First Lessons in Reality

This is the third consecutive excerpt from Letters to the Sage, Volume Two, from the appendix on the literary career and family history of Sarah Stanley Grimké

Personified Unthinkables, published in Detroit in 1884, reflects the influence of Cyrus Bartol and his doctrine of mental pictures. Sarah’s marriage to Archibald Grimké had brought her into the orbit of his Hyde Park relatives, who like Bartol were Unitarians with a sympathetic interest in Christian Science. Another Hyde Park resident adopted mental pictures as a key element in her own belief system. First Lessons in Reality, published two years later, reflects the influence of Mrs. Elizabeth Stuart, who had treated Sarah for heart disease and attributed her organic illness to her despairing husband. The dissolution of her marriage had begun when Personified Unthinkables was published and was complete by the time First Lessons in Reality appeared. Stuart was part of a group resignation from the Christian Scientist Association in 1881, and had formed an independent New Thought organization, named Light, Love, Truth, in the interval between Sarah’s two publications. J.F. Eby, Printer, of Detroit was the publisher of each, implying that these first two sections were self-published. Only in the final portion of Esoteric Lessons, A Tour Through the Zodiac, do we find evidence of association with the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, whose leaders published the collection after Sarah’s death.

The entire record of Elizabeth’s Stuart’s affiliation with Mary Baker Eddy is dated in a single year. In her first letter dated January 25, 1881, Stuart referred to Eddy’s “visit to us and your words of encouragement” and expressed her “earnest desire to heal the sick through the Understanding of Truth” which had already “met with a good share of success” despite the fact that she had been unsuccessful in becoming “free from some old Beliefs.” This was as a result of having had surgery for removal of a fibroid tumor the previous winter, which had left her with residual symptoms that made her fear a recurrence. She asked Eddy for “seven or ten treatments or Lessons, for the unfolding of my spiritual perceptions” and asked the cost.[i]

Two months later, Stuart wrote again following a meeting of the Christian Scientist Association that Eddy had been unable to attend. She alluded to a suggestion by Eddy that Edward Arens was trying to deter her from embracing Christian Science, writing that “I am not easily moved from a firm determination, and I have not the slightest fear of Dr. Arens if my weapons are not stronger than his, then let me go down…we will return Good for Evil and thus disarm all enemies.”[ii] She closed with an expression of desire to take class instruction from Eddy, writing “I will wait with patience the summons to the feast.”[iii]  In April, she and Jane L. Straw addressed a formal joint request to Eddy: “Having become mystified, by one Edward Arens, with regard to the Science of Healing, we now come to you, to learn that which, we believe, him incapable of Teaching, namely, Metaphysics.”[iv] Stuart’s next, undated, letter was entirely focused on Eddy’s struggles with Arens over his plagiarism of Science and Health. She advised Eddy to let the matter “die a natural death,” arguing that “it is too low for your name to be associated with him in the Courts….work silently and we will work with you: vanquish him that way.”[v]  Stuart and Jane Straw issued an undated statement repudiating Arens: “We studied Mrs Eddy’s system of metaphysical healing of Edward J Arens but he did not teach it and we did not understand it as we have since learned. And we did not learn of him how to heal the sick according to metaphysics.”[vi] In June Stuart and Straw were among 22 signers of an affidavit defending Eddy against criticisms from her former students: The signers testified “that we have studied Mary M.B. Eddy’s system of metaphysics” and “know her to be a highly conscientious pure minded Christian woman.”[vii] The same week, Stuart and others personally appeared before a Justice of the Peace in Essex County, and swore under oath to the truth of the affidavit.[viii]

Although Eddy chose not to prosecute Arens for plagiarism, she did denounce him in a revised third edition of Science and Health, which Stuart had advised against doing.[ix] In a third, undated letter, Stuart addressed Eddy as “My Darling,” and explained that her wish to visit her in Lynn had been thwarted by her own health problems. On Monday October 15, she reported being better, able to go into the city by train to visit her own patients, and confident that “the dawn is breaking the clouds are tipped with roseate hues, and soon very soon our horizon will be cloudless. Their poisoned arrows can no more penetrate the armour of Truth than the worm which crawls at your feet can pluck the Stars from the firmament. Each arrow rebounds with double force upon its owner.”[x] Although Stuart had reported to the other students that Arens would “order his students to ‘take up’ Mrs. Eddy mentally,” she was disinclined to believe this had affected Eddy’s health.[xi] The last letter she wrote to Eddy was an undated note written later in October, which closed with assurance of support in the struggle with Arens, but her methods apparently were so repellent that Eddy never replied: “Mrs. S. – and – myself will fasten our fangs into them and Compel them to Stop, I will not leave you night nor day, but will employ my Thoughts like hot Shells unto their camp. God will help the Right and vanquish the foe.”[xii]

The group resignation from the Christian Scientist Association was dated October 21, only six days later. Stuart and seven others signed a proclamation to the effect that Eddy’s “frequent ebullitions of temper, love of money, and the appearance of hypocrisy” left them no choice but to “most respectfully withdraw our names from the Christian Science Association and Church of Christ (Scientist).”[xiii] Five days later on October 26, with Mrs. Eddy in the Chair, the CSA met at her home and unanimously passed a vote to the effect that “your unchristian communication of Oct. 21, 81, renders you liable to Church disipline” and that “You are hereby notified to appear before the Church of Christ (Scintist) at 8 Broad St. Lynn on Monday Oct 31 At 5 P.M. To answer for unjust proceeding.”[xiv] None of the dissidents attended, but ten days later the remaining members voted to expel Howard, Rice, and Rawson for conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist.

