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Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS-0005

Scope and Contents

The collection documents the personal life and academic career of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and the people around him, dating from Gildersleeve's time as an undergraduate student at Jefferson College and Princeton University in the late 1840s through his later years at Johns Hopkins University and his death in the mid-1920s. The entire collection spans the years 1820-1953, with the bulk of material dating fron 1847-1924. The materials are organized into 4 series:

Series 1: Correspondence consists of some of Basil Gildersleeve's professional and personal correspondence, the bulk of which dates from the 1870s through 1915, when Gildersleeve retired from his professorship at Johns Hopkins University. There are also some letters from the years leading up to his death in 1924, as well as letters from later decades (1930s-1950s) discussing the provenance of some correspondence in the collection. There are some letters from Gildersleeve to others, and some drafts of his responses on the back of letters, but most of the letters are from others to him. According to Ward Briggs in his "Introduction" to The Letters of Basil Gildersleeve, "At Gildersleeve's death, his children burned all the letters that were in his house" (vx).

The personal correspondence includes letters from Elizabeth Colston Gildersleeve (Basil Gildersleeve's wife) and their son Raleigh Gildersleeve and daughter Emma Gildersleeve Lane. There are also letters from extended family members, such as Emma's husband Gardiner Lane, various siblings, nieces, and nephews, and more distant relatives. One letter from Gildersleeve's niece Nellie Gildersleeve Kirby mentions Delia, a Black woman who raised Gildersleeve and his siblings and was most likely enslaved.

The professional correspondence largely dates from Gildersleeve's time as a professor at Johns Hopkins (1876-1915) and editor of the American Journal of Philology (1880-1919). Academics from Colleges and Universities around the United States and Canada, as well as some from the United Kingdom and Germany, wrote to Gildersleeve, often sending articles for the Journal of Philology or requesting references or recommendations for faculty hires to teach Greek and/or Latin. There is a large amount of correspondence from Daniel Coit Gilman, the first president of Johns Hopkins University, from the first few decades of the University's existence.

Series 2: Biographical materials and personal ephemera includes geneological information about Gildersleeve's family, including his grandfather Bazile Lanneau's obituary, personal effects such as travel documents (including a passport from the American Embassy in London from the early days of World War I) and photographs, and news articles and memorial materials (obituaries/etc.) created upon Gildersleeve's death in the mid-1920s.

Series 3: Diaries/notebooks/student notes contains daily journals and diaries from Gildersleeve's days as a student at Jefferson College and Princeton University, notebooks with quotes in various languages, a draft of a semi-autobiographical novel based on Gildersleeve's time as a graduate student in Germany titled "Schlafhausen: or, One Year of Mr. Alfred Thistledown's life," and notes in German that Gildersleeve took while attending lectures on various subjects in Classical literature and history while a graduate student in Germany. Gildersleeve also appears to have continued using one of the notebooks that he started in 1852 to draft some of the editorials that he wrote for the Richmond Examiner during the American Civil War.

Series 4: Teaching, writing, and research contains materials largely produced in the course of Gildersleeve's career as an academic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of the material seems to date from Gildersleeve's time at Johns Hopkins University post-1876. It includes lectures and lecture notes, most of which are presumably for courses in the Greek Seminary at Hopkins, notes for projects including Gildersleeve's "Greek Syntax," and drafts and published versions of some of Gildersleeve's writings. One notebook appears to be mostly in Ethiopic/Ge'ez. There are also notes from the 1840s by Charles D. Morris, a classicist colleague of Gildersleeve in the early years at Hopkins (see Briggs, "Charles D'Urban Morris," https://dbcs.rutgers.edu/all-scholars/8955-morris-charles-d-urban) - it is unclear how they came to Gildersleeve or ended up with his papers.

