Best-selling author Christopher Morley was born on May 5, 1890 in Haverford, Pennsylvania. He was the eldest of three American-born children to two Quaker English immigrants, Frank Morley Sr. and Lilian Bird. The couple met in England while Frank was studying at Bath College and Lilian was traveling in Europe. In 1887, Frank accepted a position as a Mathematics professor at Haverford College, and the couple moved to Haverford, Pennsylvania. Despite his parents’ Quaker background, Christopher Morley was baptized in the Episcopal Church. He had two younger brothers, Felix (born in 1894) and Frank (born in 1899). In 1900, when Christopher Morley was ten years old, Frank Sr. accepted a position teaching Mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, prompting the family to relocate to Baltimore, Maryland. Christopher Morley’s passion for writing developed as a student at the Jefferson School in Baltimore; he began his first novel, which was never completed, in 1992. The manuscripts can still be found today in the Morley Alcove of Haverford Library.
Christopher Morley received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College in 1910. He graduated as one of four Phi Beta Kappas in his class and delivered the Valedictorian speech at his graduation ceremony. After graduating, he moved to England to study Modern History as a Rhodes Scholar at New College, Oxford. While studying at New College, he met Helen Booth Fairfield, whom he married on June 3, 1914. Together they had four children: Christopher, Louise, Helen, and Blythe. Upon graduation from New College in 1913, he decided to enter the publishing business, and accepted an editorial job in New York for Doubleday, Page & Company. Throughout the next 30 years, he assumed a variety of jobs in the publishing industry, working as an editor for the Ladies’ Home Journal (1917-1918), a columnist for the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger in Pennsylvania (1918-1920), a columnist for the New York Evening Post (1920-1924), a contributing editor for the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1941), a judge and Editorial Board member for the Book of the Month Club (1926-1954), and an editor of two editions of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (1937, 1948). He founded the Baker Street Irregulars (1934) and was a founder and editor of the Saturday Review of Literature (1924-1941).
Over the course of his life, Christopher Morley published over 50 novels, essays, poems, and plays. His first publication, a collection of poems titled The Eighth Sin, was published by Simpkin, Marshall & Company on November 20, 1912, when he was 22 years old. His most famous novels include Parnassus on Wheels (1917), its sequel The Haunted Bookshop (1919), Where the Blue Begins (1922), Thunder on the Left (1925), all published by his former employer, Doubleday, Page & Co., and best-seller Kitty Foyle (1939, J.B. Lippincott & Co.). He also wrote an autobiography titled John Mistletoe (1931, Doubleday, Doran & Co.) and published his final novel, The Man Who Made Friends With Himself, with Doubleday & Company, Inc. in 1949. Christopher Morley wrote very popular essay collections, the most notable being Shandygaff (1918) and Tales from a Rolling Desk (1921), both published by Doubleday, Page & Co. Especially during his early years, he harbored a special interest in poetry writing; in addition to The Eighth Sin, his most famous poetry publication was a book of free verse poetry titled Old Mandarin (1947), published by Harcourt, Brace & Co. Finally, his interest in drama led him to write many short plays, in addition to founding the Hoboken Theatrical Company with his colleague Cleon Throckmorton in 1928, where they produced revival theatrical productions. No information from this original research project could be found on Christopher Morley’s agents or editors.
Christopher Morley’s health deteriorated in the final years of his life. He had a stroke in April of 1951 that left him paralyzed, followed by two subsequent strokes over the next six years. He passed away on March 28, 1957 at age 66 in Roslyn Heights, New York. He is buried in Roslyn Cemetery and was survived by his wife, four children, and two brothers.
Browning, David Clayton, and John William Cousin. Everyman's Dictionary of Literary Biography, English & American. Rev. ed. (with suppl.), Dent, 1969.
Oakley, Helen McKelvey. Three Hours for Lunch: The Life and Times of Christopher Morley; A Biography. Watermill Publishers, 1976.
Perkins, George B., et al. "Morley, Christopher (Darlington) (1890-1957)." Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature, vol. 1, HarperCollins, 1991, p. 731. Literature Resource Center. Accessed 11 Mar. 2018.
Wallach, Mark I. "Christopher (Darlington) Morley." American Novelists, 1910-1945, edited by James J. Martine, Gale, 1981. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 9. Literature Resource Center. Accessed 11 Mar. 2018.Christopher Morley, 66, Dies; Wrote 'Kitty Foyle'." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Mar 29, 1957, pp. 2, ProQuest.
"Christopher (Darlington) Morley." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Accessed 11 Mar. 2018.
"Morley, Christopher (Darlington)." Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, Merriam-Webster, 1995. Literature Resource Center. Accessed 11 Mar. 2018.