Agnes Repplier Essayshark

Agnes Repplier (1 April1858 – 15 December1950) was an American essayist born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her essays are esteemed for their scholarship and wit.


  • It is in his pleasures that a man really lives; it is from his leisure that he constructs the true fabric of self.
  • The necessity of knowing a little about a great many things is the most grievous burden of our day. It deprives us of leisure on the one hand, and of scholarship on the other.
  • ...we ... know very well that we never learn unless we like our lesson, and never behave ourselves unless inspired by precept and example. The history of every nation is the heritage of its sons and daughters; and the story of its struggles, sufferings, misdeeds, and glorious atonements is the story that keeps alive in all our hearts that sentiment of patriotism, without which we are speeding swiftly on our path to national corruption and decay.
    • in "Old Wine and New" (May 1896)
  • ...why should our self-appointed instructors assume that because we do not chatter about a thing, we have never heard of it?
    • in "The Repeal of Reticence" (March 1914)
  • People who pin their faith to a catchword never feel the necessity of understanding anything.
    • in "Women and War" (May 1915)
  • Had the Pilgrim Fathers been met on Plymouth Rock by immigration officials; had their children been placed immediately in good free schools, and given the care of doctors, dentists, and nurses; had they found themselves in infinitely better circumstances than they had ever enjoyed in England, indulging in undreamed-of luxuries, and taught by kind-hearted philanthropists,—what pioneer virtues would they have developed, what sons would they have bred, what honours would history have accorded them? If our early settlers were masterful, they earned the right to mastery, and the price they paid for it was endurance. To the sacrifices which they made, to their high courage and heroic labours, we owe law, liberty, and well-being.
    • in "The Modest Immigrant" (1916)
  • We can reckon the cost of misdirected emotions by the price which the past has paid for them. We know the full significance of that irresponsible sympathy which ... admits no difference between attack and resistance, between a war of aggression and a war of defence; which confuses moral issues, ignores experience, and insults the intelligence of mankind. The reformer whose heart is in the right place, but whose head is elsewhere, represents a waste of force; and we can not afford any waste in the conservation of honour and goodness.
    • in "The Cost of Modern Sentiment" (1916)
  • The sentiment of to-day is social and philanthropic. ... [but] we must forever bear in mind that sentiment is subjective, and a personal thing. However exalted and however ardent, it cannot be accepted as a scale for justice, or as a test for truth.
    • in "The Cost of Modern Sentiment" (1916)
  • What the world asks now are state reforms and social reforms,—in other words, the reformation of our neighbours. What the Gospel asks, and has always asked, is the reformation of ourselves ... Mr. [G. K.] Chesterton spoke but the truth when he said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and not tried.
    • in "Consolations of the Conservative" (December 1919)
  • The sanguine assurance that men and nations can be legislated into goodness, that pressure from without is equivalent to a moral change within, needs a strong backing of inexperience. 'The will,' says Francis Thompson, 'is the lynch-pin of the faculties.' We stand or fall by its strength or its infirmity. Where there is no temptation, there is no virtue. Parental legislation for the benefit of the weak leaves them as weak as ever ... They may go to heaven in leading-strings, but they cannot conquer Apollyon on the way.
    • in "Consolations of the Conservative" from Points of Friction (1920)
  • War will pass when injustice passes. Never before, unless hope leaves the world.
    • in "Woman Enthroned" (1920)

External links[edit]

People who pin their faith to a catchword never feel the necessity of understanding anything.
Agnes Repplier
DiedDecember 15, 1950(1950-12-15) (aged 95)
Resting placeSaint John the Evangelist church, Philadelphia
Notable worksIn Our Convent Days (1905), Points of Friction (1920)

Agnes Repplier (April 1, 1855[1] – December 15, 1950) was an American essayist.

