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Henry Clarke Warren
Henry Clarke Warren
Image courtesy of Harvard University Archives

Henry Clarke Warren [From the paperback book cover:] was born in Boston in 1854. He was educated in the universities of Harvard and Johns Hopkins. While a student he was attracted to the philosophy of Buddhism and studied it from original Pali sources.

Henry Clarke Warren was one of the authorities on Buddhism and Pali literature. Harvard Oriental Series was instituted on munificent endowment from his earnings. He translated and edited Visuddhi-Magga by Buddhaghosa which was issued as Buddhaghosa's Way of Purity in Harvard Oriental Series (Vol. 41, 1950). He died in 1899.



Henry Clarke Warren, '79.

This article comes from the Harvard Graduate Magazine, Vol. VII, No. 27, March 1899, and was written by C. R. Lanman. Supplied by Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library-Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138 http://library.harvard.edu/university-archives

Just outliving the old year by a day or two, there has passed from among us Henry Warren. The provisions of his will evoke kindly remark from the friends of Harvard; for he has left to the College his beautiful house and grounds in Quincy Street, once the home of Professor Beck, a legacy of $15,000 for the publication of the Harvard Oriental Series, one of $10,000 for the Dental School, and another of like amount for the Museum of American Archaeology. And so, perchance, one or another stops to inquire, "Who was this Mr. Warren?" Some of us can picture to ourselves the smile which would be his comment on such an inquiry, could he hear it; and "Well hid is well lived," he would add -λάθε βιώσας.

The maxim of the misprized Epicurus he had, indeed, taken to heart — and so well, that the news of these testamentary gifts will be to many sons of Harvard their first knowledge of him. Significant as they are, they are far from being the most significant facts of his life. These, without word of eulogy, let us briefly rehearse.

Henry Clarke Warren was born in Boston, November 18, 1854, son of the late Samuel Dennis and of Susan Clarke Warren. He was the second of four brothers, all graduates of Harvard College, in the classes of '75, '79, '83, and '84 respectively. In his early childhood a fall from a gig produced an injury which resulted in spinal ailment and in lifelong physical disability and suffering. This is all the more a loss to the world, because his intellectual endowments were of an uncommonly high order; and because they were directed in their activity by a moral character of singular purity, unselfishness, and loftiness.

Thus shut out, before ever experiencing them, from many of the possibilities that make life so attractive to childhood, youth, and young manhood, he bravely set himself to make the utmost of what remained to him. His broadness of mind soon showed itself in a catholicity of interest very unusual for one of his years. Already in College he had won the affectionate regard of his teacher, Professor Palmer, by his keen interest in the history of philosophy. He became an intelligent student of Plato, Kant, and Schopenhauer; and, as we shall see, the natural trend of his mind toward speculative questions showed clearly in his scientific investigations of Buddhism. With all this went an eager curiosity about the visible world around him. We can easily believe that he would have attained to high distinction in natural science, so good was his native gift of observation and of well-balanced reflection upon what he saw. He used his microscope with great satisfaction in botanical study. At Baltimore he worked with enthusiasm in the chemical laboratory. And through all his later years, an aquarium on a smaller or larger scale was a thing which he maintained with intelligent and persistent interest. But for the most part he was forced, reluctantly enough, we may guess, to see with the eyes of others; and accordingly his reading in the natural sciences — in those just now mentioned, in physiology and kindred subjects ancillary to medicine, and in geography — was wide, and was for him a well-chosen foil to the severer studies which were his unprofessed profession. As a further resource for diversion of the hours of weariness or solitude, he took to books of travel and of fiction; and by way of zest, acceptable to so active a mind, he read them, one in German, another in Dutch, and another in French or Spanish or Russian.

The department of science, however, in which he has made a name for himself is Oriental Philosophy, and in particular Buddhism, conceived, not as a simple body of ethical teaching, but as an elaborate system of doctrine. He had begun the study of Sanskrit, as an undergraduate at Harvard, with Professor Greenough; and, after taking his bachelor's degree in 1879, had continued the study at the newly established Johns Hopkins University, first under Professor Lanman, and then, after the latter had been called (in 1880) to Harvard, with his successor, Professor Bloomfield. A visit to London in June, 1884, and especially his meetings there with Rhys Davids, seem to have confirmed Mr. Warren in his purpose to devote himself seriously to the study of Pali, the language of the sacred books of the Southern Buddhists.

His first essay in print was an admirable version of a Buddhist story in the Providence Journal of October 27, 1884. An interesting paper on "Superstitious Customs connected with Sneezing" soon followed in the Journal of the American Oriental Society. Later appeared results of his studies in the Transactions of the, International Congress of Orientalists at London, and in the Journal of the Pali Text Society of London. These, however, were but chips from the keel he had laid for a craft of ambitious dimension and noble design. He realized how scant at most were the time and strength presumably at his disposal, and wisely judged it best to devote that little, not to the learned quisquiliae on which many scholars fritter their days away, but rather to one or two works of individuality and of independent significance.