On November 2, Eddy wrote to William Stuart, objecting to his “highly improper language and false statements” to an unnamed male disciple which revealed how he was influenced “by the silent arguments of those lying in wait to fulfill their threats to ruin my reputation and stop my labors for the uplifting of the race.” Eddy protested that she had refused to accept Mrs. Stuart as a patient but accepted her as a pupil after “ceaseless IMPORTUNITIES.”[xv] Less than week later, on November 8, Eddy wrote to Clara E. Choate blaming James E. Howard and Miranda Rice for swaying the other six to resign  “I have learned for a certainty that Howard and Mrs. Rice carried the other five by making you the issue.”[xvi]  When Howard, Rice, and others were subsequently expelled on October 31 for conduct unbecoming a Christian Scientist[xvii] Stuart was expelled on the lesser charge of unconstitutional conduct, yet she was singled out for more criticism in subsequent years than any of the others who resigned simultaneously.

The harshest criticism was made in an article that in its final version concealed the name of Elizabeth Stuart and the author of the piece. Edmund G. Hardy’s “Workings of Animal Magnetism,” published in August 1889 in the Christian Science Journal, was published after extensive editing by Calvin Frye.  The proofs of Hardy’s original text survive in the Mary Baker Eddy Library and are far more revealing than the final product.  Hardy had given a report of his acquaintance with Stuart and Eddy to a recent class instruction and was requested to repeat the information for the Journal.  He wrote:

Six years ago I went for healing to Mrs. William Stuart, then claiming to heal by Christian Science in Hyde Park, Mass. After receiving relief, and as I then believed healing, I sought to know the process by which she was enabled to do this work…This search led me to “SCIENCE AND HEALTH,” and then to Mrs. Eddy. Mrs. Eddy very kindly gave me nearly an entire evening, during which I related my experience. She spoke no word denouncing Mrs. Stuart, but did call to my attention the false and the true teaching, and said to me, “I hope, Mr. Hardy, that when you study you will get the truth.” I returned to Mrs. Stuart, joyful in the thought that I had met Mrs. Eddy, but imagine the confusion of mind when I was met by the one whom I believed to have healed me, with the declaration that Mrs. Eddy had departed from the path of Science, into selfishness, mesmerism, &c., and assured me that she had used this power on the very night of my call to make her sick; that she never was so sick in her life as at the very time I was in conversation with Mrs. Eddy.[xviii]

Hardy reveals Stuart in 1883 as intensely antagonistic and competitive towards Eddy, making accusations of mesmerism, just as she was gaining an unhealthy influence over Sarah, according to her husband and his family.

Theodore Weld had been present with his fellow Hyde Park Unitarian William Stuart at a May 25, 1881 meeting of the Christian Scientist Association, where they both were listed as “visiting friends” who participated in remarks about the “good of the order.”[xix] William Stuart was a pall bearer for Theodore Weld in 1895, but for much of the intervening period there was tenstion between the families. Although Weld was an early Mind Cure enthusiast, his only letter to Mrs. Eddy was a denunciation of gossip in which she had engaged with an unidentified “Mrs. S.,” probably Elizabeth Stuart. He wrote on November 21, 1881, complaining that his niece Mrs. Day had heard reports of gossip that she was regarded as “a perfect disgrace to the family” who “dressed herself as she did in order to attract the notice of gentlemen” and that the family “wished she would go back where she came from.” Weld indignantly denied all these charges, writing “To all of this I have only to say- that none of us ever had the least suspicion that Mrs. Day had in her styles…gait in walking & independent manner, expression of countenance, erect attitude & dignified…presence which distinguishes her the least thought of thereby attracting the notice of gentlemen or any others. That air manners &c were born with her & it is a personal idiosyncracy & nothing else. As to a disgraceful family history connected with her none of us ever heard or suspected the existence of any such thing…ever said that she was a disgrace to us—never thought…never known or heard that some one questioned her moral character in the least particular.  She has always moved in the most respectable circles of society & has always been well regarded & spoken of…entitled to distinguished consideration.”[xx]

Sarah’s involvement with Elizabeth Stuart would lead to the end of her marriage. At the time of her separation from Archibald, the response of Moses Stanley shows that he was no racist opponent of the marriage, but earnestly hoped to save it. In May 1883 Archie wrote to his father in law after Sarah had announced that she did not intend to return to Boston from a vacation she had taken with their daughter Angelina to Michigan:

