Henry Van Dyke Biography

Henry Van Dyke was an American writer famous for his religious writings and literary criticisms. Read more about his life and works in the following article.

Henry Van Dyke
Quick Facts

Birthday: November 10, 1852

Nationality: American

Famous: Quotes By Henry Van Dyke African American Authors

Died At Age: 80

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Born in: Philadelphia

Famous as: Author, Educator, & Clergyman


Spouse/Ex-: Ellen Reid

father: Henry Jackson van Dyke

mother: Henrietta Ashmead

siblings: Paul van Dyke

children: Tertius van Dyke

Died on: April 10, 1933

place of death: Princeton

U.S. State: Pennsylvania

City: Philadelphia

More Facts

education: Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary

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A multitalented personality, Henry Van Dyke was an American author, educator, and clergyman, known for his works which included short stories, poems, and essays. He believed in sympathy for man, fostering companionship with nature, and promoting a reverent view of life. He was an influential writer and contributed in various other fields such as religion, literature, education, diplomacy, public service, and nature. Van Dyke was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received many other honors. He was a successful minister and served efficiently to his country when he became the Minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1913. His important works include “The Poetry of Tennyson” (1889), “The Other Wise Man” (1896) and “The First Christmas Tree“(1897). Early Life Henry Van Dyke was born on November 10, 1852 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. His parents were Henrietta Ashmead and Henry Jackson Van Dyke. His father was a respected Presbyterian clergyman and his early influence to become a minister. Dyke attended the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and received his M. A. from Princeton University in 1876. Then he headed towards Germany where he studied for two years at the University of Berlin. In 1879, Dyke joined the Presbyterian ministry and four years later became the pastor of the famous Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. In very short time, he gained national reputation for his preaching. Dyke gave his first sermon on “The Voice of God”, which themed on hearing God in nature. His love of outdoors became a part of his Christianity and later he turned into a conversationalist, speaking out for the preservation of nature. His dual belief in nature and religion influenced his literary criticism as well as his other writings.

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Henry Van Dyke Childhood and Career
While working as the minister, Dyke also started writing. With his artist friend, W. S. Macy he did an illustrated article for Harper's Monthly Magazine. It even became the lead article for the May 1880 issue. Dyke’s first book was published in 1884 when, he was thirty-two. This book, “The Reality of Religion” was based on his studies in the seminary and his vocation in the ministry. His second book,The Story of the Psalms”, came in the span of three years and was about his role as a pastor. This book brought together his love of religion and literature. In 1889, he published, “The Poetry of Tennyson” which was literary criticism to the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson. The book not only helped people to know more about the spirit and beliefs of Alfred Lord Tennyson, but also made Dyke an important figure in the world of literature. Following these writings, came his books solely based on religious matters, as they helped him to develop sympathy with other men. Few of his notable religious books during this time were The True Presbyterian Doctrine of the Church, 1893; The Bible As It Is, 1893; The Christ Child in Art, 1894; The Gospel of an Age of Doubt, 1896. Dyke’s significant works include, “The Story of the Other Wise Man” (1896) and “The First Christmas Tree” (1897).
In the book “The Story of the Other Wise Man”, Dyke introduced a fourth wise man, Artaban, to the story of the three Wise Men in the Bible. This story explained how Artaban sold all his belongings to bring three precious jewels to the newly born Christ child. But on his way to meet baby Jesus, he was encountered with different people he needed his help. In this course, Artaban was left with no precious jewels to give baby Jesus. In the end of the story, Artaban came into the knowledge that how he helped Jesus by helping those people. This book became immensely popular and was published in eighteen editions in the United States and England and translated into many languages. Van Dyke was also considered as one of the most important American short story writers. Some of his notable short stories include The Ruling Passion, 1901; The Blue Flower, 1902; and The Unknown Quantity, 1912. He also used outdoor narratives as important themes in his stories, which can be clearly evident from his works like, Little Rivers, 1895; Fisherman’s Luck, 1899; and Outdoors in the Holy Land, 1908. Even though his work at church normally involved theological studies, Dyke also enjoyed reading significant books by great writers. Apart from his love of learning, these books also fostered his love of human companionship.
Later Life
In the year 1900, Van Dyke became the Murray Professor of English Literature at Princeton University. He firmly believed in study and scholarship, the reason he included literature into his preaching. The same way he incorporated preaching into his literature. The same year, came his book, “The Poetry of Psalms”. In this book, he discussed the Bible as a noble and impassioned interpretation of nature and life, expressed in language of beauty and sublimity and embodied in forms of lasting literary art. For the next several years Van Dyke continued as a professor of English literature at Princeton. In 1908, he became a visiting lecturer at the University of Paris. He also combined his skills as a scholar and educator to become a suiting ambassador of letters from America. President Woodrow Wilson was a friend and former classmate of Van Dyke. In 1913, Wilson appointed him as the ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Shortly after his joining, World War I panicked the whole Europe and American tourists all around Europe rushed to Holland to seek refuge. Van Dyke being a minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg was expected to comfort panic-stricken American refugees. Even though Dyke was inexperienced as an ambassador, he efficiently acted as trained diplomat and maintained the rights of all American refugees in Europe. Later, he resigned from the post of ambassador and returned to United States. In America, he joined the chaplain’s corps of the U.S Naval Reserve where he served as a lieutenant commander. He returned to Princeton in 1919 and continued his vocation as a teacher. Van Dyke retired in 1923 but remained active in public life and literary world.
Personal Life
Van Dyke married Ellen Reid of Baltimore in December 1881. The couple had nine children.
Henry Van Dyke died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey on April 10, 1933.



Was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania.


Received his M.A. from Princeton University.


Joined the Presbyterian ministry.


Married Ellen Reid of Baltimore.


Became the pastor of the famous Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City.


His first book, “The Reality of Religion” was published.


His important literary criticism, “The Poetry of Tennyson” was published.


His book, “The True Presbyterian Doctrine of the Church” and “The Bible As It Is” was published.


His book, “The Christ Child in Art” was published.


His important books like “The Gospel of an Age of Doubt” and “The Story of the Other Wise Man” were published.


Became the Murray Professor of English Literature at Princeton University.


Became a visiting lecturer at the University of Paris.


Was appointed as the ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg.


Returned to Princeton.


Retired from the post.


Died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Article Title
- Henry Van Dyke Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- January 01, 2018

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