W. Curtis, ed., The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley, 1889

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Anson Burlingame
U.S. Minister to the Austrian Empire
1861 – 1867
Succeeded by
Edgar Cowan
Preceded by
Reverdy Johnson
U.S. Minister to Great Britain
1869 – 1870
Succeeded by
Robert C. Schenck
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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

John Lothrop Motley (1814-04-151877-05-29) was an American historian, novelist and diplomat.

Sourced

  • Local self-government…is the life-blood of liberty.
    • The Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856; New York: Harper, 1861) vol. 3, part 6, ch. 1, p. 416.
  • As long as he lived, he was the guiding-star of a whole brave nation, and when he died the little children cried in the street.
    • The Rise of the Dutch Republic (1856; New York: Harper, 1861) vol. 3, part 6, ch. 7, p. 627.
    • Of William the Silent. In a footnote Motley cites the original of his last phrase in an official report made by the Greffier Corneille Aertsens: "dont par toute la ville l'on est en si grand duil tellement que les petits enfans en pleurent par les rues."

External links

Wikipedia
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN LOTHROP MOTLEY (1814-1877), American historian, son of Thomas Motley, was born on the 15th of April 1814 at Dorchester (now a part of Boston), Massachusetts, and graduated at Harvard in 1831. He then studied at Gottingen and Berlin, becoming a friend of Bismarck at Gottingen, and after a period of European travel returned in 1834 to America, where he continued his legal studies. In 1837 he married Mary Benjamin (d. 1874), a sister of Park Benjamin, and in 1839 he published anonymously a novel entitled Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial. In 1841 he entered the diplomatic service as secretary of legation in Russia, but resigned his post within three months. Returning to America, he soon entered definitely upon a literary career. Besides contributing various historical and critical essays to the North American Review, including a remarkable essay on the Polity of the Puritans, he published in 1849, again anonymously, a second novel, entitled Merry Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony. About 1846 the project of writing a history of Holland had begun to take shape in his mind, and he had already done a large amount of work on this subject when, finding the materials at his disposal in the United States inadequate, he went to Europe in 1851. The next five years were spent at Dresden, Brussels and the Hague in investigation of the archives, which resulted in 1856 in the publication of The Rise of the Dutch Republic, which became very popular. It speedily passed through many editions, was translated into French, and also into Dutch, German and Russian. In 1860 Motley published the first two volumes of its continuation, The United Netherlands. This work was on a larger scale, and embodied the results of a still greater amount of original research. It was brought down to the truce of 1609 by two additional volumes, published in 1867. In 1861, just after the Civil War had broken out in America, Motley wrote two letters to The Times defending the Federal position, and these letters, afterwards reprinted as a pamphlet entitled Causes of the Civil War in America, made a favourable impression on President Lincoln. Partly owing to this essay, Motley was appointed United States minister to Austria in 1861, a position which he filled with great success until his resignation in 1867. Two years later he was sent to represent his country in London, but in November 1870 he was recalled by President Grant. After a short visit to Holland, he again took up his residence in England, where the Life and Death of John Barneveld appeared in two volumes in 1874. Ill health now began to interfere with his literary work, and he died at Frampton Court, near Dorchester, Dorset, on the 29th of May 1877, leaving three daughters. The merits of Motley as an historian are undeniably great. He has told the story of a stirring period in the history of the world with full attention to the character of the actors and strict fidelity to the vivid details of the action. But it may safely be said that his tale is best where most unvarnished, and probably no writer of the same rank has owed less to the mere sparkle of highly polished literary style.

An excellent edition of his historical works was published in nine volumes in London in 1903-1904. See the Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley, edited by G. W. Curtis (New York, 1889); O. W. Holmes, John Lothrop Motley, a Memoir (Boston, 1878); M. D. Conway, Biographical Introduction to The Rise of the Dutch Republic (London, 1896); and John Lothrop Motley and his Family: Further Letters and Records (1910), edited by his daughter, Mrs Susan St John Mildmay.


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