She seemed unhappy – she was unwell.  I believed that much of her ill health was caused by the inactive & apathetic life she was living – but still I think we might have got from under the cloud but for the happening of one of the most important events in our marriage life.  It was Sarah’s treatment by Mrs. Stuart.  You know about Mrs. Stuart?  Well her theory is that every disease is produced by some fear.  Each patient she treats she endeavors to discover the cause of the disease.  It is no matter what cause she has fastened on as the pregnant one—if she could make Sarah believe it—it of course will produce some effect proportioned to the current of the belief of the patient.  She found the cause and occasion of Sarah’s ailments to be grounded in her relations to me.  What Sarah lacked was something positive—some active principle—Mrs. Stuart declared that Sarah’s relations to me had destroyed her will—her individuality—had reduced her to a state of mental and moral subjection. She held me up before Sarah in the character of an oppressor—a selfish & lordly man—mark you however this woman had never seen us together but once & knew nothing of us except what Sarah had told her & what she had added too by the aid of her imagination…. I felt that to be called an oppressor when I had not scrupled to do all the house work—such as washing dishes—emptying chamber pots—sweeping rooms—making beds—taking in the clothes—in short doing without a murmur every thing which women ordinarily were accustomed to do— & all to save my wife—yes sir to be called an oppressor & the author of my wife’s diseases—seemed more than I could or ought to bear. I called Sarah’s attention to the fact that she had been sick before she knew me at all—that Dr. Sofford [Daniel Spofford—ed] who treated her when a student in Boston University had told me that she was diseased + naturally delicate—that before she left home at all her life had been despaired of by her own statement the Drs. At Ann Arbor had pronounced her disease of the heart organic…[xxi]

Moses replied on May 22, 1883, from Mackinac Island, “You are both dear to me and I earnestly wish & desire to do what shall be for your mutual good. I think you are correct as to the cause of all—poor health & the most extremely sensitive organization.  She has never been well since she had the scarlet fever in her 4th year.  She went to Boston an invalid, & it is ungenerous as it is unjust, for Mrs. Stuart or Sarah or anyone to charge you with her poor health so please stick that arrow in the fire & never let it prick you again. You are conscious of having done what you could to make her happy— let that comfort you.”[xxii]

Archibald Grimké and his old friend and mentor Frances Pillsbury shared an equally negative view of Mrs. Stuart. Pillsbury had been headmaster of the Charleston school in which Archibald and his brothers were enrolled at the end of the Civil War, and was instrumental in arranging for them to study at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Her husband Gilbert, brother of famed abolitionist Parker Pillsbury, had been the Reconstruction mayor of Charleston for several years.  They returned to Massachusetts before Archie went there to study. In an 1873 letter written soon after his arrival at Harvard, Frances exulted in his good fortune to be embraced by his Grimké aunts and Theodore Weld, and recalled the last time she had seen him, sailing away from South Carolina:

Ah! Archie, when I think of you a halo of light and happiness seems to surround you, & a great happiness lightens my thoughts. That you are really at Cambridge drinking from the very fountain you desire, that you are so perfect yourself, winning love & respect from all—that you are beloved & cared for by the noblest and tenderest of families your uncle and aunt Weld is more than a satisfaction…Thank heaven for the flowery harbor into which the storms have driven you!”[xxiii]

Frances Pillsbury became Archie’s closest confidante after Sarah left, judging from his extant correspondence, and she shared his sense of outrage at the role of Elizabeth Stuart in inciting Sarah to end the marriage. The flowery harbor of life in Boston was to become stormy, and Archie blamed the Welds’ friends and neighbors the Stuarts more than he blamed Sarah. In an undated letter from 1883, Archie wrote to Moses Stanley blaming Elizabeth Stuart not just for instigating Sarah’s original departure, but also for undermining Stanley’s attempt to reconcile them. “I wrote Sarah in the terrible agony of my grief to have mercy on me- I prayed her forgiveness- I besought her save me with her love- the appeal touched her her love & tenderness & loyalty reasserted themselves for a moment—Mrs. Stuart hearing that Sarah was irresolute whether to go or return wrote her a pack of falsehoods—about what I had said to my uncle about her. And this the second opportunity slipped by me & was lost.”[xxiv]

In his first letter to Sarah after she announced that she would not return from Michigan, Archie made very clear that he considered the Stuarts to blame:

You are in no condition at present to view this matter dispassionately & fairly. You can only see your side – & your side as it has appeared to your friend Mrs. Stuart. I do verily believe that you are entirely under her control, & cannot think your own thoughts or do your own will if she interferes…Well then dear the morning that you intended to leave- you will remember that I asked you whether you intended to return & I then said that if you stayed in Mass. I would take Nana away from you- & Mrs. S? I had an indefinite apprehension that you & others were plotting against me- that your action for two months or six weeks was the result of some secret understanding between you & others, I felt that the Stuarts were in this – that morning when I said I would take Nana away from you it was because I somehow felt that you might go to live with the Stuarts & take Nana there & defy me to take her or to have any thing to do with her. [xxv]

Evidently Sarah had complained that Archie had induced the Welds to consider her insane, and Stuart had been the bearer of this message, as he continued:

Do not say that I have destroyed or shaken the trust of the Welds in your word or sanity—For Uncle Theodore discovered the above discrepancy between the statement which you made to Mrs. Stuart & the one which you afterwards made to him – & this my dear he volunteered to tell me. And as to the matter of your sanity- he said that he discovered something in your countenance which suggested possibilities in the direction of insanity long before he ever spoke to me about you.[xxvi]