The residence in Baltimore seems to have given him a new lease of life. In 1884 he came home to Boston. On the death of his father in 1888, he made trial of the climate of southern California, but soon returned, and in 1891 established his residence at Cambridge. Persistent study, meantime, was making his acquaintance with the original sacred writings of the Buddhists extensive and thorough, so that at length he could justly be called one of the leading Pali scholars of the Occident.

In 1896 appeared his "Buddhism in Translations," published by the University as volume iii of the Harvard Oriental Series. It is an octavo of 540 pages, made up of about 130 passages from the Pali scriptures. These selections, done into English prose and verse, are chosen with such broad and learned circumspection that they make a systematically complete presentation of their difficult subject. The work is divided into five chapters. Of these, the first gives the picturesque Buddha legend, and the fifth treats of the monastic order; while the other three are concerned with the fundamental conceptions of Buddhism, to wit, "sentient existence, Karma and rebirth, and meditation and Nirvana." Mr. Warren's interest centred in the philosophical chapters; the first and last were for him rather a concession to popular interest, an addition intended to "float" the rest. Much has recently been written about Buddhism upon tpe basis of secondary or even less immediate sources. Mr. Warren's material is drawn straight from the fountain-head. It is this fact that gives his book an abiding importance and value. And it was a genuine and legitimate satisfaction to him to read the judgments passed on his work by eminent Orientalists — of England, France, the Netherlands, India, and Ceylon — welcoming him, as it were, to a well-earned place among their ranks.

One of the most pleasing features of his later years was his intercourse with the Venerable Subhuti, a Buddhist Elder, of Waskaduwa in Ceylon. This distinguished monk, whose learning, modesty, and kindness had endeared him years ago to Childers, Fausboll, and Rhys Davids, was no less ready with words of encouragement for Mr. Warren, and with deeds of substantial service, notably the procuring of copies of manuscript. The King of Siam recently celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of his acces sion to the throne by publishing in 39 volumes a memorial edition of the Buddhist scriptures or Tipitaka (a most commendable method of celebrating! Sovereigns of far more enlightened lands have preferred sky-rockets). Copies were sent, exclusively as gifts, to the principal libraries of Europe and America, Harvard among them. Mr. Warren had sent to His Majesty a magnificently bound set of the Harvard Oriental Series; and it was a matter of honest pride and pleasure to him to receive from the king in return a beautiful copy of this Tipitaka. It is certain to be a satisfaction to the king and some of the high authorities at Bangkok when they learn how diligently Mr. Warren used the royal gift.

Long before the issue of his "Buddhism," Mr. Warren was well advanced in his study of Buddhaghosa's "Way of Purity." To publish a masterly edition of this work was the ambition of his life as a scholar. He did not live to see of the travail of his soul; but, as in the case of Whitney, of Child, and of Lane, it is believed that naught of his labor of love will be lost. A word about Buddhaghosa and his work, and about Warren's plan and his progress towards its achievement.

Buddhaghosa (about 400 A.D.) was a famous divine, who had been brought up in all the wisdom of the Brahmans, and who, after his conversion to Buddhism, became an exceedingly prolific writer. He may, in some sort, be stylecd the St. Augustine of India. His "Way of Purity," or "Visuddhi-magga," is an encyclopaedia raisonnée of Buddhist doctrine. It is, as Childers says, "a truly great work, written in terse and lucid language, and showing a marvelous grasp of the subject." Warren's plan was to publish a scholarly edition of the Pali text of this work, with full but well-sifted critical apparatus, a complete English translation, an index of names, and other useful appendices. The learned monk makes constant citations from his predecessors, quite after the manner of the Christian church fathers. And in order further to enhance the usefulness of his edition, Mr. Warren had undertaken to trace back all these quotations to their sources.

His material consisted mainly of four palm-leaĀ manuscripts. The first was a Burmese codex, loaned him by the British government from the India Office Library; and two, in Singalese characters, were sent him by Rhys Davids and the late Dr. Richard Morris. The Pall text Mr. Warren had practically constituted from beginning to end, aside from the final adjustment of many matters of orthographic detail, in which the Burmese and Insular copies are consistently at odds. Much labor, therefore, needs still to be put upon the apparatus criticus. Of the English version, one third has been made, parts having already appeared in his "Buddhism." And about one half of the quotations have been traced and identified in the vast literature from which Buddhaghosa drew.

If Mr. Warren's work sees the light, it will then appear that his methods were such as to serve as a model in any department of philology, classical, Semitic, what not, and that his achievement is one of which not only Fair Harvard, but also all American scholarship, may justly be proud. It is fervently to be hoped that his plan may be faithfully carried out in its entirety. If this hope is realized, the result will be a memorial, massive and noble, of a man who was one of Harvard's most loyal and noble sons.

G. R. Lanman.

Buddhism in Translations book cover

Read on line: Buddhism in Translations, by H.C. Warren
Download: B.I.T. stand alone zip file

An expanded version of this article (the source of much of its contents) is the Memorial to be found at the back of the edition of Buddhism in Translations included in the Harvard Oriental Series.

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