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The Relevance of Royce$

Kelly A. Parker and Jason Bell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255283

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255283.001.0001

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A Report on the Recent “Dig” into Royce’s MSS in the Harvard Archives

A Report on the Recent “Dig” into Royce’s MSS in the Harvard Archives

(p.23) Two A Report on the Recent “Dig” into Royce’s MSS in the Harvard Archives
The Relevance of Royce

Frank M. Oppenheim

S.J. Dawn Aberg

John J. Kaag

Fordham University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Frank M. Oppenheim, S. J., Dawn Aberg, and John J. Kaag investigated the papers of Josiah Royce at the Harvard University Archives between July 2008 and September 2009. The goal of this project was to create a Comprehensive Index of these writings, which would provide an indispensable basis for organizing a critical edition of Royce's writings. The present report offers a description of the process and outcomes of this project under the following headings: (1) Background, (2) Digging, (3) Finds, and (4) Results: First Fruits from the Dig.

Keywords:   Royce, manuscripts, Harvard Archives, critical edition, index

The “Dig” team (Frank M. Oppenheim, S. J., Dawn Aberg, and John J. Kaag) investigated the papers of Josiah Royce (1855–1916) at the Harvard University Archives between July 2008 and September 2009. Our goal was to create a Comprehensive Index1 of these writings, which would serve as an indispensable basis for approaching the National Endowment for the Humanities to help fund a critical edition of Royce’s writings. The present report offers: (1) Background, (2) Digging, (3) Finds, and (4) Results: First Fruits from the Dig.


In spring 2007, five members of the Josiah Royce Society (John J. McDermott, Jacquelyn Ann K. Kegley, John Clendenning, Randall Auxier, and Frank Oppenheim) met at the Harvard Pub to concur on the steps needed to create a critical edition of Royce’s writings. These five wanted to start the process. All the other works of all the other classical American philosophers were already in final editions. Royce’s work (p.24) needed its own web-based showcase that gave easy access for scholars to test the worth of the work of Royce’s entire life.

This group of five, representing the Royce Society, soon met with pertinent Harvard officials: its librarian, its director of Archives, and the archival specialist in charge of electronic Finding Aids.2 This specialist and her team had already started to put together a Finding Aid for Royce. Soon, our volunteer “Dig” team would work in the Archives to create a Comprehensive Index of the Josiah Royce Papers. The clear question for this meeting was, How can these two groups work together at the same time on the same papers?

After a clarifying discussion, all present finally concurred. Let the Archives’ special team proceed to create its Royce Finding Aid3 according to its archival standards. It would be free from the necessarily biased suggestions of any single philosopher. When this team came to nearly finishing its work, they would circulate its near-final version to the Royce Society’s Editorial Board. The latter would offer suggestions toward the final form of this Finding Aid.

Meanwhile, the Royce Society’s “Dig” team, keeping in communication with the Finding Aid team, aimed to work independently in the public area of the Archives. The Archives’ office staff would supply the “Dig” team’s needs. In this way the special team for the Royce Finding Aid would proceed unimpeded with its own work in a nearby office.

Our financial plans for this “Dig” encountered problems. By teaching at Harvard University for thirty-three years, Royce had brought it renown and more. Yet neither Harvard’s Philosophy Department (which had received and controlled his papers) nor its Library or Archives saw fit to offer financial support for the “Dig.” The Royce Society’s fund-raising committee—largely Professors Kegley, Kimberly Garchar, and Oppenheim—had to turn elsewhere. They identified eight appropriate foundations and approached them in order. Again their endeavors evoked the response, “Fine idea, but outside our scope.”

Finally, this committee saw that no “Dig” would occur unless the entire Josiah Royce Society (JRS) and the entire Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy (SAAP) officially and jointly supported the “Dig.” This meant that the friends and members of the JRS and SAAP would have to dig into their own pockets.

Thanks to some major benefactors—including Professors Kegley, McDermott, and others, conjoined by the Jesuit Province of Chicago—and (p.25) many individual members of the JRS and SAAP, two-thirds of the $67,000 budgeted for the “Dig” was gathered. To all these benefactors we offer our continuing thanks. The operational budget for the life of the “Dig” was covered for at least its first ten months. Only by repeated appeals that these people dig still deeper into their pockets did funding arise to further the last five months of operation. Again, we extend our enduring thanks to hearts proven so generous.