Frances Pillsbury began to serve as a go-between, or informant, as soon as the bad news arrived.  On May 24, she wrote to Archie that she had received a letter from Sarah in Ann Arbor, in which “She said in the letter that I should be surprised to hear from her out West and also should be shocked if you “had written me any particulars,” as he obviously had done.[xxvii]  On June 27 she followed up with a report that she had written Sarah as Archie had desired: “Have written six pages—all about the farm & flowers & carriage house. I told her the carriage was newly painted and covered to be ready to carry Nana & Sarah to ride when they returned! I said not a syllable that would show that I knew anything about affairs.”[xxviii] Her next letter, written October 8, blames Moses Stanley for harboring Sarah rather than sending her home to Archie: “For it is in his power to send your wife & child back to you, if he chooses—Sarah would never stay away in this manner if her relatives showed her the wrong of it. Now Archie I have thought of one way to open the Reverend clergyman’s eyes. This is to write him an anonymous letter giving him an account of Mrs. Stewart’s witchcraft- of her ascribing demonic powers & acts to you – of her outrageous money making & promising patients to nine other weak women in the same village &c &c—I think that kind of ointment for Mr. Stanley’s eyes—would be equal to the clay that Jesus used in the blind man—it would cause him to SEE.”[xxix] It is unclear whether or not she did so, but in November she reported having gotten another letter from Sarah. The reply in question was enclosed and was a terse communication that opened a period of great stress over Angelina’s custody. “Thanks for your kind letter, enclosing one from Archie. In reply I have only to say that I do not intend to ever return to live with Archie….P/S/ I should be glad to know explicitly Archie’s wishes, or intentions in regard to the child, since she is legally his. S.S.G.”[xxx] Although there is no known connection between Gilbert and Frances Pillsbury and Christian Science, Parker was later to write very cordially to Eddy, whose sister had married a Pillsbury cousin in New Hampshire decades earlier.[xxxi] An April 3, 1891 letter from Eddy to Laura E. Sargent ends with a PS asking “How do you like Parker Pillsbury’s pamphlet? [xxxii]  A note in the files of J.C. Tomlinson’s 1907 reminiscences indicates some pride in the association with “the well known Pillsbury family the members of which have attained wide celebrity in business and in Reform movements”.[xxxiii]

Sarah sent Archie a mixed message about Angelina’s support on September 22, 1884, writing “I wish to be assured that you fully relinquish your claim to her person, and freely entrust her care and education in my hands. And, further, I wish to know whether in so doing you would still consider it a pleasure as well as a duty to assist in her maintenance.”[xxxiv] She also asked Archie how much he would be willing and able to contribute monthly or annually. His reply was dated September 26, and he assured her “that I consider your claim to Nana’s person higher than my own, that your wishes and interests in regard to her person and education to take precedence over mine in all respects when yours and mine are in non agreement” and also “that had I the moral right to decide as to her custody & education I know of no one to whom I would more fully & freely commit the dear little girl than to your mother love & dutiful care.” While considering it a duty and pleasure to provide financial support, he was unclear about Sarah’s remark about relinquishing his claims, asking if “in case of your death before me, I am not then to claim my child?” and concluding by asking for a suggested amount needed for Angelina’s support. Although his investments had failed and his income was meagre, he saw prospects for financial improvement in the “public position & reputation” he had recently attained. In a postscript he reminded Sarah of a life insurance policy of two thousand dollars which would be due to her in the event of his death.[xxxv] Four days later she wrote a reply, thanking him for his letter and the enclosed check and proposing two hundred dollars per year as a fair amount for child support. She assured him that “in case of my death before yours, no one will dispute your claim to your child. I only wish to be equally certain that I am not liable to have her taken from me at any moment- even if I should do so unlikely a thing as to visit Massachusetts again.”[xxxvi]

This arrangement was only to last three months, as on January 11, 1885 Sarah changed her mind and wrote to Archie that she had “come to realize that it is not for the best good & happiness of our little girl to be brought up under divided claims. As matters now stand, she is legally yours, and while you support her, you have claims, and also, she is yours in case of my death. But she ought to be either wholly yours or wholly mine. I therefore wish to assume, at once, her entire support & education, & in case of my death I wish her left free to choose between you & my people.” Thanking him for his past services, she concluded with an ominous remark that seems directed at his friendship with the Pillsburys: “And allow me, now, to most solemnly warn you that the one you call your good fairy is your evil genius, in that she prompts you to seek fame & power instead of Peace & Good-will. The Earthly, instead of the Celestial.”[xxxvii] On January 18 he replied that he was greatly surprised by her change of heart, having considered the recent agreement a final conclusion to discussion of competing claims. While he could not understand what motivated this sudden decision, he felt that he “must trust that you understand fully what you wish & that it is indeed for the best good & happiness of our little girl” but left the door open to further reconsideration on her part. Sarah’s change of heart seems to have coincided with a change in Elizabeth Stuart’s status, as she had decided to create her own independent Mind Cure group which would use Sarah’s lessons as part of its curriculum. In December 1884, Sarah H. Crosse wrote a letter to the Christian Science Journal addressed “To Whom it May Concern” warning that “An aggressive outside element of which the public should be informed is this: Many are assuming the name `Christian Scientist’ who never belonged to the Christian Scientist Association; some even who have been expelled from it. This mixes things. Long before the people in Hyde Park heard of metaphysical healing, or Mrs. Elizabeth Stuart was taught it by Mrs. Eddy in 1881, the name was given by Mrs. Eddy to this organization, and none but its members have any right to it.”[xxxviii] This implies that Stuart was seen by Christian Scientists as an unscrupulous usurper, but she seems to have abandoned use of the term “Christian Science” the following year.

