1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dwight, Timothy
DWIGHT, TIMOTHY (1752-1817), American divine, writer, and educationalist, was born at Northampton, Massachusetts, on the 14th of May 1752. His father, Timothy Dwight, a graduate of Yale College (1744), was a merchant, and his mother was the third daughter of Jonathan Edwards. He was remarkably precocious, and is said to have learned the alphabet at a single lesson, and to have been able to read the Bible before he was four years old. In 1769 he graduated at Yale College, and then for two years taught in a grammar school at New Haven. He was a tutor in Yale College from 1771 to 1777; and then, having been licensed to preach, was a chaplain for a year in a regiment of troops engaged in the War of Independence, inspiring the troops both by his sermons and by several stirring war songs, the most famous of which is “Columbia.” From 1778 until 1783 he lived at Northampton, studying, farming, preaching, and dabbling in politics. From 1783 until 1795 he was pastor of the Congregational church at Greenfield Hill, Connecticut, where he opened an academy which at once acquired a high reputation and attracted pupils from all parts of the Union. From 1795 until his death at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 11th of January 1817, he was president of Yale College, and by his judicious management, by his remarkable ability as a teacher—he taught a variety of subjects, including theology, metaphysics, logic, literature and oratory,—and by his force of character and magnetic personality, won great popularity and influence, and restored that institution to the high place from which it had fallen before his appointment. President Dwight was also well known as an author. In verse he wrote an ambitious epic in eleven books, The Conquest of Canaan, finished in 1774, but not published until 1785; a somewhat ponderous and solemn satire, The Triumph of Infidelity (1788), directed against Hume, Voltaire and others; Greenfield Hill (1794), the suggestion for which seems to have been derived from John Denham’s Cooper’s Hill; and a number of minor poems and hymns, the best known of which is that beginning “I love thy kingdom, Lord.” Many of his sermons were published posthumously under the titles Theology Explained and Defended (5 vols., 1818-1819), to which a memoir of the author by his two sons, W. T. and Sereno E. Dwight, is prefixed, and Sermons by Timothy Dwight (2 vols., 1828), which had a large circulation both in the United States and in England. Probably his most important work, however, is his Travels in New England and New York (4 vols., 1821-1822), which contains much material of value concerning social and economic New England and New York during the period 1796-1817.
See W. B. Sprague’s “Life of Timothy Dwight” in vol. iv. (second series) of Jared Sparks’s Library of American Biography, and especially an excellent chapter in Moses Coit Tyler’s Three Men of Letters (New York, 1895).
His fifth son, Sereno Edwards Dwight (1786-1850), born in Greenfield Hill, Connecticut, graduated at Yale in 1803, was a tutor there in 1806-1810, and successfully practised law in New Haven in 1810-1816. Licensed to preach in 1816, he was the chaplain of the United States Senate for one year, was pastor of the Park Street church, Boston, in 1817-1826, and in 1833-1835 was president of Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. His career was wrecked by accidental mercury poisoning, which interfered with his work in Boston and at Hamilton College, and made his life after 1839 solitary and comparatively uninfluential. His publications include Life and Works of Jonathan Edwards (10 vols., 1830); The Hebrew Wife (1836), an argument against marriage with a deceased wife’s sister; and Select Discourses (1851); to which was prefixed a biographical sketch by his brother William Dwight (1795-1865), who was also successively a lawyer and a Congregational preacher.
President Dwight’s grandson, Timothy Dwight (1828- ), a famous preacher and educationalist, was born at Norwich, Connecticut, on the 16th of November 1828. He graduated at Yale in 1849, continued his studies there and at Bonn and Berlin, was professor of sacred literature and New Testament Greek in the Yale Divinity School from 1858 to 1886, was licensed to preach in 1861, and from 1886 to 1899 was president of Yale, which during his administration greatly prospered and became in name and in fact a university. Dr Dwight was also a member in 1876-1885 of the American committee for the revision of the English Bible, was an editor from 1866 to 1874 of the New Englander, which later became the Yale Review, and besides editing and annotating several volumes of the English translation of H. A. W. Meyer’s Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, and writing many magazine articles, published a collection of sermons entitled Thoughts of and for the Inner Life (1899).