The team actually started digging into the Harvard Archive Royce Papers (HARP) in July 2008. In the first week of the “Dig,” Ms. Dawn Aberg started as Prof. Oppenheim’s research assistant. Professor Oppenheim relates the following encounter, which occurred that same week:

A stranger approached me in the Archives with the unusual question, “May I be your apprentice?” I blinked, thinking inside, “Am I meeting a medieval person?” He partly cleared up my confusion, “I’m interested in your project and want to help.” I was still puzzled by this complete stranger, and thought inside, “Wonderful offer, but what will this do to our budget?” Grasping why I hesitated, he replied, “I’m simply volunteering; no pay involved.” I felt a sunburst of joy inside.

Thus John Kaag began his work on the “Dig.” By its close, Professor Kaag had dedicated four summer months of faculty time to enrich the “Dig.” In this way the three of us—Dawn, John, and Frank—became the “Dig” team.

Our target was clear. The Royce Papers consisted of 155 boxes—the old familiar 98 “Folio Volumes” (now called “boxes”)4 and the new boxes,5 numbers 99–155. That was our target, all 155 boxes, generally averaging 250 manuscript (MS) pages per box, or about 38,750 MS pages.

The purpose of the “Dig” team was clear: to describe, date (where possible), and evaluate the manuscripts (MSS) in these boxes for possible critical edition quality. (Digitization of these massive materials was a goal not achieved to any great extent either by the “Dig” team or by the Harvard Archives.)

How did we handle the flow each week of these MSS from the 155 boxes, while trying to be judicious yet exploratory? As Oppenheim’s research assistant, Dawn Aberg, sat to his right at her computer, he was (p.26) often reading to her a lecture by Royce while she scanned a printed form of it. She caught gaps occurring between the MS form and the printed form. She also added valuable analytic insights at crucial moments of investigation. At 100 words a minute, she typed the notanda, excisions, and evaluations. She did the same with Oppenheim’s dictations. And, averaging about once a week, we hit upon something we judged was important enough to be noted both by the Critical Edition Committee and by Royce students. To some of these discoveries we now turn.


1. Some of Royce’s MSS in boxes 52 and 68 puzzled the “Dig” team. We discovered that Royce’s five “Theism” lectures (of early 1896) and his “Problem of Job” lecture (of late 1896) had become mismounted and thus mixed in these two boxes. We identified this confusion. As a result, students can read Royce’s now-rectified series of his five “Theism” lectures as they were delivered. They can focus especially on that series’ lecture V, “The Theistic Interpretation of Nature.” In it Royce criticized as logically inadequate the attempt to infer God from Nature. Here, too, his approach to the God question differs notably from the one he had employed at Berkeley only several months earlier in his more widely known “Conception of God” address.

2. The “Dig” gradually gathered a quasi-photo album of about 40 “self-photos” of Royce. These vignettes from Royce’s own writings appear in Appendix A of our Comprehensive Index now online. They offer some rich, “self-revealing glimpses” of this shy, rarely self-disclosing philosopher. It may jolt the reader to discover the texts of some of these samples.

3. In his “The Doctrine of Signs,” Chapter 14 of The Problem of Christianity (hereafter referred to in text as PC), Royce reaches the deepest ethical point of his entire presentation. Why, then, did he here withdraw 24 MS pages from publication in this critically vital chapter?6 In the published version of PC at p. 350, this large gap is neither noted nor noticeable.

4. Like Kant’s first Critique, is Royce’s Religious Aspect of Philosophy a “scissors and paste job”? Might Royce have constructed more than half of RAP from “clippings” from his previously published articles and from (p.27) his earlier unpublished MSS? Ignas Skrupskelis has carefully identified nine such clippings.7 From Royce’s unpublished writings we can add some more.

For one instance of the latter, see Royce’s early unpublished MS, “The Work of the Truth Seeker,” from about 1878 to 1882.8 This MS offers preludes to at least four kinds of materials found in RAP:

  1. (a) Senior O. W. Holmes’s “6 ‘people’ required for a 2-person conversation,” drawn from his The Aristocrat of the Breakfast Table.

