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Herbert Croly of the New Republic

Herbert Croly of the New Republic: The Life and Thought of an American Progressive

David W. Levy
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    Herbert Croly of the New Republic
    Book Description:

    Here is the first full-length biography of Herbert Croly (1869-1930), one of the major American social thinkers of the twentieth century. David W. Levy explains the origins and impact of Croly's penetrating analysis of American life and tells the story of a career that included his founding of one of the most influential journals of the period, The New Republic, in 1914 and his writing of The Promise of American Life (1909), a landmark in the history of American ideas.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5459-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. ONE “Jenny June” and “The Great Suggester”
    (pp. 3-42)

    Herbert David Croly was born on January 23, 1869, in New York City. He once confided (mistakenly) to Edmund Wilson that he had been the very first child in the United States to be “christened” into the Religion of Humanity, Auguste Comte’s curious attempt to apply the principles of science to the religious needs of mankind. The outmoded deity of western religion, Comte had argued, was no longer credible; the only proper object of worship was the Goddess Humanity, a female symbol representing all the people of the earth—those already dead, those now living, those yet to be born....

  2. TWO Harvard College versus David Croly
    (pp. 43-71)

    Although Jenny June and the Great Suggester disagreed about many things, they had little quarrel when it came to the importance of education. Mrs. Croly was too astute an observer of polite society not to realize that education was the gateway to respectability and advancement. David Croly, while undoubtedly agreeing about the social advantages of education, had additional reasons for believing that learning was crucial: “We rely primarily upon education,” he asserted in thePositivist Primer.“The labor question,—the woman question,—the governmental question,—all must wait for their final solution until the minds of the great mass of...

  3. THREE The Blank Years, 1888–1909
    (pp. 72-95)

    Historians have never been able to discover much about Herbert Croly’s life in the period before the publication of his major work,The Promise of American Life,in 1909. He was not yet well known as a writer or a thinker, and few letters written to him or by him during these years have survived. Indeed, a dozen years after his death, his old friend Oswald Garrison Villard, who agreed to write the account of Croly’s life forThe Dictionary of American Biography,ended by complaining to his editor, “I am astonished how little source material there is. . ....

  4. FOUR The Promise of American Life
    (pp. 96-131)

    In 1910 the Kansas editor William Allen White opened his new book, significantly entitledThe Old Order Changeth,with a comparison between Tocqueville’s America and his own: “The two—politically, economically, and socially—are almost utterly dissimilar,” he wrote. “Something has intervened.” Four years later, twenty-five-year-old Walter Lippmann observed that “those who are young today are born into a world in which the foundations of the older order survive only as habits or by default.”¹ White and Lippmann had seen something that historians two generations later would resolutely try to analyze and document. They would invent terminology like “the revolt...

  5. FIVE “Taking on the Form of the Sun God”
    (pp. 132-161)

    The Promise of American Lifewas an instantaneous success. The book appeared in early November 1909, and the apprehensive author sent copies to some of his friends. Their replies were reassuring. Arthur Colton, the librarian of the New York University Club, thought it was “the solidest piece of consecutive thinking on the subject that I have met with in some if not many years. . . . I would venture to prophesy that the book will make its mark.”¹ Another friend wrote Croly, “You’ve done a big thing in that book and I haven’t the least doubt but that it...

  6. SIX Progressive Democracy
    (pp. 162-184)

    Among the honors that came to Herbert Croly as a result of his new importance was an invitation to present the prestigious Godkin lectures at Harvard. Written and delivered in late 1913 and early 1914, the lectures were published asProgressive Democracyin October 1914. The book, second only toThe Promise of American Lifein revealing the social and political ideas of its author, was written in a tone of sober conviction and filled with warnings. But it is easy to see in it, despite its tone, the confident optimism so characteristic of the progressive movement.

    The central argument...

  7. SEVEN A Journal of Opinion
    (pp. 185-217)

    Willard Straight’s life was of the sort that inspired boys’ stories. His parents, two itinerent science teachers, died before he was eleven, and he was raised by friends of the family in Oswego, New York. After Cornell, he shipped out to China and before long had mastered the language and was an authority on Asian political and economic life. He worked briefly for the Chinese, and during the Russo-Japanese War he became a correspondent for Reuter’s. After the war he was with the United States State Department in various Asian posts and, for a short time, in Washington, but he...

  8. EIGHT Years of “Rare Opportunity,” 1914–1918
    (pp. 218-262)

    From London, on August 2, 1914, a distraught Walter Lippmann dashed off a note to Felix Frankfurter. “This isn’t a very cheerful day to be writing to you. It’s an hour since we learned that Germany has declared war against Russia. We shall hear of France later in the day, no doubt.” Lippmann was with a group of British intellectuals—Wallas, Murray, Hobhouse, Thomson—and they were all stunned by events (“we sit and stare at each other and make idiotically cheerful remarks”). They plotted foolish schemes to keep England out of the conflagration, but they knew it was hopeless....

  9. NINE Years of Despair, 1919–1930
    (pp. 263-300)

    The editorial meeting that Croly called early in the second week of May 1919, was an exceedingly grim one. Filing into his office that day were Lippmann and Weyl, both recently returned to the journal, Alvin Johnson, Francis Hackett, Phil Littell and Bob Hallowell. Croly sat in his usual place behind the big desk and led the discussion.¹

    From the beginning of the peace negotiations,The New Republichad approached the conference as if it had been a morality play, a vast drama in which the forces of good contended against the forces of evil:

    There are at present two...

  10. TEN Conclusion
    (pp. 301-308)

    One of the things that Orage liked his followers to do was to write autobiographies. What better way, the teacher of the Method reasoned, to stimulate the process of self-examination and bring to consciousness new discoveries of self-revelation?¹ So, perhaps it was partly as a religious exercise that Herbert Croly set down, sometime in the mid-1920s, some reflections on the course of his life. He didn’t get very far with the enterprise, and the fragment that survives was obviously not intended for public scrutiny.² Nevertheless, the first few pages of the document reveal very well the state of his mind...