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Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909). The Man without a Country.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.

Biographical Note

THE NAME of Edward Everett Hale suggests his distinguished ancestry. The son of Nathan Hale, proprietor and editor of the Boston “Daily Advertiser,” he was a nephew of Edward Everett, orator, statesman, and diplomat, and a grandnephew of the Revolutionary hero, Nathan Hale. He was born in Boston on April 3, 1822, and after graduating from Harvard in 1839 became pastor of the Church of the Unity, Worcester, Massachusetts. From 1856 till 1899 he ministered to the South Congregational (Unitarian) Church in Boston; and in 1903 became chaplain of the United States Senate. He died at Roxbury, Massachusetts, June 10, 1909, after a career of extraordinary activity and immense influence.

Hale was a power in many fields besides literature—in religion, politics, and in social betterment. He was one of the most prominent exponents of the liberal theology that was represented by New England Unitarianism. He took an active part in the anti-slavery movement. A great variety of good causes enlisted his sympathy, and he did substantial service in the cause of popular education. In his Lowell Institute lectures in 1869 he first propounded his famous saying, “Look up and not down, look forward and not back, look out and not in, and lend a hand.” This highly characteristic utterance he took for the motto of his story, “Ten Times One is Ten”; and its influence is testified to by the “Lend-a-Hand Clubs,” “Look-up Legions,” and the like, formed among the young for moral and social improvement. Similarly, his story of the Waldenses, “In His Name” (1873), provided impetus and a title for the religious organizations “King’s Sons” and “King’s Daughters.”

His literary production was large and varied. He wrote scholarly biography and history, sermons, books of travel, reminiscences, and fiction. Books like his “New England Boyhood” are not only attractive in style, but of serious historical value as pictures of the life of the time. His most serious historical work, apart from his contributions to Justin Winsor’s histories, was his “Franklin in France,” in which his son, Edward Everett Hale, Jr., collaborated. But it is to his fiction that he owes his wider reputation. He began in 1859 with the amusing satire, “My Double and How He Undid Me,” and in 1863 achieved national renown with “The Man Without a Country.” He wrote a longer novel as a sequel to this, “Philip Nolan’s Friend,” in 1876.

In spite of the interest and extent of his other writings, it is more than possible that Hale may be known to posterity as a man of one story, and that story “The Man Without a Country.” This powerful and pathetic narrative was produced while the country was in the throes of the Civil War, and it embodied as no other literary production did the sentiment of loyalty to the Union. It was a stroke of genius to attempt this, not by the picture of heroic achievement in the battle field, but by the long-drawn-out chronicle of the life of a man to whom existence is an aching void because of the absolute severance of all national ties. The effect is intensified by the matter-of-fact tone of the narrative. So successful is the realistic method that it is difficult to believe it is not a historical incident that is described; and the restraint with which the slow agony of Nolan is pictured increases the power with which the lesson of patriotism is brought home. Nor is it merely American patriotism that is inculcated; for the impression of truth to human nature that is conveyed is such that it bears its message to the men of all nations.

W. A. N.