  2. (b) Evidence that Royce read Francis Galton in Nature (July 1880).

  3. (c) Royce’s early grasp of different people’s “different worlds [of consciousness]” and “different orders of truth.”

  4. (d) Royce’s way of dealing with skepticism and how to make oneself a determined “truth seeker.”

5. Within a folder entitled “Various Correspondence to Josiah Royce,” and amid a heap of other miscellaneous letters, we found one to Royce, dated 1897, from Scotland’s G. F. Stout. Royce had just published a long review of Stout’s Analytic Psychology in the journal Mind. In his response, Stout courteously thanks Royce yet claims Royce has substantially mis-understood Stout. Ordinarily, just as one robin does not make a spring, so one letter does not tell the full story. However, this interchange soon involved R. B. Perry, William James, and eventually C. S. Peirce.9

6. The third MS in HARP Box 61, which Royce entitled “The Conception of Immortality,” turned out to be a never-published MS of 110 pages. Although its title sounds identical to others, this MS is neither Royce’s Ingersoll Lecture of the same title (1900) nor his 1906 “Immortality” lecture, published later in his William James and Other Essays. Instead, this third MS in Box 61 seems a wholly new and unpublished address—one probably delivered in Britain during the period of Royce’s Gifford Lectures.

7. The “Supplementary Essay” in the first volume of Royce’s The World and the Individual (hereinafter referred to in text as WI) contains Royce’s famous and lengthy refutation of F. H. Bradley’s position on the One and the Many. If a person tries to read this “Essay,” he or she discovers that it consists of 115 pages printed in special small font. This length and the barely readable type may well have made the reader wince and squint.

(p.28) The “Dig” team, however, found that Royce, by means of three excisions—one of them massive—had mercifully pulled back from Macmillan publication of 30 other MS pages of his “Supplementary Essay.” The manuscript of his final draft clearly reveals all 30 of the pages that Royce excised. In this instance, then, Royce proved that at times he could counter his tendency to be prolix.

8. Royce’s “Problem of Truth” address is well known.10 His MS, “Outline” and “Sketch” for this address have turned up in HARP Box 104, Folder 4.

9. In Royce’s Nachlass we found a MS entitled “Notes for the revised Berkeley Address, Aug. 14, 1914.” This MS provided Royce with a stepping-stone for his lecture, “War and Insurance.”

10. Many know of Royce’s confession that he felt “a failing at heart” when he “first had to throw overboard [his] little old creed.”11 Yet in Folder 2 of HARP Box 127, the team found a 3” x 5” notebook entitled “Lecture IV.”12 In it, besides his fuller description of that experience, Royce portrayed his passion for truth seeking. This drove him to search responsibly, seeking and weighing the pertinent pros and cons of creedal belief in general and of specific creedal beliefs in particular.

11. Antonio Rosmini’s Origin of Ideas (published in English in 1886) did not escape Royce’s study.13 Here he found significant Rosmini’s metaphor of the “pre-natal glimpse of the divine essence.” This glimpse supposedly seeded humans’ deep lifelong thirst for God and pointed to a grain of truth in the position of the mystic—one that Royce called the “Second Historical Conception of Being.”

12. In HARP Box 131, Folder 19,14 is preserved the Royce Family “Hymnal,” used by the family circa 1870. The book is boldly inscribed “Royce, Pew 121, First Congregational Church, Oakland.”

13. Royce saw his Philosophy of Loyalty (PL) published in 1908. As for PL’s final MSS, the “Dig” team found yet another mismounting—this time between Boxes 27–28 and Boxes 102–3. Since the MSS for PL in Boxes 27–28 are positioned amid Royce’s MSS for the books he published, most researchers of PL would assume that here, too, are to be found the final MSS on which publication of PL was based.

However, the team found that the final MSS for PL (upon which it was published in 1908) lie chiefly in Box 102 and partially in Box 103. The (p.29) PL MSS in Boxes 102–3, then, possess greater authenticity for the critical edition than do Boxes 27 and 28, which until now have been most frequently cited and taken as final.