Early years[edit]

She was born in Philadelphia in 1855 ,[2] of French and German extraction,[3] and was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Eden Hall at Torresdale, Philadelphia and later at the Agnes Irwin School. Repplier was reputedly expelled from two schools for "independent behaviour" and illiterate until the age of ten.[2]


Despite her school experiences, she became one of America's chief representatives of the discursive essay,[4] displaying wide reading and apt quotation. Her writings contain literary criticism as well as comments on contemporary life. These characteristics were already apparent in the first essay which she contributed to the Atlantic Monthly (April 1886), entitled “Children, Past and Present.”[5]

Repplier's earliest national publications appeared in 1881 in Catholic World. Although she did write several biographies and some fiction, early in her career she decided to concentrate on essays, and for 50 years she enjoyed a national reputation. She was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Pennsylvania (1902), Notre Dame (1911), Yale (1925), and Columbia University (1927).[6]

Personal life[edit]

She was a heavy smoker. Repplier was a devout Catholic, and had a conservative's outlook on the issues of the day.[3] She was an advocate of feminism and opponent of American neutrality during World War One, though an opponent of radicals and activists.[2] Living and dying in Philadelphia, she also spent time in Europe.[2]

Edward Wagenknecht described her, in 1946, as "our dean of essayists".[2]

Selected works[edit]

  • Philadelphia: The Place and the People (1898)
  • The Fireside Sphinx (1901)
  • In Our Convent Days (1905)
  • The Cat (1912)
  • Germany and Democracy (1914; with J. William White)
  • The Promise of the Bell: Christmas in Philadelphia (1924)
  • To Think of Tea! (1932)
  • In Pursuit of Laughter (1936) a historical study of types of humor
Essay collections
  • Books and Men (1888)
  • Points of View (1891)
  • Essays in Miniature (1892)
  • Essays in Idleness (1893)
  • In the Dozy Hours and Other Papers (1894)
  • Varia (1897)
  • Compromises (1904)
  • A Happy Half-Century and Other Essays (1908)
  • Americans and Others (1912)
  • Counter-Currents (1916)
  • Points of Friction (1920)
  • Under Dispute (1924)
  • Times and Tendencies (1931)
  • Eight Decades: Essays and Episodes (1937)
Biographical studies
  • J. William White, M.D.: A Biography (1919)
  • Père Marquette: Priest, Pioneer and Adventurer (1929) (Jacques Marquette)
  • Mère Marie of the Ursulines: A Study in Adventure (1931) (Marie de l'Incarnation)
  • Junípero Serra:Pioneer Colonist of California (1933)
  • Agnes Irwin: A Biography (1934)
Short stories
Selected articles


  1. ^This Is My Best (anthology) edited by Whit Burnett 1942 p.1153 Biographies and Bibliographies
  2. ^ abcdeNancy A. Walker, Nancy Nash-Cummings, Zita Dresner. Redressing the balance: American women's literary humor from Colonial times to the 1980s. University Press of Mississippi, 1988 p.207
  3. ^ abPaul R. Messbarger (1974). "Repplier, Agnes". Dictionary of American Biography. Supplement Four 1946-1950. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  4. ^Reilly, Joseph J. (1938–39). "The Daughter of Addison," The Catholic World, Vol. 148, pp. 158–166.
  5. ^ One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Repplier, Agnes". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  6. ^Rickenbacker, William F. (1994). "Agnes Repplier Revisited,"Modern Age, Vol. 36, No. 4, p. 341.

Further reading[edit]

  • Breed, Charles Everett (1994). Agnes Repplier, American Essayist: The force of Character, the Consolation of Civility. Ph.D. diss. University of Michigan.
  • Dirda, Michael (2009). American Austen: The Forgotten Writing of Agnes Repplier; see "Michael Dirda on 'American Austen: The Forgotten Writing of Agnes Repplier',"The Washington Post.
  • Horchler, Dora (1961). "The Essays of Agnes Repplier,"Modern Age, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 311–316.
  • Lukacs, John (1980). Philadelphia: Patricians and Philistines, 1900–1950. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.
  • Repplier, Emma (1957). Agnes Repplier: A Memoir. Philadelphia: Dorrance and Company.
  • Schelling, Felix E. (1922). "Our Miss Repplier." In: Appraisements and Asperities. Philadelphia & London: J.B. Lippincott Company, pp. 21–26.
  • Stokes, George Stewart (1949). Agnes Repplier: Lady of Letters. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Sweeney, Francis (1951). "Miss Repplier of Philadelphia," The Catholic World, Vol. 173, pp. 278–283.
  • Walker, Nancy and Zita Dresner (1988). Redressing the Balance: American Women’s Literary Humor from Colonial Times to the 1980s. Jackson, Miss.: University of Mississippi Press.
  • White, James A. (1957). The Era of Good Intentions: A Survey of American Catholics Writing between the Years 1889–1915. Ph.D. diss. University of Notre Dame.

External links[edit]


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