The Durable Satisfactions of Life

by Charles William Eliot


Born into a wealthy Boston family, Eliot was fortunate enough to concentrate on his studies and have the ability to attend Boston Latin School, and then later graduate from Harvard University in 1853. However, after the Panic of 1857, Eliot’s family lost much of its wealth. Eliot decided to visit various schools across Europe and study educational systems after being passed over for a professorship.After close to two years abroad, Eliot returned home and enjoyed an appointment at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Eliot remained interested in improving the educational system in the US, which was not seen as offering particularly useful knowledge to an industrializing country. His sentiments were shared by much of the public, and he wrote a well-received article in The Atlantic Monthly about his visions for a reformed educational system. In 1969, after the publication of the article, Eliot would be selected as the president of Harvard.

Eliot, despite trying to remove football from the school, was a popular president, enough so to have served 40 years. He modernized the curriculum, introduced standardized exams, expanded the facilities, and changed the way educational institutions funded themselves. The Durable Satisfactions of Life is a collection of essays and addresses given by Eliot which often reflect on his ethical and religious views of life.

This new edition is dedicated to Arthur Shurcliff.