14. The heart of Royce’s World and the Individual lies in its Lecture VII, “The Internal and External Meaning of Ideas.” Royce sent the final MS for Lecture VII to G. P. Brett, Macmillan’s editor. Later, however, Royce became convinced that “judgment and the truth of judgments” were so central to his argument in lecture VII that he created 71 more MS sheets on this topic as an insert to be added to lecture VII. Editor Brett concurred by publishing this insert within Lecture VII. If a person compares the extant form of this MS with its published version, one finds evidence of this massive insertion.15

15. Royce’s early turn to “spirit” as indispensable for his way of philosophizing permeates his writings and becomes more intense during the last decade of his intellectual development. Four instances taken together offer evidence:

  1. (a) In 1879 Royce planned a never-completed work of twelve “Meditations before the Gate.” In the twelve titles for these Meditations, he employs the term “Spirit” as key to four of them.16

  2. (b) In 1892, he entitles his major work, The Spirit of Modern Philosophy. Then, in his middle period he seems reticent about using the term “spirit,” lest he appear departing from experience.

  3. (c) Yet in his late religious works, Sources and Problem, the “spirit’s” work and presence are pervasive.

  4. (d) Royce’s sixtieth birthday was celebrated at the close of 1915. There he summarized the overall endeavor of his philosophical life by delineating it “as a fondness for defining, for articulating, and for expounding the perfectly real, concrete, and literal life of what we idealists call the ‘spirit.’ ”17

16. The “Dig” team emphasizes that Royce students will find much help in Appendix C of its Comprehensive Index. This Appendix—mostly the work of Dawn Aberg—offers 127 single-spaced pages and surveys all of HARP’s 155 boxes. Since she was not bound by the strict protocols of archivists, Dawn went a step further and offers more descriptive information and context about Royce’s individual MSS than can be found in the Harvard Archives’ “Finding Aid to Josiah Royce’s Writings.”

(p.30) 17. What did Royce’s library at home look like? Report has it that after his death many of his books were sold. A set of three clues, however, directs us toward something of a picture of what Royce’s library at 103 Irving Street looked like around the turn of the century.

  1. (a) The team unearthed a list of books that Royce wanted rebound during a particular year, along with a list of periodicals he wanted discarded that same year.18 These lists provide solid hints about what the overall tone and character of Royce’s home library had to have been.

  2. (b) Harvard’s Robbins Library contains many books from Royce’s home library; for example, the works of Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and so on. John Kaag has photographed the marginalia Royce inserted into these works; for example, Royce on Husserl, on Kant, on Hegel, and on other philosophers.

  3. (c) then, too, during John Kaag’s investigation of W. E. Hocking’s Library at Madison, New Hampshire, he discovered books that Hocking had inherited from Royce, works by such philosophically significant authors as Spinoza, Opera 1 & 2; Descartes, Opera Omnia 1 & 2; Auguste Comte, Positive Philosophie; and George Simmel’s Einleitung in die Moralwissenschaft, and of a different class, The Imitation of Christ.

18. Royce planned his Problem of Christianity and drafted it in quite different ways. Searching for a new and still better way, he repeatedly forged into a path different from and somehow better than his most recent plan. This led him to create at least eight different plans, one after another, before reaching the one he would settle on for the Problem. Yet even when he finally reached the outline of “Topics” for his Oxford audience,19 he allowed the “spirit” to guide him in adding or omitting items of that outline.

After such careful revisions of his plans, Royce bought four tickets in summer 1912 for four trips, each of two weeks’ length, on a banana freighter leaving Boston for Costa Rica via the Caribbean and Panama Canal.

Seated in the quiet of the stern amid warm sea breezes, Royce mused interpretively and penned carefully at least the first four, perhaps seven, of his lectures for his Problem of Christianity. Each lecture averaged between 80 to 95 fresh pages of MS, with hardly any redrafting needed.

(p.31) In brief, Royce’s planning had been probing, serial, and open-ended and required at least eight endeavors. By contrast, his drafting of those 16 lectures was simple, steady, and usually required one draft only.

