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COLLECTION Identifier: HUG 4298.xx

Papers of Charles Townsend Copeland


Charles Townsend Copeland (1860-1952), writer, poet, and Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, taught English at Harvard College from 1893 to 1928. The Papers of Charles Townsend Copeland chiefly consist of Copeland's lectures, speeches, correspondence, scrapbooks, and student work, and photographs documenting his teaching career at Harvard. The collection also includes a small amount of Copeland's personal letters and photographs.


  • Creation: 1862-1960 [and undated]

Researcher access

The Papers of Charles Townsend Copeland are open for research.


7.3 cubic feet (21 document boxes, 5 pamphlet binders, 1 flat box, 1 accordion folder, 1 folder)

The Papers of Charles Townsend Copeland, 1862-1960 [and undated], chiefly consist of Copeland's lectures, speeches, correspondence, scrapbooks, and student work documenting his teaching career at Harvard. The collection contains Copeland's correspondence with colleagues, students, and family; lectures and speeches given in classes; and student papers from Copeland's English classes dating from 1897 to 1927, including T.S. Eliot's paper entitled The Defects of Kipling. Correspondents include Donald Moffat, Charles W. Eliot, B.S. Hurlbut, and various students. Letters, 1957, received by Paul Hollister and Donald Adams, with anecdotes and reminiscences about Copeland; and typescripts of writings, such as Henry Austin Clapp's description of Copeland's readings and Malcolm Cowley's poem Copey's Room are also found in the collection. Personal items include photographs of Copeland family and some biographical information about the Copeland Club and Copeland's 1928 trip to England and Scotland.

Biographical note on Charles Townsend Copeland

Charles Townsend Copeland (1860-1952), Harvard College Class of 1882, writer, poet, and Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, taught English at Harvard College from 1890 to 1928.

Born in Calais, Maine on April 27, 1860 to Henry Clay Copeland and Sarah Lowell Copeland, Copeland attended Calais High School before coming to Harvard in 1878 as a member of the Class of 1882. As a student at Harvard, Copeland served as editor of the Harvard Advocate. Following his graduation from Harvard in 1882, Copeland taught for a year at a private boys' school in Englewood, New Jersey (1882-1883) before attending Harvard Law School from 1883 to 1884. In 1885, Copeland began writing book reviews for the Boston Advertiser, and then soon transferred to the Boston Post where he reviewed books and plays until 1892.

Affectionately known as "Copey" to his Harvard students, Copeland returned to the College as Lecturer on English literature in 1893, a position he held until 1910 when he was named Assistant professor of English. Copeland served as Associate professor from 1917 to 1925 when he was appointed Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory (1925-1928, and emeritus). While at Harvard, Copeland taught English A, a required freshman composition course; English 12, a writing class in which students wrote weekly 1,000 word compositions and then read them to Copeland; and lecture courses on Samuel Johnson and his contemporaries, English letter writers, and English Romantic poets. Copeland's teaching style was noted students include T.S. Eliot and Helen Keller, who took Copeland's courses given at Radcliffe College. Outside of the classroom, beginning in 1931 at the suggestion of Harvard's dean of freshmen students, Copeland invited two or three recommneded freshman students each week to his dormitory rooms in Hollis Hall, and later to his apartment in Cambridge, to engage in lively conversaion each week during the school year. Beginning in 1907, Copeland also lectured in English literature university extension courses at Harvard's Lowell Institute.

Copeland's noted published works include Life of Edwin Booth (1901) and Freshman English and Theme Correcting in Harvard College written with Henry Milner Rideout in 1901. Copeland was also a contributor on literary topics to Atlantic Monthly.

Professionally, Copeland was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Charles Townsend Copeland Association, founded by devoted friends and former students in 1906, was named in his honor.

Copeland died on July 24, 1952 in Waverley, a section of Belmont, Massachusetts.

  1. Copeland, Charles Townsend obituary by Robert L. Gale, American National Biography: (accessed May 5, 2021)


The collection is arranged in 17 series:

  1. Letters and papers (HUG 4298)
  2. General correspondence to and from Copeland, 1862-1950 [and undated] (HUG 4298.3)
  3. Copey's War Letters, Vols. I-III, January 1915-December 1918 (HUG 4298.5)
  4. Letters from students, circa 1917-1918 (HUG 4298.6)
  5. Carbon copies of miscellaneous correspondence, 1929-1930 (HUG 4298.8)
  6. Letters to Donald Moffat, 1930-1942 (HUG 4298.10)
  7. Letters to various correspondents (HUG 4298.12)
  8. Copey of Harvard; a biography of Charles Townsend Copeland by J. Donald Adams, 1960 (HUG 4298.15)
  9. Letters received by Paul Hollister and Donald Adams about Copeland, 1957 (HUG 4298.15.2)
  10. Scrapbooks, 1884-1919 (HUG 4298.20)
  11. Class lectures and speeches (HUG 4298.62)
  12. Student papers, 1897-1927 (HUG 4298.65)
  13. Reprints, pamphlets, etc. (HUG 4298.72)
  14. Charles T. Copeland Commemorative Volume, 1930 (HUG 4298.75 PF)
  15. Miscellaneous biographical items and information (HUG 4298.77)
  16. Photographs of Copeland family members (HUG 4298.78)
  17. Reminiscences of Copeland family and Calais people by Charles F. Dunbar (HUG 4298.80)
  18. Typescripts of writings by others besides Copeland (HUG 4298.85)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Papers of Charles Townsend Copeland were acquired in seveal accessions. Specific acquisition information, when available, is noted at the series level.

  1. Received from Massachusetts Hall, 1939.
  2. Gift of Schafer Williams, 1953
  3. Gift of Donald Moffat, 1952
  4. Gift, 1958
  5. Gift of Charles F. Dunbar, July 27, 1977; accession 8187.
  6. Gift of Charles F. Dunbar, October 27, 1977; accession 8255.
  7. Gift of Charles F. Dunbar, December 19, 1977; accession 8286.
  8. Gift of Charles F. Dunbar, October 19, 1978; accession 8498.
  9. Gift of Charles F. Dunbar, November 2, 1978; accession 8506.
  10. Gift of Charles F. Dunbar, August 1979.
  11. Gift of Charles F. Dunbar, October 2, 1980; accession 9017.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives:

  1. Copeland, Charles Townsend, 1860-1952. Letter of introduction from Charles Townsend Copeland to T. Niles for Mark Howe, 25th January [1893] (HUA 734.23)
  2. Records of the Charles Townsend Copeland Association, 1925-1927 (HUD 3208.7505)
  3. [Hollis Hall Room occupied by Charles Townsend Copeland, photograph, ca. 1910] in Photographic views of Hollis Hall, 1856-1959 (HUV 33 (5-10)):
  4. Copeland, Charles Townsend, 1860-1952. Freshman English and theme-correcting in Harvard College by C.T. Copeland and H.M. Rideout (HUC 8901.124.14)

Separated Materials

One essay, Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965.The defects of Kipling, 1908, has been relocated from the "Student papers" series (HUG 4298.65) in this collection and is housed and cataloged separately. A photocopy of the essay holds the place that the orginal held in the series. The call number for the orignal Eliot essay on Kipling is HUG 4298.65.1.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2022 April 22.

Processing Information

This finding aid was created by Jennifer Pelose in May 2021.

Information in this finding aid was assembled from legacy inventories and container management data. The collection was not re-examined.

Content enclosed in brackets was supplied by the archivist.

Copeland, Charles Townsend, 1860-1952. Papers of Charles Townsend Copeland, 1862-1960 [and undated] : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
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Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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