William Lyon Phelps

American author, critic and scholar (1865-1943)

William Lyon Phelps (January 2, 1865 – August 21, 1943) was an American author, critic and scholar. He taught the first American university course on the modern novel. He had a radio show, wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column, lectured frequently, and published numerous books and articles.

William Lyon Phelps in 1895


  • If the happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts, we are bound to grow happier as we advance in years, because our minds have more and more interesting thoughts. A well-ordered life is like climbing a tower; the view half way up is better than the view from the base, and it steadily becomes finer as the horizon expands.
    • Happiness (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1927), pp. 39–40.
  • It is the final test of a gentleman—his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him.
  • [M]y religious faith remains in possession of the field only after prolonged civil war with my naturally skeptical mind.
    • Autobiography with Letters (New York: Oxford University Press, 1939), p. xviii.
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