19. A delightful discovery occurred near the close of the team’s work.20 For our team, Box 143 seemed a catchall for miscellaneous stuff. Yet the Archives’ Index to Royce’s papers directed us there to a MS in Folder 2 entitled “Fairy Tales, the Greeks, etc.” What we found in Folder 2 was one frail sheet of old folded paper, penciled front and back—and in the young Royce’s handwriting. At about fifteen years of age, Royce had penciled this kind of a threefold MS.21

After a slow search of his text and with more than one reexamination of it, we decoded what our hands held. Here was an outline, and a partial first draft, and a final draft of a whole careful work by “high-schooler” Royce.

In this essay, one precocious lad took a “deep dive” and unearthed a “pearl” of an ethical question: How do conventional “oughts” differ from everlasting moral “oughts”? In response, Royce employed his reading of the classical Greek story of Antigone and King Creon as the experiential basis to support his analysis. With amazing insight, he grasped the critical difference between the limited authority of an individual king’s decrees and the unlimited authority of the “eternal” law of nature for all peoples.

First Fruits from the “Dig”

The main result of the “Dig” lies in the publication online of the Comprehensive Index of the Josiah Royce Papers in the Harvard University Archives. This Index, after an Introduction and two Tables of Contents—one general, the other more detailed and informative—consists of three major Parts and three Appendices. It amounts to approximately 800 single-spaced pages. It describes, dates (where possible), and at times evaluates for Roycean researchers the hundreds of Royce’s MSS extant in the Harvard University Archives.

Part I focuses on those published books of Royce of which the Harvard Archives possesses the MS form. Part II supplies a chronologically arranged, nonexhaustive listing of 332 writings by Royce, most in MS form: his articles, essays, lectures, and fragments (published and unpublished). This list extends well beyond our Index’s Part I, which surveys (p.32) the Archives’ MSS for Royce’s published volumes, theoretical and practical. It also offers researchers a basis for their online tracking of various topics in Royce’s intellectual growth. In general, here are listed Royce’s philosophical writings that did not make it to book form. This is especially the case with Royce’s numerous unpublished lectures, which he delivered either outside Harvard or within its walls. The list also extends well beyond Jacob Loewenberg’s 1917 list of Royce’s unpublished writings.22

Part III handles the “new” archival arrangement of boxes from numbers 99 to 155. The contents of these boxes are arranged through a series of folders, and the latter at times by a series of “documents.”23 These boxes are generally grouped according to Royce’s philosophical MSS (beyond those gathered in Boxes 1–99), then his “Logicalia,” plus his incoming correspondence, family genealogy, family correspondence, and photographs.

The three Appendices present: (a) biographical and autobiographical data; (b) excerpts from MSS and Notes; and (c) Dawn Aberg’s Appendix to HARP, generally a more informative and helpful document for Royce scholars than is the Harvard Archives’ “Finding Aid to the Royce Papers,” which was constructed according to more generic archivists’ norms.

Finally, an early fruit arose conjointly from the “Dig” team’s work and from that of Mathew Foust.24 For years, Oppenheim had puzzled over the significance of Royce’s “Pittsburgh Lectures,”25 and over what their origin, date, and site might have been. During the “Dig” he learned of a letter to William James, dated Feb. 20, 1909. It stated that Royce had lectured at Pittsburgh. He passed that hint to Mathew, who used the clue to sleuth his way to an important discovery. In a not particularly promising box in HARP, which contained an unmarked miscellany of Royce’s MSS, there lay a previously unnoticed fragmentary slip of 4” x 3” paper written in Royce’s hand. Yet in this fragment, thanks to Mathew’s previous research experiences, he detected Royce’s own directions to himself—just how Royce would, upon arriving by train in Pittsburgh, reach the exact place of his lectures. Following Royce’s foot-steps, Mathew discovered the exact site, audience, and the three specific dates on which Royce presented his Pittsburgh Lectures. These lectures represented a post-1908 development of Royce’s philosophy of loyalty, set in three practical lectures on the art of loyalty.26

(p.33) To close, then, no one yet knows how many other “finds” lie in these 155 boxes of the Harvard Archives Josiah Royce Papers, or what will be discovered in the overall work of the “Dig” team, now accessible online and ongoing through its Comprehensive Index of the Josiah Royce Papers in the Harvard University Archives.27


(1) Dawn Aberg and John Kaag, Comprehensive Index of the Josiah Royce Papers in the Harvard University Archives (Institute for American Thought, Indiana University–Purdue University, Indianapolis, 2011), http://royce.iat.iupui.edu/OppenheimIndex

(2) . These electronic tools guide researchers around the work of some Harvard “worthy.”

