Henry van Dyke

Henry van Dyke’s Life

Over his long life, Henry van Dyke was a short-story writer, critic, poet, essayist, journalist, professor clergyman, and minister. He was born on November 10, 1852 in Germantown, Pennsylvania in the United States. His father was a Presbyterian clergyman, which prompted him to gain religious education. Following the completion of his pre-collegiate schooling, Henry went to Princeton University to get his undergraduate degree, which he attained in 1873. He continued on at Princeton Theological Seminary and got his graduate degree in 1876. He married Ellen Reid in 1891, with whom he had nine children.

Henry then moved to Germany for further education, and studied for two years at the University of Berlin. Following this, he returned to the United States, and started his teaching career as a professor at Princeton, where he taught English Literature on and off from 1899 to 1923. His interest in exotic lands did not subside, however, and during this time he left for Paris and joined the University of Paris as a lecturer in 1908. He continued teaching there for next five years.

In 1913, President Wilson appointed van Dyke as Minister to Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Though he did not have any experience in an ambassadorial post, van Dyke did well in protecting the rights of American expatriates in European countries. He later resigned from this post, and returned to the United States to join the U.S. Naval Reserve’s Chaplain Corps, where he worked in the post of lieutenant commander. In the meanwhile, van Dyke also became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and received several awards for his writing. In 1919, he again joined Princeton and resumed his teaching job. He retired from teaching in 1923, but remained active in the literary world. Henry passed away on April 10, 1933, in Princeton, New Jersey at his home.

Henry Van Dyke’s Works

Henry van Dyke was a leading writer of his age. He wrote profusely in the fields of religion, literature, diplomacy, education, nature, and public service. His dual love of religion and nature left a strong impact on his writing as well as his literary criticism. His first book was “The Reality of Religion,” which was published in 1884. This book detailed his ministerial career and his studies in the seminary. His second book, “The Story of the Psalms,” got published three years later. It was based on his role as a clergyman, and his love for literature and religion.  “Books, Literature and the People,” a collection of essays, followed this, and was a bestseller at that time.

Apart from prose, van Dyke also wrote poetry and criticism. “The Poetry of Tennyson,” published in 1889, was a work of literary criticism on Alfred Tennyson’s work. This book proved to be a great source of help to other writers to understand the beliefs and poetic talent of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Two of his other great books, “The Other Wise Man” and “The First Christmas Tree,” were published in 1896 and 1897, respectively.

In addition, van Dyke was one of the prominent short story writers of America. Some of his notable short stories are “The Ruling Passion,”The Blue Flower,” published in 1902, and “The Unknown Quantity,” published in 1912. He also wrote some critical essays and novels.

Henry van Dyke’s Style and Popular Poems

In his writing, van Dyke developed a sort of companionship with nature, which supported a respectful view of life and sympathy for human beings. This sympathy led to his contribution of a detailed article for Harper’s Monthly Magazine, which won him great popularity in literary circles of that time.

Henry van Dyke’s poetic style is based on intellectual brevity, strong atmosphere, and symbolic and figurative language. Most of his themes are related to nature, love of the outdoors, Christianity, and God. He was a great conversationalist, but mostly he is remembered for his erudite writing. His most popular poems include “A Legend of Service,” “A Home Song,” “A Lover’s Envy,” “Mother Earth,” “America,” “Hymn of Joy,” “Love,” “Life,” and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”

More about Him

Henry van Dyke showed great interest in religion. After becoming a prestigious pastor inBrick PresbyterianChurch of New York City,Dyke achieved a national reputation for his preaching. He delivered a famous sermon called, “The Voice of God.” He loved going outdoors as a preacher, became a good conversationalist, and spoke out for the preservation of nature.

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