Dates

  • 1820-1953
  • Majority of material found in 1847-1924

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (1831-1924) was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Rev. Benjamin Gildersleeve, a white Presbyterian minister, and Emma (Lanneau) Gildersleeve. Although Rev. Gildersleeve was originally from Connecticut, he moved to South Carolina and married into a white family from Charleston (Lupher and Vandiver, 322). According to United States Census records, he enslaved people in 1840, 1850 and 1860. Basil Gildersleeve thus grew up in a slaveholding household. The Gildersleeve family later moved to Richmond, Virginia.

Basil Gildersleeve studied classical languages from an early age, and he continued his education briefly at Jefferson College in Cannonsburg, PA. After a year he moved to Princeton University, and he graduated in 1849. Gildersleeve went to Europe for graduate work and was one of several American students at the University of Gottingen in Germany, from which he received his doctoral degree in 1853.

Gildersleeve was Professor of Greek at the University of Virginia from 1856-1876, and he was also Professor of Latin from 1861-1866. Gildersleeve’s primary interest was the grammar and structure of the Greek language, though he spoke, wrote, and taught several additional classical and modern languages, including German. Though he eventually left Charlottesville, Gildersleeve’s connection to UVA remained strong. He was buried in the Faculty Cemetery there upon his death in 1924, despite having lived in Baltimore for more than 40 years.

During the Civil War, Gildersleeve (along with his father and brothers) was an enthusiastic supporter of the Confederacy (Lupher and Vandiver, 323), and he served in the Confederate Army before he was wounded in 1864. Gildersleeve also wrote a series of articles for the Richmond Examiner during the war, which the Johns Hopkins University Classics Department says, “even considering their time and place, stand out for their racism.” (https://classics.jhu.edu/about/gildersleeve/). As Professor Simon Gikandi of Princeton University notes, in one editorial titled “Miscegenation,” Gildersleeve “argued…that the ‘supremacy of the white man’ had saved the continent from the fate of its neighbors to the south – ‘the mixed population of Mexico and the twenty-two cross breeds of Lima’" (https://slavery.princeton.edu/stories/gildersleeve). Classicist Ward Briggs also notes the anti-Semitism in Gildersleeve's Examiner articles, saying that in Gildersleeve's mind, "The chief villains [of the Confederacy] are the Jews and Jefferson Davis (3 December 1863)" ("Introduction," Soldier and Scholar, 16).

In 1876, Johns Hopkins University’s first president Daniel Coit Gilman recruited Gildersleeve as one of the first faculty members for the new institution. Gildersleeve established the Greek Seminary at Hopkins, and he had a great deal of influence on the teaching and research done in the humanities in the first few decades. Librarian John C. French says that of the early faculty at Hopkins, President Gilman “particularly relied on the judgement of Gildersleeve and Remsen. He was closest of all, perhaps, to Gildersleeve” (135). He quotes a letter (located in Box 6 of the Gildersleeve papers) from Gilman to Gildersleeve in which Gilman writes, “I lay down my office with a constant remembrance that you and Remsen have been my chief counsellors – the one in all that pertained to science, the other in all that pertained to letters” (French, 136). Gildersleeve also started the American Journal of Philology in 1880 while at Hopkins, and he remained its editor until 1919.

In his later years, long after the defeat of the Confederacy, Gildersleeve wrote a widely-read essay in defense of white Southerners’ position during the Civil War, “The Creed of the Old South,” that was originally published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1892 and republished by Johns Hopkins University in 1915. Gikandi calls Gildersleeve an “unrepentant Confederate apologist” (“Princeton and Slavery,” https://slavery.princeton.edu/stories/gildersleeve). Similarly, classicists David Lupher and Elizabeth Vandiver argue that “Gildersleeve’s late work…and his republication of ‘The Creed of the Old South and ‘A Southerner in the Peloponnesian War’ in 1915 clearly demonstrate that the passage of years and the supposedly mellowing period of old age never changed his mind about the justice of the ‘cause’ for which he had fought and been maimed” (345). Gildersleeve retired from his professorship at Johns Hopkins in 1915, and he died in 1924 at age 92.

