Maximilian Rudolph Schele De Vere was born on November 1, 1820, probably in Växjö, Sweden. He may have been the son of Johanna Wilhelmina Eggers von Scheele and Christian Benjamin von Scheele, an officer in the Swedish army whose family was from Pomerania, a Prussian province on the Baltic Sea. According to the Handbuch des Preussischen Adels (1893), his baptismal name was Rudolf Ludolf Friedrich Karl Maximilian von Scheele. He spent part of his childhood in Silesia, a Prussian province that later became part of Poland, where he learned the Slavic language. He studied at the University of Bonn and at the University of Berlin, from which he received a doctorate in 1841. The University of Greifswald granted him a Doctor of Civil and Canon Law the following year.
At the University of Virginia
In September 1844, with recommendations from Longfellow, other notable Bostonians, and the Prussian consul general in Baltimore, Schele De Vere accepted an invitation to become professor of modern languages at the University of Virginia. He initially taught Anglo-Saxon as the root of modern English, and French, German, Spanish, and Italian, along with the literature and political history of each nation. On July 25, 1849, he married Eliza Wydown Rives, the daughter of Alexander Rives, who served on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and as a federal judge after the Civil War. She was also the niece of William Cabell Rives, who was twice minister to France and served in both the U.S. Congress and Confederate Congress. She died on July 20, 1851, following the birth of a daughter who lived twelve years.
In March 1861, before Virginia seceded from the United States, he described himself as a supporter of the Union, but during the Civil War he served as captain of a home guard company. The university faculty granted Schele De Vere leave of absence to travel to Europe in April 1863 to assist the Confederacy. One faculty member, George Frederick Holmes, wrote a confidential letter to the secretary of state that contained vague criticisms of Schele De Vere, which may have dissuaded the government from taking advantage of his knowledge of European languages, even though Schele De Vere offered his services to the Confederacy. During the war he assisted at least one native German to travel from Virginia to Northern states.
Schele De Vere also wrote many articles on a variety of subjects for national journals during the 1870s and 1880s. He published another volume of natural history essays entitled Wonders of the Deep in 1869, and in 1870 he published a book entitled The Great Empress: A Portrait on the Roman Agrippina. The Romance of American History: Early Annals appeared in 1872 and a volume on the occult, Modern Magic the following year.
For many years Schele De Vere was the only instructor in the school of modern languages, and he continued to teach Anglo-Saxon, Spanish, and Italian after he gained an assistant late in the 1880s and relinquished the classes in French and German. In 1894, on the fiftieth anniversary of his appointment, colleagues and former students presented Schele De Vere a large silver punch bowl lined with gold and a matching ladle in a handsome oak case trimmed with brass and inscribed with a dedication and accompanied by a letter of congratulation in recognition of his distinguished service.
Amid a university investigation into two libelous letters he reportedly sent to another professor and the chair of the faculty, Schele De Vere resigned on March 29, 1895, after fifty years of teaching. Reports that he had become addicted to morphine that he took to control back pain may have reduced his effectiveness and popularity during his final years on the faculty. Schele De Vere moved to Washington, D.C., where he died on May 12, 1898. He was buried in the city's Rock Creek Cemetery, where his widow, who died the following July 9, was also buried.
- Outlines of Comparative Philology (1853)
- Grammar of the Spanish Language, with a History of the Language, and Practical Exercises (1854)
- Stray Leaves from the Book of Nature (1855)
- Studies in English; Or, Glimpses of the Inner Life of Our Language (1867)
- First French Reader: For Beginners (1867)
- Problematic Characters by Friedrich Spielhagen (English translator; 1869)
- Through Night to Light by Friedrich Spielhagen (English translator; 1869)
- Wonders of the Deep (1869)
- The Hohensteins by Friedrich Spielhagen (English translator; 1870)
- Introduction to the Study of French (1870)
- The Great Empress: A Portrait (1870)
- Americanisms: The English of the New World (1872)
- The Romance of American History: Early Annals (1872)
- Modern Magic (1873)
- The French Verb: A New, Clear and Easy Method for the Study of the French Verb (1891)
November 1, 1820 - Maximilian Schele De Vere is born, probably in Växjö, Sweden. His baptismal name is Rudolf Ludolf Friedrich Karl Maximilian von Scheele.
1841 - Maximilian Schele De Vere receives a doctorate degree from the University of Berlin.
1842 - Maximilian Schele De Vere receives a doctorate degree from the University of Greifswald.
1842–1844 - Maximilian Schele De Vere is an editor of Die Alte und Neue Welt, a German-language weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1844 - Maximilian Schele De Vere moves to Boston, where he studies modern Greek at Harvard.
September 1844 - Maximilian Schele De Vere accepts an invitation to become professor modern languages at the University of Virginia.
July 25, 1849 - Maximilian Schele De Vere and Eliza Wydown Rives marry.
July 20, 1851 - Eliza Rives Schele De Vere, the wife of Maximilian Schele de Vere, dies following the birth of a daughter.
March 21, 1860 - Maximilian Schele De Vere and Lucy Brown Rives, the younger sister of Schele De Vere's deceased wife, marry. They will have no children.
April 1863 - Maximilian Schele De Vere takes a leave of absence from the University of Virginia to travel to Europe to assist the Confederacy.
July 6, 1869 - Maximilian Schele De Vere and eighty-three other students of language found the American Philological Association.
1894 - Students at the University of Virginia present Maximilian Schele De Vere a large silver punch bowl and ladle in an oak case on the fiftieth anniversary of his teaching appointment.
March 29, 1895 - Maximilian Schele De Vere resigns his position at the University of Virginia amid an investigation into two libelous letters he reportedly sent to another professor and the chair of the faculty.
May 12, 1898 - Maximilian Schele De Vere dies in Washington, D.C. He is buried in the city's Rock Creek Cemetery.
July 9, 1898 - Lucy Rives Schele De Vere, the widow of Maximilian Schele De Vere, dies. She is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, in Washington, D.C.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Mehrländer, A., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Maximilian Schele De Vere (1820–1898). (2017, April 26). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Schele_de_Vere_Maximilian_1820-1898.
- MLA Citation:
Mehrländer, Andrea and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Maximilian Schele De Vere (1820–1898)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 26 Apr. 2017. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: December 18, 2015 | Last modified: April 26, 2017
Contributed by Andrea Mehrländer and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.