Elisabeth Morris



Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris was born on June 16, 1870 in Brooklyn, New York. After attending school at Packer Collegiate Institute of Brooklyn, she attained an A.B. degree from Vassar College in 1892. On September 27, 1899 she married Charles Gould Morris a lawyer. Together, the couple had five children. As Elisabeth raised her family, she continued her education. By 1908, Elisabeth was one of the first women to receive a PhD from Yale University. Later, she taught English at both the Packer Collegiate Institute and Vassar. John William Leonard’s book Woman’s Who’s Who of America lists some of her hobbies as “all-out hunting, fishing, rowing, tennis and tramping.” It also notes that she supported women’s suffrage. These interests are explored in her personal writing. She was influenced her paternal ancestor, Reverend Jonathan Edwards, and often reflected and wrote about him. Two of her collections of essays focus around him: Jonathan Papers published in 1912, More Jonathan Papers published in 1915. She wrote what some readers called “natural history essays” in Outlook, Atlantic, and Scribner’s. In 1917, she published Days Out and Other Papers. This collection displays her wide-ranging thoughts. Her conversational essays explore domestic life, literature, and human relationships. She also wrote works on theater, criticism, and education—including co-writing A Course in Expository Writing and A Course in Narrative Writing with mentor and colleague Gertrude Buck from Vassar. Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris died April 2, 1964 in Globe, Arizona. (Cassie Keller Cole)

Essays by Elisabeth Morris

An appendix to Bacon

I have often thought that Lord Bacon might have known even more about revenge than he did, if he had observed it in children.

The cult of the second-best

Perhaps, better than rebellion against the Obvious, would be an endeavor to reconquer the Obvious.

The embarrassment of finality

The fact must be that very early in life before I can remember I formed a habit of going on living, and of expecting to go on, which became incorrigible.

The humor-fetish

Now, humor is a pleasant thing, and a good thing; but perhaps it is being a little overdone, and overdone with a touch of priggery and a touch of stupidity.

The literary uses of experience

For whereas the remoteness of memory is unalterable and eternal, the remoteness of our art-perceptions is apt to be momentary, and in part at least a matter of our own choice.

A matter of planes

People on the same plane may clash, people on different ones cannot.

A meditation concerning forms

We Americans are often congratulated, we often congratulate ourselves, on our emancipation from conventions, from forms, from traditions. But are we, I wonder, altogether to be congratulated?

In their season

The seasons in people's lives seem to be losing some of their individual character, so that we never know just what we are going to get.

The tyranny of facts

Facts—all facts—were precious to me, and I loved to feel them making piles and stacks and rows in my brain.

The tyranny of things

I allow myself to be overwhelmed by the invading host of things, making fitful resistance, but without any real steadiness of purpose.
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Quotidiana by Patrick Madden

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