John Lothrop Motley


Biography of John Lothrop Motley

John Lothrop Motley (Dorchester, near Boston, Massachusetts, April 15, 1814 and died May 29, 1877, near Dorchester, Dorset) was an American historian and diplomat.

J. L. Motley, the son of Thomas Motley, was born at Dorchester (now a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts), attended the Round Hill School, Boston Latin School, and graduated from Harvard in 1831. His boyhood was spent in Dedham, near the site of the present day Noble and Greenough School. His education included training in the German language and literature, and he went to Germany to complete these studies at Göttingen, during 1832–1833, during which time he became a lifelong friend of Otto von Bismarck. After this, Motley and Bismarck went study civil law together at Frederick William University, Berlin. After a period of European travel he returned in 1834 to America, where he continued his legal studies.

In 1837 he married Mary Benjamin (died 1874), a sister of Park Benjamin, and in 1839 he published anonymously a novel entitled Morton's Hope, or the Memoirs of a Provincial about life in a German university, based on his own experiences. It was poorly received, but has later been recognized for featuring a valuable portrayal of Bismarck, "thinly disguised as Otto von Rabenmarck", as a young student.

In 1841 he entered the diplomatic service as secretary of legation in St. Petersburg, Russia, but resigned his post within three months, because, according a letter that he wrote to his mother, of the harsh climate, the expenses living there, and his reserved habits. Returning to America, he soon entered definitely upon a literary career. Besides contributing various historical and critical essays to the North American Review, such as "life and Character of Peter the Great", (1845) and a remarkable essay on the Polity of the Puritans, he published in 1849, again anonymously, a second novel, entitled Merry Mount, a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony, based again on the odd history of Thomas Morton and Merrymount.

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