In May 1885 Elizabeth Stuart taught a class in Hartford, Connecticut, which was followed in December by her student Leander Edmund Whipple becoming a mental healer there. This ultimately led to Hartford becoming the center for her group’s work, which had already been organized in Massachusetts and New York under the name “Light, Love, Truth.” The triangular symbol adopted by the group was interpreted to mean “Life cannot be manifested apart from Love and Truth. Love cannot be separated from Life and Truth. Without Truth there can be neither Life nor Love.”[xxxix] In August 1885, Sarah announced a correspondence class entitled “First Lessons in Reality, OR The Psychical Basis of Physical Health.”  Pupils were directed to write to her at 31 Milwaukee Avenue, Detroit, her parents’ address. The method of instruction was explained: “Each member will receive a list of questions, together with a copy of the lesson to be studied.  Answers are to be prepared by the student and forwarded for correction, explanation, etc., after which the MS. Of the student will be returned, and a second lesson and list of questions received for study.” The course consisted of thirteen lessons, with a tuition fee of $10.00, “students paying their own postage.”[xl]

At the beginning of 1886, Archie made one final effort to reconcile with Sarah, writing to her that “after two persons are married they should, where it is at all possible, endeavor to live together” and in light of Angelina’s welfare, “I therefore Sarah earnestly write you to return home so that together we may take up life’s duties until death do us part” which he signed “your husband.”[xli] Her reply does not survive and perhaps never was made directly, but that summer she wrote to their former landlady in Hyde Park, Mrs. Leverett. This letter apparently expressed another change of heart about Angelina in light of Archie’s next letter to her, dated July 12. He wrote: “Mrs. Leverett showed me your letter on Saturday morning in answer I desire to say to you that I would be very happy to take our dear little Nana & devote my life to her—You might then remain where you now are or if otherwise inclined return with the dear little one to the home which has had its door open to receive you every day & hour since you left it more than three years ago. My means do not allow me to discharge my duties to Nana by any other arrangement. Tell Nana that her dear Papa wants very much to see her tho.”[xlii]

During the first years of the group Light, Love, Truth, Sarah appears to have been the sole published author of lessons.  Neither Mrs. Stuart nor her close colleague Emma Austin Tolles of Hartford became published authors, but the Grimké correspondence affords several clues to her role as amanuensis for their group.  Most of her letters to Angelina from the period are undated and lack return addresses, but internal evidence shows their sequence. References to Elizabeth Stuart and Emma Tolles are abundant.  In summer 1887 Sarah wrote to Angelina, “My dear little Girl; Your good letters have reached me safely with Mrs. Tolles letters” asking later “Have you been away any where with Mrs. Stuart.”[xliii] Angelina was evidently in the company of both Tolles and Stuart during her years at school in Hyde Park, where the Weld family had apparently reconciled with the Stuarts. Sarah’s initial move to California might have been influenced by the presence in San Francisco of Miranda R. Rice, a former colleague of Mrs. Eddy who had seceded from Christian Science ranks the same day as her sister Dorcas Rawson and Elizabeth Stuart. Sarah did not remain in the Bay Area; although First Lessons in Reality was published in Detroit, its foreword was signed Los Angeles, California, June 1886. Weeks earlier, on April 3, Sarah had signed her pledge in Los Angeles as a member of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. While in California, Sarah wrote to her daughter indicating that her friend Mrs. Rice had seen Angelina at Mrs. Stuart’s: “I have just had a letter from Mrs. Rice and she tells me she saw you one day at Mrs. Stuarts.”[xliv] Emma Austin Tolles evidently was concerned that Angelina have proper clothing, as shown by another 1887 letter from Sarah: “If you like the things Mrs. Tolles sent I wish you would write and thank her. She tells me she has some new shoes for you and some other things almost ready to send – you know her address –“[xlv] following up in her next letter:

I most sincerely hope that you can go and see Mrs. Tolles some time in Hartford. She has been a very good friend to you in the past, and will be in the future. You can depend on it…Your good letter made mamma very happy.  I want you to improve in your writing as fast as you can, so as to write lessons and books when you get older, just as mamma does.  Then, you know, you can go to California, or Detroit, or any where in the world you wish. I am glad the things from Mrs. Tolles reached you all right.  Has she sent you shoes yet? I am glad you have such jolly times at Mrs. Stuart’s, with Mr. Stuart, and with Maggie…Mamma is very much better now, and has already gone to writing on the lessons again and hopes to finish them this time.  I hope my little girl is both good and happy in Hyde Park.[xlvi]

[i] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, January 25, 1881, IC 507.

[ii] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, March 24, 1881, IC 507.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Elizabeth G. Stuart and Jane L. Straw to Eddy, April 16, 1881, SF-Arens.

[v] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, undated, IC  507.

[vi] Elizabeth G. Stuart and Jane L Straw to Eddy, undated, SF-Arens.

[vii] James C. Howard to Eddy, June 6, 1881, Accession L09059.

[viii] Ibid, Accession L09059.

[ix] Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1971), 87.

[x] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, October 15, 1881, IC 507.

[xi] Peel, Years of Trial, 93.

[xii] Elizabeth G. Stuart to Eddy, undated, IC 507.

[xiii] James Henry Snowden, The Truth About Christian Science (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1920), 179.

[xiv] Author A.A. Draper, Hanover P. Smith/Mary Baker Eddy, October 26, 1881, Accession L09677.

[xv] Eddy to William Stuart, November 2, 1881, V0071.

[xvi] Eddy to Clara Choate, November 8, 1881, Accession L02492.

[xvii] Early Organizational Records, EOR 10.3.

[xviii] “Workings of Animal Magnetism,” undated corrected proof, Accession A10422.001.

[xix] Early Organizational Records, EOR 10.01.

[xx] Theodore Weld to Eddy, November 21, 1881; IC 722a, Mary Baker Eddy Library.

[xxi] Ibid., Series C, Box 3, Folder 82.

[xxii] Ibid., Series C, Box 3, Folder 74.

[xxiii] Ibid., Series D, Box 5, Folder 101, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxiv] Ibid., Series C, Box 3, Folder 74.

[xxv] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 81, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series 5, Box 5, Folder 101, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] On March 14, 1893, he wrote from Concord a friendly message about a recent magazine article, concluding “With sentiments of sincere respect and esteem, I am My dear friend, Faithfully & fraternally yours” adding as a postscript “your work on Science and Health is indeed a treasure.” Parker Pillsbury to Eddy, March 14, 1893, Item 111.22.003.

[xxxii] Eddy to Laura Sargent, April 3, 1891. Accession L0598.

[xxxiii] J.C. Tomlinson Reminiscences, note dated April 29, 1907, accession #A11876.

[xxxiv]Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 78, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxv]Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 81, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxvi] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 78, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxvii]Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 78, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xxxviii] Sarah H. Crosse, “To Whom it May Concern,” Christian Science Journal, December 1884.

[xxxix] Ibid, 139.

[xl] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 79.

[xli] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series C, Box 3, Folder 81.

[xlii] Ibid.

[xliii]Angelina Weld Grimké papers, Box 5, Folder 92, Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[xliv] Ibid.

[xlv] Ibid.

[xlvi] Ibid.

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Personified Unthinkables

Personified Unthinkables: The Pupil (excerpted from Letters to the Sage, Volume Two.)

Bronson Alcott’s acquaintance with Mary Baker Glover (who would become Mrs. Eddy in 1878) began when he read Science and Health in January 1876 and wrote to her in very admiring terms: “The sacred truths which you announce sustained by facts of the Immortal Life, give to your work the seal of inspiration – reaffirm, in modern phrase, the Christian revelations.” [i] On January 30, after meeting Mrs. Glover, he wanted to meet her circle.  He had already promoted her book among Transcendentalist colleagues and was planning to do so among future Unitarian clergy, writing “Last Sunday evening I met a pleasant circle at Mr Emersons and took occasion to speak of yourself, your Science and disciples…Next Wednesday evening, I am to meet the Divinity students at Cambridge for Conversation on Divine Ideas and methods. I think you may safely trust my commendations of your faith and methods anywhere.”[ii] After meeting her circle in Lynn, Alcott continued to be supportive. Three diary entries indicate the rise and fall of Alcott’s enthusiasm for Christian Science. On January 20, 1876 he wrote “I find her one of the fair saints.”[iii] More than two years later, following the death of Mrs. Alcott and the remarriage of Mrs. Glover to Asa Gilbert Eddy, he became involved in a court case involving Christian Science, sometimes called the “Salem witch trial” of Daniel Spofford. Alcott’s diary entry for May 14, 1878 notes that he accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Eddy to Salem for the trial in which Lucretia Brown claimed to have suffered mesmeric attacks from Spofford.[iv] Three weeks later, on June 5, his first reservations about her appear in his diary: “There is perhaps a touch of fanaticism, though of a genial quality, interposed into her faith, which a deeper insight into the mysteries of life may ultimately remove.”[v]

One sermon at Old West Church in which Cyrus Bartol endorsed Eddy’s beliefs was entitled “Mind Cure.”  An excerpt was published in the Christian Science Journal, which included these passages: “A wrong thought disturbs right thinking. Rectify the system with right thoughts. That is the medicine to be taken internally…let us change the thought to faith, confidence in God, and in each other! Take down the upholstery of the pit. In a picture gallery we uncover our heads and are lifted above base longing. Can we not have an art museum in our mind? And spiritual uncovering.”[vi] At the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, May 7, 1884, the Christian Scientist Association members passed a resolution tendering “heartfelt thanks” to “this eminent divine” for having “nobly defended” Christian Science, concluding “as a true watchman on the tower of the world’s progress who sends forth no uncertain sound do we thank him.” [vii]

References to Sarah in the literature of the time are rare, but in 1919 Horatio Dresser recorded her as “one of the earliest of the mental science writers” whose “Personified Unthinkables, 1884, interpreted the practical idealism with special reference to mental pictures and their influence…Quimby sometimes described the mental part of his treatment with reference to the pictures he discerned intuitively in the patient’s mind…”[viii] The influence from Quimby on Grimké’s writings may be minor, however, in light of the insistence of Cyrus Bartol on the same theme of mental pictures. Bartol became but the most visible friend of Christian Science in the Unitarian clergy. Stephen Gottschalk describes his interest in Eddy as based on “his feeling that the new movement represented a recrudescence of the Transcendentalist revolt against materialism.”[ix] He was not Mrs. Eddy’s first Unitarian clerical admirer, a role played by Andrew Ralston Peabody, a Harvard professor affiliated with the orthodox Unitarians. Bartol was by contrast affiliated with the radical wing of the movement, in which “his liberalism partook not of the rationalism of Peabody’s orthodoxy but of the warmth of transcendentalist faith.”[x] Robert Peel notes an intriguing quote from Bartol, who allegedly “listened to Mrs. Eddy’s explanations and declared, ‘I have preached the living God for forty years, but never felt his presence and power as you do.’”[xi] Historian of Transcendentalism Philip Gura describes Bartol as “as a voice of postwar Transcendentalism” who was such “in good measure because of his continuing advocacy of intuitionist beliefs… became a major voice among radical Unitarians.”[xii]

