Biography and History

Walter Lowrie, Episcopal clergyman, author, and biographer, was born on April 26, 1868, in Philadelphia to Samuel Thompson Lowrie, a clergyman, and Elizabeth Albertine Dickson. From 1879 to 1886 he attended Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and entered the freshman class at Princeton College in the fall of 1886. He graduated in 1890 and went on to Princeton Theological Seminary, obtaining a master's degree in divinity in 1893. During 1893-1894 he studied abroad at Greifswald and Berlin, Germany, Florence, Italy, and Vevey, Switzerland. In 1894, he returned to America and entered the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. On June 9, 1895, he was made Deacon of that church and spent the next two months, July and August, assisting at S. Hubert's Church, Keene Valley, New York, inaugurating his long tenure there as a summer minister. Summers from 1895 to 1906 were spent, wholly or in part, ministering at this church.

Lowrie spent his second academic year abroad (1895-1896) at the American School for Classical Studies in Rome. He returned to Philadelphia the following year to become the Curate of St. James Church, a position he would hold for two years. In the winter of 1896, two days after Christmas, he became an ordained priest. In 1898, he left St. James for the Philadelphia City Mission.

Lowrie's third academic year abroad came in 1899, again at the American School for Classical Studies in Rome. It was also the year of his first publication, Doctrine of St. John. In 1900, Lowrie returned from Rome and studied in Princeton, living with Dr. Francis Patton while he prepared his second book, Monuments of the Early Church (published in 1901). From 1901 to 1903 he was with the City Mission in Philadelphia and served at various parishes: from December 1900 to February 1901, as an interim pastor at St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh, PA: during February-April 1901, as a lenten preacher at Calvary Church, New York City; in September 1902, as an interim pastor at St. John's Church, Paul Smith's, New York; and during October and November 1902, as an interim chaplain at S. George's School, Middletown, RI.

The following years, 1903-1907, were spent serving brief periods at various churches. Lowrie was Rector of Trinity Church in Southwark, PA. He was the Curate of Emmanuel Church in Boston, Mass., from 1904 to 1905. The following two years, 1905-1907, he returned to Trinity Church in Newport, RI, to be the Rector.

Lowrie spent the next twenty-three years, 1907-1930, as the Rector of St. Paul's American Church in Rome, breaking the interim occasionally to serve as exchange pastor, such as his one-year term (1912-1913) as exchange pastor of Christ Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, and another (1922-1923) as exchange pastor of Calvary Church in New York. In March of 1929, Lowrie began his first sermons on Kierkegaard, and in May of the following year he delivered the last sermon of his 23-year ministry in Rome. At the time, he was quoted as saying, "In leaving Italy I have given up much that is agreeable to me but I have gained my own soul."

The year 1930 may have marked the end of Walter Lowrie's career as Rector of St. Paul's American Church in Rome, but the next two decades brought so much productivity that clearly Lowrie's life was merely in transition: one chapter was closing while another was opening. In June 1930, Lowrie returned to Princeton to begin an "itinerant ministry." In 1930, he began to lecture on Barth and Soren Kierkegaard. During the years 1932-1933, he traveled to China and Japan to lecture on Kierkegaard. In December 1933, at the age of sixty-four, he began to study Danish. In the ensuing years, between 1934-1937, he was constantly translating Kierkegaard, and in June 1937 his first biography on Kierkegaard was finished (published in 1938). In June of 1938, the first two volumes of translations of Kierkegaard were completed (published in 1941). Between the years 1939-1944, twelve volumes of Kierkegaard translations were published. In January 1942, his second biography of Kierkegaard, A Short Life of Kierkegaard, was finished and published that same year. From April 1944 to March 1945, he was the Episcopal Chaplain at Princeton University.

In October 1952, Lowrie assumed the duties as Secretary of the Class of 1890. In August 1954, the last translations of Kierkegaard were finished; they were published in 1955. On August 1, 1958, the preface to the paperback edition of Art in the Early Church appeared. On November 21, 1958, his last "Class of 1890" column was printed in the Princeton Almuni Weekly. Lowrie died at Princeton Hospital on August 12, 1959.

Walter Lowrie married Barbara Armour in Princeton on February 19, 1918, at Trinity Church. They had no children.

Source: From the finding aid for C0286

  • Walter Lowrie Papers. 1891-1959 (bulk), 1843-1978 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0286

    The collection consists of autobiographical material and other works such as manuscripts of books, sermon outlines, prayers, articles, and essays; correspondence with family during the time Lowrie was in Europe (especially letters to his mother), but also correspondence with friends and colleagues, particularly Howard A. Johnson, a long-time friend and executor of his estate; photographs of religious art presumably used for his books; documents including certificates and agreements with book publishers; printed matter including reprints of published works; and writings and documents created by Howard A. Johnson and other Kierkegaard scholars.

  • Robert Warren Anthony Papers. 1937-1959 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0380

    The Robert Warren Anthony Papers consists of diaries, notes, reports, correspondence, and photographs of the American Presbyterian clergyman Robert Warren Anthony (1880-1960, Princeton Class of 1902).