Gildersleeve married Elizabeth Colston, the daughter of Raleigh Colston, a white plantation owner and enslaver, in 1866 (Lupher and Vandiver, 326). They had two children together who survived to adulthood, Raleigh Colston Gildersleeve and Emma Gildersleeve Lane. In addition to these two children with his wife, Gildersleeve is also listed as the father of Fannie Manning Gildersleeve Tonsler of Charlottesville, VA on her State of Virginia Death Certificate. Fannie Tonsler, a Black woman, was born in approximately 1859 or 1860 (while Gildersleeve was Professor of Greek at the University of Virginia), and she married Benjamin Tonsler, a Black man, in 1876. On their marriage certificate, Fannie’s mother is listed as Emily Monroe. Benjamin Tonsler taught at and was principal of the Jefferson School, the first school in Charlottesville for Black students, and he educated generations of Black children and youth in the decades after the Civil War. The Tonslers had several children, including two sons named Basil Tonsler and Gildersleeve Tonsler. Benjamin and Fannie Tonsler and some of their children are buried in the Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Sources: Briggs, Ward W., Jr., ed. The Letters of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Briggs, Ward W., Jr., ed. Soldier and Scholar: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and the Civil War. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1998.

Commonwealth of Virginia. Certificate of Death for Fannie Manning Tonsler. "Virginia, Death Certificates, 1912-1987," database with images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVR4-2R8X , accessed January 24, 2023.

Daughters of Zion Cemetery. "Tonsler, Benjamin Ellis." https://daughtersofzioncemetery.org/the-people/tonsler-benjamin-ellis/, accessed January 25, 2023.

French, John C. A History of the University Founded by Johns Hopkins. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1946.

Gikandi, Simon. "Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve." Princeton and Slavery. https://slavery.princeton.edu/stories/gildersleeve, accessed January 24, 2023.

Johns Hopkins University. Department of Classics. "Gildersleeve." https://classics.jhu.edu/about/gildersleeve/, accessed January 25, 2023.

Lupher, David and Elizabeth Vandiver. “Yankee She-Men and Octoroon Electra: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve on Slavery, Race, and Abolition.” Ancient Slavery and Abolition: From Hobbes to Hollywood. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Marriage License, Benjamin Tonsler and Fannie Monroe, "Tonsler" Vertical File, Albermarle Charlottesville Historical Society Library.

U.S. Census Bureau. Benjamin Gildersleeve in Charleston, South Carolina, United States, " United States Census, 1840," database with images. FamilySearch.https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YB7-XZD?i=183&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AXHY1-ZD3, accessed January 27, 2023.

U.S. Census Bureau, Fannie Tonsler in household of Benjamin Tonsler, Charlottesville, Albemarle, Virginia, United States, "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYBF-99?cc=1417683&wc=X43K-HZ9%3A1589415431%2C1589415592%2C1589401065%2C1589395245, accessed January 24, 2023.

U.S. Census Bureau, Gildersleeve Tonsler and Basil Tonsler in household of Benjamin Tonsler, Charlottesville, Albemarle, Virginia, United States, "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMJJ-9W8, accessed January 25, 2023.

U.S. Census Bureau. Rev. B. Gildersleeve in Richmond, Henrico, Virginia, United States, "United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1850", database with images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:HRWL-MK3Z, accessed January 27, 2023.

U.S. Census Bureau. Rev. B. Gildersleeve in Henrico, Virginia, United States, "United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1860", database with images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:W2XL-11MM, accessed January 24, 2023.

