A celebrated educator and author, Edith Hamilton, was born on the 12th of August in 1867 in Dresden, Germany. She was a bright daughter of Montgomery Hamilton, who married her mother, Gertrude Pond, in 1866. Her father was a businessman, while her well-read mother shared various cultural and intellectual interests with her husband while engaging in domestic chores. Edith took interest in reading and writing from a very young age. Her mother, too, helped her pursue her interests and provided her with material support to polish her creative abilities.
Edith’s parents were not happy with the public school system’s curriculum; therefore, they homeschooled their children. Her intellectual mother helped her in literary studies, while her father helped her in classics and languages when she was just seven. Besides, her father introduced her to the great Latin and Greek literature, and her mother assisted children in German and French. She attended Miss Porter’s Finishing School for Young Ladies for two years in 1884 and later joined Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, in 1891. There, she earned her bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree in 1894.
Awards and Honors
Her services in the literary and educational field led her to secure several prestigious honors. In 1951, she won National Achievement Award for her distinguished literary services. She received the Golden Cross of the Order of Benefaction in 1957, and the Women’s National Book Association the next year.
Some Important Facts about Her
- She died on the 31st of May in 1963 in Washington, D.C. at the age of ninety-six and was buried at Cove Cemetery in Hadlyme, Connecticut.
- She received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Rochester in 1950.
- In 1906, she became the first acting headmistress of the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland.
Edith Hamilton pursued two careers in her life; first, she became an educator and later emerged as an excellent literary figure. She started as an essayist in 1924 and produced various essays on ancient Greek and Roman Literature. After that, she entered the business of publishing books and articles still considered defining classics of ancient culture, life, and literature. She published her first masterpiece, The Greek Way, in 1930, and earned unprecedented fame in the United States. While focusing on some great figures of Athenian history and literature in the center, her work drew a comparison between modern and old life. Published in 1932, her next acclaimed book, The Roman Way, features a praiseworthy comparison between ancient Rome and modern life. In her next attempt, The Prophets of Israel, she tried to interpret the religious beliefs. Besides these, her other notable works include Mythology, The Trojan Women, Prometheus Bound, and Agamemnon.
Edith Hamilton’s writing style in her literary pieces has surprised the world due to her presentation of the stark comparison between the present and the past. In almost all of her works, she develops a catchy link between the ancient and the modern world by shaping an appropriate plot structure, and an interesting storyline such as in The Greek Way. Her language is not only concise but also very precise and succinct. That is why it helps readers make sense of the things and unravel underlying logic in her works. Some of the widely used literary devices in her work are imagery, symbolism, foreshadowing, and allusions. Some of the important themes in most of her writings include law versus ethics, violence, psychology, mystery, and detection and intellect.
Some Important Works of Edith Hamilton
- Best Woks: Some of her best works include The Ever Present Past, Witness to the Truth: Christ and His Interpreters, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, The Prophets of Israel, The Greek Way, Spokesmen for God, and The Echo of Greece.
Edith Hamilton’s Impact on Future Literature
Hamilton’s works continue to offer interpretations of ancient life, religion, and culture that take the readers into the world that existed ages ago. Writers and readers who share interests in ancient literature and classics keep her popularity going by constantly referring to her in their discussions and commentary. Her writings not only inspired the writers and critics but also cast a significant shadow on some influential American figures like President John F. Kennedy and David Brooks. The most sought-after thing is her writing style that the young writers still want to follow to improve their writing faculties.
- “Love, however, cannot be forbidden. The more that flame is covered up, the hotter it burns. Also love can always find a way. It was impossible that these two whose hearts were on fire should be kept apart. (Pyramus and Thisbe)” (Mythology)
- “…a chasm opened in the earth and out of it coal-black horses sprang, drawing a chariot and driven by one who had a look of dark splendor, majestic and beautiful and terrible. He caught her to him and held her close. The next moment she was being borne away from the radiance of earth in springtime to the world of the dead by the king who rules it.” (Mythology)
- “When conditions are such that life offers no earthly hope, somewhere somehow, men must find refuge. Then they fly from the terror without to the citadel within, which famine and pestilence and fire and sword cannot shake. What Goethe calls the inner universe, can live by its own laws, create its own security, be sufficient unto itself, when once reality is denied to the turmoil of the world without.” (The Greek Way)
- “The Greeks were realists. They saw the beauty of common things and were content with it.” (The Greek Way)