Nock, Albert Jay, 1872 or 1873-1945

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1870-10-13
Death 1945-08-19
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Albert Jay Nock: ordained an Episcopal priest in 1897 and served at St. James Church, Titusville, Pa., beginning in 1898; left the active ministry in 1909 to join the staff of American Magazine as a writer and editor; in 1915 moved to the Nation, where he was associate editor from 1918-1919; co-edited Freeman, 1920-1924; author of numerous books.

From the description of Albert Jay Nock papers, 1892-1969 (inclusive), 1910-1969 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702168166

Editor and lecturer.

From the description of Papers of Albert Jay Nock, circa 1910-1947. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71131215

Albert Jay Nock: ordained an Episcopal priest in 1897 and served at St. James Church, Titusville, Pa., beginning in 1898; left the active ministry in 1909 to join the staff of American Magazine as a writer and editor; in 1915 moved to the Nation, where he was associate editor from 1918-1919; co-edited Freeman, 1920-1924; author of numerous books.

Albert Jay Nock was a fiercely private man; biographical information is scarce indeed. He was born October 13, 1870 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Nock himself claimed 1873 or, maybe 1874 as the year of his birth; it was, he thought, a matter of little consequence). His father, Joseph Albert Nock, was a clergyman in the Protestant Episcopal Church; his mother, Emma Sheldon Jay, was a descendant of the Rochellois Protestants who arrived in America in the late 1680's. Much of Nock's youth was spent in Alpena, Michigan, where his father had established a church.

Nock attended St. Stephen's College (now Bard College) at Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, from which he received an A.B. degree in 1892. Evidence of Nock's activities between 1892 and 1898 are fragmentary at best. It appears that he took some graduate courses at the Berkeley Divinity School., which was then in Middletown, Connecticut. In any event, he was ordained to the ministry of the Episcopal Church in 1897 and was called to St. James Church, Titusville, Pennsylvania the following year. In Titusville, he met Agnes Grumbine (1876-1935), who he married on April 25, 1900. The marriage produced two sons, Francis Jay and Samuel Albert, but during the time Ruth Robinson knew him (from 1909 until his death in 1945), Nock rarely saw or mentioned his family.

Nock left the active ministry late in 1909 to join the staff of American Magazine, where he proved his skill in editing as well as writing. In 1915 Crowell bought American Magazine and turned it into a popular magazine. Nock then joined the staff of the Nation, where his name appeared on the mast-head as an associate editor from July 27, 1918 to November 29, 1919. He left the Nation for the famous Freeman, which he co-edited, with Francis Neilson the British single-taxer, from 1920 until it ceased publication in 1924. By that time Nock was weary of editorial duties and never again accepted a regular editorial position. Instead, he devoted the rest of his life to travels and writing.

Nock was a fierce champion of individualism and it is this credo which spurred his attacks on social and political institutions. In an autobiographical sketch he prepared for Paul Palmer, Nock wrote: "Responsibility to myself and for myself, yes. I am, as I have always been, proud to accept that, proud to assert it in the face of God, man, beast, or devil. But responsibility for anything beyond that I accept only on the strength of the most searching evidence; and I have a peculiarily resolute resentment against the impositions by State, Church, or social conventions of responsibilities which are purely aritificial in substance and fraudulent in intention."

Nock was early associated with progressivism, but by the end of World War I he found himself labeled a conservative, a name he at first resisted, but finally accepted and defended until the end of his life. In fact, Nock was never really a reformer for he viewed attempts at conversion as a violation of the individual integrity of others. Similarly, he was pessimistic about the possibility of social change. True change, he believed, must be an aggregate of the voluntary changes in individuals.

In addition to several volumes of collected essays, Nock's works include: Jefferson, a biography (1926), Francis Rabelais (1929), A Journey into Rabelais's France (1934), A Journal of These Days (1934), Our Enemy the State (1935), Free Speech and Plain Language (1937), and Henry George (1939). Nock's best-received book was his autobiography, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943).

* For additional biographical information, see The Superflous Anarchist: Albert Jay Nock, by Michel Wreszin (Providence, R. I.: Brown University Press, 1972).

From the guide to the Albert Jay Nock papers, 1892-1969, (Manuscripts and Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Journalism
  • Universities and colleges

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Editors
  • Journalists

Places:

  • New York (State) (as recorded)