An undated note by Calvin Frye of a recollection by Mary Baker Eddy, headed “Dr. Bartol- 1868,” quotes him as telling her “Well dear sister I can see that you are inspired and your talk about God is beautiful but I cannot <quite>understand it I am afraid others will not I would not try to talk it for people will think you are insane.”[xiii] This indicates that their acquaintance predated her first meeting with Bronson Alcott by eight years. Despite Eddy’s early and lasting esteem for Bartol, the Christian Science Journal in December 1884 rejected his pleas for harmonious cooperation among various branches of the fractious Mind Cure movement. “Observer” commented that “There is no occupant of a Boston pulpit broader in his religious sympathies, or more sensitive in his spiritual fellowship, than the Rev. Dr. C.A. Bartol” who “has always been foremost in the recognition of ecclesiastical progress” and goes on to praise the way “every topic he touches receives from his thought a touch of its own poetic sweetness and light, yet not in such a way as to conceal or warp, in the least degree, the objects upon which he bids us look.” Nevertheless, in a recent sermon Bartol went too far, when he classed Christian Science “with Mesmerism, Mind cure, Spiritualism, as parts of one and the same great movement…When Dr. Bartol, in his kindly way, bids Christian Scientists live in friendly unity with these isms, he asks the impossible.”[xiv]

The mental pictures theme found in Grimké’s writing, as well as her literary style, may owe more to Bartol than to Christian Science. His 1855 collection of sermons, Pictures of Europe, Framed in Ideas, combined travel writing and Transcendentalism. Sally M. Promey describes the book as “inviting ‘pilgrims’ to the ‘shrine,’ the ‘splendid temple of art’” and recommending “what he called ‘picture-language’ as superior to text for its presumed universal legibility.”[xv] The Columbia Literary History of the United States describes Bartol’s style as “strongly didactic, much given to reflection on moral and spiritual truths, aphoristic, dependent on example and analogy rather than on sequential arguments, fond of paradox, highly reiterative yet sometimes compressed to the point of mysteriousness.” [xvi] The Esoteric Lessons of his disciple are equally well described by this summary. The Cambridge American Companion to Travel Writing describes his 1855 book as “affirming the value of a universal religious reverence inherent in human nature and expressed in religious art and architecture.”[xvii] The Sunday school lesson and sermon topics of Old West Church preserved at the Andover Theological Seminary library reveal Bartol emphasizing such visual themes as “The Beauty of Flowers” or “Light” as often as traditional Biblical topics or contemporary political issues.

One early critical Eddy biography describes her as presenting theology “warmer than the Unitarianism which it faintly resembled, less vague than the Transcendentalism with which it was affiliated.”[xviii] Unitarian clergyman Samuel B. Stewart performed the marriage ceremony of Asa Eddy and Mary Baker Glover, who had attended his services with her former colleague Richard Kennedy.[xix] Near the end of her long life, several pieces of evidence suggest that Eddy’s early esteem for Unitarianism was undiminished.  In November 1897, in response to an interview request from a Unitarian minister, she commented that “to my apprehension unity and love are the exemplification of Unitarianism, even as the Christ healing is the demonstration of Christian Science,” adding “My acquaintance with Unitarians has been of a happy sort for their lives have illustrated their religion.”[xx] Six months later, she followed up with another letter praising several Unitarian clergymen by name, writing that “Theodore Parker, Dr. Peabody, Dr. Bartol, Wm. R. Alger, etc. were my model men. They did much towards unchaining the limbs of Love and giving freedom to its footsteps.”[xxi] In recognition of years of friendly relations with the Unitarian Church in Concord, New Hampshire, Eddy left them $5000 in her will.[xxii]

Two points in Unitarian theology are identified by Catherine Tumber as foundational to Christian Science, New Thought, and ultimately the New Age. Drawing on a philosophical tradition of perfectionism, “Unitarianism compelled its followers to achieve ‘likeness to God’ through self-development and social reform” which was combined with a “precarious dualism between the higher and lower faculties, between the spiritual and the corporeal” which “could easily elide from respect for material claims, if legitimate in their proper inferior place, to active disparagement and even contempt.”[xxiii]

 

[i] Bronson Alcott to Eddy, January 17, 1876 (SF-Alcott, Bronson).

[ii] Bronson Alcott to Eddy, January 30, 1876 (SF Alcott, Bronson).

[iii] Journals of Bronson Alcott, Odell Shepard, ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1938), 465.

[iv] Ibid., 487.

[v] Ibid., 489-90.

[vi] C.A. Bartol, “Mind Cure,” Christian Science Journal, December 1884.

[vii] Early Organizational Records, Christian Scientist Association, Mary Baker Eddy Library, EOR 10.03.

[viii] Horatio Dresser, History of the New Thought Movement (New York: Crowell), 138.

