Biography of John Hall Wheelock

(1886 - 1978)

John Hall Wheelock, poet, scholar, and editor, was born 9 September 1886 in Rockaway, Long Island, NY son of William Efner Wheelock and Emily Charlotte Hall. His grandfather on his mothers side, Reverend John Hall, D.D. was the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. His grandfather on his fathers side, William Almy Wheelock, was a highly successfuly businessman and civic leader.

John Hall Wheelock grew up in New York, spending his childhood summers on the shore at East Hampton, Long Island, where he developed an affection for the sea. He graduated Harvard in 1908, class poet. As a student he was editor of the Harvard Monthly; and published his first work, "Verses by Two Undergraduates", anonymously with his friend Van Wyck Brooks during their freshman year.

He spend two years in Germany, working on a post graduate degree at the University of Goettingen and the Univesity of Berlin. During this time he wrote a great deal of verse. Returning to America in 1910, he became associated with Charles Scribner and Sons, and by 1932 became a director of the corporation. In 1942 he became treasurer, and in 1947, upon the death of Maxwell Perkins, he became senior editor.

In 1936, his published volume of Collected Works was awarded the Golden Rose by the New England Poetry Society, as the most distinguished contribution to American poetry of that year. For his work "Poems Old and New" he received the Ridgely Torrence Memorial Award in 1956, and the Borestone Mountain Poetry Award in 1957. In 1962 he won the Bollingen Prize; in 1965 the Signet Society Medal, Harvard University, for distinguished achievement in the arts. In 1972 he was awarded the Gold Medal by the Poetry Society of America for notable achievement in poetry.

John Hall Wheelock was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Poetry Society of America (Vice president, 1944-1946), National Institute of Arts and Letters (vice-president), and the Academy of American Poets (chancellor, 1947-71; honorary fellow, 1974-1978). He was an honorary consultant in American letters to the Library of Congress.

During his career he worked with such distinguished authors as Thomas Wolfe and James Truslow Adams.

His principle works of poetry include the following: Verses by Two Undergraduates, privately published, 1905; Human Fantasy, Sherman, French, 1911; Beloved Adventure, Sherman, French, 1912; Love and Liberation, Sherman, French, 1913; Dust and Light, Scribner, 1919; The Black Panther, Scribner, 1922; The Bright Doom, Scribner, 1927; Collected Poems, 1911-1936, Scribner, 1936; Poems Old and New, Scribner, 1956; The Gardner and Other Poems, Scribner, 1961; Dear Men and Women: New Poems, Scribner, 1966; By Daylight and in Dream: New and Collected Poems, 1904-1970, Scribner, 1970; In Love and Song: Poems, Scribner, 1971.

Some of his other works include: Alan Seeger: Poet of the Foreign Legion (essay), Scribner, 1918; A Bibliography of Theodore Roosevelt, Scribner, 1920; The Face of a Nation: Poetical Passages from the Writings of Thomas Wolfe, (compiler, editor, and author of the introduction), Scribner, 1939; Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins, (editor and author of introduction), Scribner, 1950.

John Hall Wheelock married Phyllis E. de Kay in 1940. She was the daughter of Charles de Kay, poet and art critic.

His father, William Efner Wheelock was an avid collector of furniture and decoritive art pieces, which John Hall Wheelock contributed to The East Hampton Historical Society. The collection is on display there in the Wheelock Room.

He died 22 Mar 1978 in New York.

(Written by Roderick B. Sullivan, Jr., Feb 2001, Updated Jan 2015)

Notes and Sources

  1. "Twentieth Century Authors, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature", Edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, published 1942 in New York by The H. W. Wilson Company.
  2. "Twentieth Century Authors, First Supplement, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature", Edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Vineta Colby, published 1955 in New York by The H. W. Wilson Company.
  3. "Contemporary Authors", edited by Clare D. Kinsman, published 1965 by Gale Research Company. 
  4. "Contemporary Authors", edited by Frances Carol Locher, published 1979 by Gale Research Company.