Extent

14.73 Cubic Feet (35 boxes - 10 letter size document boxes, 23 legal size document boxes, 1 card file box (12 x 5 1/2 x 3 inches))

Language of Materials

English

Greek, Ancient (to 1453)

Latin

German

French

Hebrew

Geez

Abstract

Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve (October 23, 1831 – January 9, 1924), was a "classicist and Confederate apologist" (David Lupher and Elizabeth Vandiver, "Yankee She-Men and Octoroon Electra: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve on Slavery, Race, and Abolition," 320), and one of the first faculty members hired at the founding of Johns Hopkins University in 1876. This collection consists of correspondence, newspaper clippings, biographic data, diaries, notes, notebooks, drafts, published and unpublished writings, books and offprints, addresses, translations, students seminary papers, and index cards with citations for Gildersleeve's Syntax of Classical Greek.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve were deposited by him in the Johns Hopkins University Library circa 1915. Based on information in the correspondence series of the collection, it appears that the library continued to add material to the collection from various sources for at least the next few decades (1920s-1950s)

Related Materials

Related material of the Philological Association can be found in The Johns Hopkins University Collection MS.0137. The University of Virginia in Charlottesville also holds a collection of Basil Gildersleeve's papers, MSS 12792 - the finding aid can be found here: htps://ead.lib.virginia.edu/vivaxtf/view?docId=uva-sc/viu00665.xml;query=;

Bibliography

  • Briggs, Ward W., Jr. "Charles D'Urban Morris" Database of Classical Scholars Rutgers University. https://dbcs.rutgers.edu/all-scholars/8955-morris-charles-d-urban), accessed January 27, 2023.
  • Briggs, Ward W., Jr., ed. The Letters of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.
  • Briggs, Ward W., Jr., ed. Soldier and Scholar: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and the Civil War. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1998.
  • Commonwealth of Virginia. Certificate of Death for Fannie Manning Tonsler. "Virginia, Death Certificates, 1912-1987," database with images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVR4-2R8X , accessed January 24, 2023.
  • Daughters of Zion Cemetery. "Tonsler, Benjamin Ellis." https://daughtersofzioncemetery.org/the-people/tonsler-benjamin-ellis/, accessed January 25, 2023.
  • French, John C. A History of the University Founded by Johns Hopkins. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1946.
  • Gikandi, Simon. "Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve." Princeton and Slavery. https://slavery.princeton.edu/stories/gildersleeve, accessed January 24, 2023.
  • Johns Hopkins University. Department of Classics. "Gildersleeve." https://classics.jhu.edu/about/gildersleeve/, accessed January 25, 2023.
  • Lupher, David and Elizabeth Vandiver. “Yankee She-Men and Octoroon Electra: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve on Slavery, Race, and Abolition.” Ancient Slavery and Abolition: From Hobbes to Hollywood. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Marriage License, Benjamin Tonsler and Fannie Monroe, "Tonsler" Vertical File, Albermarle Charlottesville Historical Society Library.
  • U.S. Census Bureau. Benjamin Gildersleeve in Charleston, South Carolina, United States, " United States Census, 1840," database with images. FamilySearch.https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YB7-XZD?i=183&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AXHY1-ZD3, accessed January 27, 2023.
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Fannie Tonsler in household of Benjamin Tonsler, Charlottesville, Albemarle, Virginia, United States, "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYBF-99?cc=1417683&wc=X43K-HZ9%3A1589415431%2C1589415592%2C1589401065%2C1589395245, accessed January 24, 2023.
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Gildersleeve Tonsler and Basil Tonsler in household of Benjamin Tonsler, Charlottesville, Albemarle, Virginia, United States, "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MMJJ-9W8, accessed January 25, 2023.
  • U.S. Census Bureau. Rev. B. Gildersleeve in Richmond, Henrico, Virginia, United States, "United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1850", database with images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:HRWL-MK3Z, accessed January 27, 2023.
  • U.S. Census Bureau. Rev. B. Gildersleeve in Richmond, Henrico, Virginia, United States, "United States Census (Slave Schedule), 1860", database with images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:W2XL-11MM, accessed January 24, 2023.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by M.C. Beecheno in 1988 and updated by Kristen Diehl in 2021. Liz Beckman reprocessed the collection in 2022 and 2023, including rewriting/revising the Biographical Note, Scope and Content notes, Related Materials, Bibliography, Arrangement, and inventory (folder titles, dates, etc). She also condensed the number of series in the collection from 9 to 4.

Title
Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve papers
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Contact:
The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA