Irving Babbitt

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Irving Babbitt (August 2, 1865 – July 15, 1933) was an American academic and literary critic, noted for his founding role in a movement that became known as the New Humanism, a significant influence on literary discussion and conservative thought in the period between 1910 to 1930. He was a cultural critic in the tradition of Matthew Arnold, and a consistent opponent of romanticism, as represented by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Politically he can, without serious distortion, be called a follower of Aristotle and Edmund Burke. He was an advocate of classical humanism but also offered an ecumenical defense of religion. His humanism implied a broad knowledge of various moral and religious traditions.


He was born in Dayton, Ohio, and moved with his family over much of the USA while a young child. He was brought up from age 11 in Madisonville, a neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. He entered Harvard College in 1885. On graduation in 1889 he took a post teaching classics at the College of Montana. After two years, he went to study in France, at the École Pratique des Hautes-études linked to the Sorbonne. There he studied Pali literature and Buddhism, for a year. Then he took a master's degree at Harvard, including Sanskrit.

At this point, he moved away from a career as a classical scholar, taking a teaching position at Williams College in romance languages — just for one year, as it turned out. He then was offered in 1894 an instructor's position,...
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