(3) . The Archives’ Royce Finding Aid is available as “Royce, Josiah, 1855–1916: Papers of Josiah Royce: An Inventory,” (HUG 1755) (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Library, 2009), http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua16003. Readers should note that there are in effect now two Finding Aids to Harvard Archives’ Royce Papers. The first is the more informative one in Dawn Aberg’s Appendix C of the Comprehensive Index, cited in note 1above; the second is the Harvard archivists’ more general one, available via the URL just given.

(4) . The “old” boxes contained the MSS which in 1940 a Harvard Ph.D. candidate, E. F. Wells, had glued one MS sheet of India-thin paper after another—onto stiff paper backing and mounted these into hard-backed Folio Volumes. When the work was completed in the 1940s, these volumes totaled 98. In 2008, the Harvard Archives wisely decided not to alter these 98 volumes but to allow the many already published references to items numbered in the “old” boxes to remain valid.

(5) . In 2008, and starting mostly from loose-lying MSS, the Archives’ “Finding Aid” team arranged the MSS left over from Royce himself and his extended family. The team ordered these Roycean materials serially into the following categories: Royce’s leftover writings, then his “Logicalia,” his letters, family genealogy, family correspondence, and photographs.

(6) . See Harvard University Archives, Royce Papers (HARP), Box 37, 2nd MS, bottom of p. 16 to p. 39. As yet, neither John Clendenning nor Frank Oppenheim can explain why this excision was made.

(7) Basic Writings of Josiah Royce, 2 vols., ed. John J. McDermott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 2:1178

(8) . HARP, Box 125, Folder 6.

(9) . See HARP, Box 125, Folder 3.

(10) Royce’s William James and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Life (New York: Macmillan, 1911), 187–254

(11) The Letters of Josiah Royce, ed. John Clendenning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 103–6

(p.268) (12) . Our “Dig” team does not yet know whether this “Lecture IV” was a fourth in one of Instructor Royce’s own lecture series at Berkeley or a fourth in a series of “town and gown” talks to a club in Berkeley.

(13) . See HARP, Box 102, Folder 14.

(14) . Folder 19 derives from the Ingraham Collection at HARP, through the gift of the Nancy Hacker family to the Harvard Archives.

(15) Josiah Royce, The World and the Individual, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1899–1900), 1:270–300lacking

(16) . See HARP, Box 126, Folder 1, p. 116.

(17) Josiah Royce, The Hope of the Great Community (New York: Macmillan, 1916), 131

(18) . See HARP, Box 101, Folder 14, pp. 330–48.

(19) Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2001), pp. 51–54

(20) . See HARP, Box 143, Folder 2.

(21) . About a century later, how were archivists to entitle this puzzling sheet of fragile paper, penciled on both sides? It seemed at least the work of a lad too poor to waste paper. They settled their quandary simply. They would use key words which Royce had used in his opening lines? As a result their title became: “Fairy Tales, the Greeks, etc.”

(22) Jacob Loewenberg, “A Bibliography of the Unpublished Writings of Josiah Royce,” Philosophical Review 26 (1917): 578–82

(23) . For example, a reference to “HARP, Box 105, Folder #3, Document #11” guides a researcher to Box 105, “Papers of Josiah Royce,” Folder # 3, “Unarranged Fragments,” and Document # 11 “Preliminary draft of Royce’s mid-year exam.”

(24) . Alongside the “Dig” team for several weeks, Mathew carried out his research on Royce.

(25) . These lecture are preserved in HARP, Box 82.

(26) Mathew A. Foust, “What Can I Do for the Cause Today…?” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 47 (2011): 87–106

(27) . Oppenheim, Comprehensive Index. The online “Comments” box on the site invites viewers to help update the Comprehensive Index.