Channing Day by Day, 1947

This book by Jose Chapiro, subtitle, Thoughts for Each Day selected from the writings of William Ellery Channing, might seem unusual to include here. This material was not written or organized by Earl Davis. But Earl Davis had a role here as Chapiro is clear about in his acknowledgements.

“Finally, I am particularly gratified to inscribe here the name of Earl C. Davis, the sage of Petersham, Massachusetts, and a distinguished citizen of the Free State of William Ellery Channing. A tireless reader, he is also a perpetual student of that ‘gay science’—the word is Nietzsche’s—in which scholarship and life complement and fertilize each other. Earl C. Davis cultivates it with the same joy and earnestness of purpose with which he cultivates the flowers and vegetables in his garden. Above all, he has an uncommon knowledge of the realm of Channing. He has roamed through it many times and in every direction. He knows its apparent beauties and hidden charms, its peaks and its depths; and its sunny landscapes still remain the favorite goal of his spiritual excursions and rambles. Earl C. Davis often served me as guide, as counsellor, and as a source from which I could draw valuable information that it would have been difficult to find elsewhere. I thank him.” (p. 440).

José and Elisabeth Chapiro gave a copy of the newly published book to Earl and Annie Davis on December 21, 1947. Their gift came with a letter and was inscribed.

There is some uncertainty as to the dates. The letter is dated December 21, 1947. The book’s publication date is 1948, which is consistent with a early edition gift for Christmas, 1947. The inscription in the book, however, says “Christmas, 1948,” and offers “heartiest wishes for 1949.”

Here is a copy of the letter José and Elisabeth Chapiro wrote to Earl and Annie Davis


And its transcription


Here is the inscription in the book


As of 2021, the book could still be purchased.


Jose Chapiro (1894-1962) is, himself, an interesting figure. He was born in Kiev. A journalist and pacifist (spent WW1 in Switzerland). Came to US in 1941. His primary occupation was journalism. According to the January 18, 1962 obituary for him in the New York Times, “He wrote regularly for the Berliner Tageblatt, Frankfurter Zeitung, Neue Freie Presses of Vienna, Revue de Paris and Comedia of Paris.” Somehow—I don’t know how—he got connected with my grandfather. Clearly he spent time in Petersham, probably summers. The connection may be through Norman Hapgood, who summered in Petersham and for a time was the editor of the Christian Register (Unitarian). See entries concerning him under Petersham, publications.

Evidently, Earl Davis was not entirely comfortable with this acknowledgement, for there is mention of it in a letter from John Haynes Holmes (1879-1964), who was a fellow student with Earl Davis at the Harvard Divinity School (both graduated in 1904). In a letter to Earl Davis dated April 27, 1949, Holmes writes, “I am amused by what you write of your embarrassment in the matter of Chapiro’s reference to you in the Channing book. I think you are over-sensitive on this point. The tribute to you is wholly deserved, and in the proper place. It would be a real loss to have this gracious tribute of Chapiro to your sympathy and help removed from later editions. And this same opinion of mine applies to Mrs. Hapgood as well as to yourself.”

As a follow-up to this Channing Day-By-Day book, Chapiro had in mind to write a biography of Channing. In an earlier letter from John Haynes Holmes to Earl Davis (November 19, 1948) he writes, “I hope that without fail he will carry out his purpose to write a life of Channing.”

This project continues to be discussed in correspondence between Davis and Holmes. An April 27, 1948 letter from Holmes to Davis details the organization of a committee to help Chapiro with the project: “I am ashamed that I haven’t got anything more to report in the matter of helping Chapiro with his new book. What we ought to have is a committee already organized and at work. My failure to accomplish this is due to my being busy these days and finding it hard to keep up. Also, I have been genuinely uncertain as to where to turn for the kind of committee we ought to have in hand for this important business. The names you suggest in your April 25 memorandum are all to the good. I don’t know about Lewis Gannett–I know him well, but he seems to be pretty much apart from any particular interest in Unitarian affairs. But Argow and Williams are both very much to the good. Of course I have Greeley definitely in mind, and also think of Davies, of Washington. Scholefield, of Philadelphia, I don’t seem to know. How does this array impress you–Davis (yourself), A. Powell Davies, Dana Greeley, Argow, Dave Williams and myself. If you give the okay, I will write them at once and see what results.”

In a May 5, 1949 letter Holmes writes to Davis, “Now, just as soon as I can find the time, I shall send out letters organizing this committee on Chapiro’s behalf. I think if a few of us really find ourselves organized for the accomplishment of this fine end, we can get things moving and really raise some money. I want tremendously to do it, for Chapiro makes good in all that you say about him, and well deserves the help he needs. More later on.” And later on (June 27, 1949) Holmes writes, “Tell Chapiro that I have his letter and will be writing him very soon. I am deeply moved by his understanding spirit and forgiving heart. We will work out something, although I am still dubious and afraid.”

The final mention of this project comes in a letter from Holmes to Davis dated September 30, 1949, “I haven’t got a thing to report about the Channing project. I wrote letters to the selected list of men of whom you know, but then came the summer and I went away, and did not follow up the replies, most of which were favorable. Now that I am back, beset with a whole lot of things, I find myself rather baffled as to how to proceed. I am particularly upset by learning that the original Channing book has not gone very well, and Mr. Chapiro feels that responsibility lies with the publishers. Does this not mean pretty clearly that Boston would be slow to take up our project, even though there were financial support of it? I am confused, also troubled, by my inability to keep up with things these days. I see more and more each day how wise I was to arrange for my definite retirement a few weeks hence. If you have any ideas please share them with me, for I do not want to fail utterly.”

To my knowledge, the project died at this point. And John Haynes Holmes did retire from his ministry on November 27, 1949.