Biographical / Historical
Edward Everett Hale was born in Boston, Massachusetts on April 3, 1822, the son of Sarah Preston Everett and Nathan Hale (1784-1863), a journalist, proprietor, and editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser. He was also the grandnephew of another Nathan Hale, the American Revolutionary War spy and martyr who, after being captured and sentenced to death by the British, was famously supposed to have declared, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
After preparation in private school, Hale enrolled at Harvard College at the age of 13. He won several Bowdoin Prizes, and graduated second in his class in 1839, when he was 17 years old. He then taught at Boston Latin School for two years. While still in college he worked as a part-time reporter, and soon after graduating he began his literary career by contributing to magazines. He studied theology independently and was licensed to preach in 1842. He became pastor of the Church of Unity in Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1846 to 1856, and of Boston’s South Congregational Church, from 1856 to 1899.
In 1852, Hale married the niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Baldwin Perkins. They had eight children. A reformer and leader of the Social Gospel movement of the latter half of the 19th century, Hale was acquainted with many literary and political figures of his day, including John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Mark Twain wrote at his death in 1909, “I had the greatest esteem and respect for Edward Everett Hale, and the greatest admiration for his work. I am as grieved to hear of his death as I can ever be to hear of the death of any friend…”
Two of Hale’s stories became famous. “My Double and How He Undid Me” (1859) combines fantasy and realism in a humorous story about a harassed minister who has a double perform some of his many tasks. “The Man Without a Country” (1863), published anonymously in The Atlantic Monthly, was written to keep Ohio in the Union, and was a well-received work of patriotism. Hale later abandoned fiction and wrote tracts on various social issues, such as slavery and public education reform.
Hale was appointed Chaplain of the United States Senate in 1903. Asked if he prayed for the senators, Hale replied, “No, I look at the senators and pray for the country.” He remained in Washington until shortly before his death on June 10, 1909.
William Howell Reed (1837-1914) was Hale’s colleague at the Old South Church. Reed was the author of Hospital Life in the Army of the Potomac (1866), Reminiscences of Elisha Atkins, (1890), The Heroic Story of the U. S. Sanitary Commission 1861-1865 (1910), and Vocabulary of German Words and Idioms (1912).