Warren House: Henry Clarke Warren

Henry Clarke Warren (1854-1899)

Henry Clarke Warren, second son of wealthy Boston paper manufacturer Samuel Dennis Warren, purchased the Beck house in 1891, establishing his own household there at the age of 37, presumably using funds made available to him after the 1888 death of his father.  Prior to that time, Warren, who had early on established a reclusive, scholarly lifestyle for himself, lived mostly at his family homes at 67 Mount Vernon Street, Boston and Cedar Hill, Waltham.

An 1879 graduate of Harvard College and one-time resident of Beck Hall, Warren continued his studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and at Oxford University, England, furthering an early interest in classical languages and Sanskrit to embark on the study of Pali, an ancient vernacular Indic language used in Buddhist scripture.  Translator of a number of the sacred texts of southern Indian Buddhism, Warren became the "first American scholar to attain distinction" in this field, according to the Dictionary of American Biography. With his great friend, Harvard Sanskrit professor Charles R. Lanman (1850-1941), Warren founded and personally endowed the Harvard Oriental Series, a 38-volume publication of masterworks in eastern philosophy.

Warren's substantial means allowed him to create a living space uniquely adapted to his needs.  Cared for for much of his life by an anonymous black manservant, and assisted in his scholarship by a staff who worked with him (presumably in the first floor room of 12 Quincy Street), Henry Warren rarely left his house, seldom received visitors, and entered into few relationships beyond those with fellow Sanskrit scholars.  It is therefore likely that his modifications to the Beck house (creating skylights, enlarging rooms, adding the heated sunporch, building in aquariums that would enliven his living quarters, and adapting spaces, such as his roomette, for maximum comfort) reflect to a marked degree the personal and private needs of this reclusive individual.

The close proximity of the house to Harvard's libraries, students, and teaching staffs, and to Charles Lanman (who lived four blocks away), undoubtedly appealed to Warren.  The house's massive (and still intact) heating system may also have been attractive: Warren is said to have heated his rooms to 90˚ as a respite from his chronic pain.  On his death in 1899, Warren left the bulk of his estate, including his house, to Harvard, which had provided him a sanctuary unlike any he had been able to achieve within his family.  The benefits of this secure situation which were evident in his production of his magnum opus translations, Buddhism in Translation and the Visuddhimagga ("Way of Purity"), while resident in the house.