[ix] Stephen Gottschalk, Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973), 208.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Robert Peel, Christian Science: Its Encounter with American Culture (Harrington Park, NJ: R.H. Sommer, 1980), 105.

[xii] Philip Gura, American Transcendentalism (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 274.

[xiii] Calvin Frye, Undated note, Accession A11065.

[xiv] “A Late Letter,” Christian Science Journal, December 1884.

[xv] American Religious Liberalism, Leigh E. Schmidt and Sally M. Promey, eds. (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2012), 82.

[xvi] Columbia Literary History of the United States, Emory Elliott, gen. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 374.

[xvii] Cambridge American Companion to Travel Writing, Alfred Bendixen and Judith Hamera, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 119.

[xviii] Sutherland Bates and John V. Dittemore, Mary Baker Eddy (New York: Knopf, 1932), 153.

[xix] Sybil Wilbur, Life of Mary Baker Eddy (New York: Concord, 1907), 223.

[xx] Eddy to Frank L. Phalen, November 27, 1897, L13282.

[xxi] Eddy to Frank L. Phalen, May 13, 1898, L132880.

[xxii] Eddy to unknown recipient, September 13, 1907, “for MY WILL” L09844.

[xxiii] Katherine Tumber, American Feminism and the Birth of New Age Spirituality (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), 117-118.

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Sarah Stanley Grimké’s Esoteric Lessons

Starting in December 2018 and continuing through June 2019 this blog will serialize the bio-bibliographical appendix of Letters to the Sage, Volume Two on the posthumously published author who was the only collaborator of Thomas H. Burgoyne. Burgoyne’s later career is the topic of my upcoming presentation at the preconference intensive duringthe biennial Church of Light convention.

Sarah Eliza Stanley was born in Scriba, Oswego County, New York in April 1850, the first year of her father’s career as a Free Baptist clergyman.  The following year Moses Stanley became pastor of a Free Baptist church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; in 1855 he returned to New England to another Free Baptist church in Farmington, Maine, a few miles from Wilton where his wife Sarah Pease Stanley had been born in 1827.  In 1859 Moses was in Two Rivers, Wisconsin as pastor of a Congregational church, and beginning in 1860 he served Episcopal churches in Michigan and Indiana.   In the first ten years of her life, Sarah thus lived in four states with a father affiliated with three denominations. Throughout her life, she formed no stable attachments to any place she could call home nor any Christian denomination, which was foreshadowed in her early childhood. The geographical and spiritual mobility of Moses Stanley’s clerical career was reflected in his daughter’s career as a writer. Another connecting thread for decades was abolitionism. The Free Baptist movement had begun in 1780 in New Hampshire, with the name referring to belief in free will as opposed to determinism. By the 1850s, “Free” for northern Baptists also referred to the divine imperative to end slavery.  This denomination in which Sarah Stanley spent her early childhood had been strongly abolitionist, and Moses Stanley’s commitment to the abolitionist cause continued into his Congregational and Episcopal pastorates. Sarah by marriage became a part of the most renowned abolitionist family of the 19th century.

Sarah Stanley graduated from Boston University with a PhB awarded by the College of Liberal Arts.  Her Senior class of 1878 included twelve women and fifteen men. The “Philosophical course” leading to the PhB was discontinued upon their graduation of the class of 1880. Admission requirements for the College of Liberal Arts were daunting by modern standards, with preliminary examinations involving Greek and Latin Grammar and literature, Arithmetic, Algebra, English Grammar and Rhetoric, Modern History and Geography. Required philosophy courses for all students included Theistic Philosophy, Ethical Philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, and History of Philosophy. Electives in Philosophy included Metaphysics, Logic and Theory of Knowledge, and Aesthetics. All philosophy courses were taught by Borden P. Bowne, remembered today as one of the foremost proponents of Personalism, a theistic Christian philosophy emphasizing the immanence of God. Bowne identified himself as a Berkeleyan idealist modified by Kantian epistemology. He taught psychology as well as philosophy, and published books on all major branches of philosophy as well as on theology.[i] In an obituary for the American Journal of Theology, John Alfred Faulkner lamented Bowne as a “severe loss not only to Boston University and American Methodism…but to American philosophy and theology and well” whose “writings cover almost every important branch of philosophy.”[ii]

Sarah converted to Unitarianism in Boston and was strongly influenced by the Transcendentalist Unitarian clergyman Cyrus Augustus Bartol. In April 1879 Bartol presided at her wedding ceremony when she married Archibald Henry Grimké, a native South Carolinian and the eldest of three sons of a white plantation owner and his enslaved mistress. Sarah’s letters home announcing her engagement have not survived, but her father’s reply dated February 21, 1879 is preserved in the Moorland-Spingarn Center at Howard University. He blamed both Bartol and her prospective in-laws for the engagement:

There is not one of us who finds any pleasure in what seems to elate you.  It may be a source of fun to the Unitarians of Boston but it has filled our hearts with mourning. You speak of the delight of Dr. Bartol and others. Do you think they would find the same delight if it were one of their daughters? We look upon it as a sad day when you went to Boston and especially when you associated yourself with the deniers of Christ and the insane theorizers of that infidel city. Boston will nevermore have any charms for me. We have always prided ourselves in you, but we are sorely, sorely disappointed.  You seem to have lost your reason—deceived by the Weld[s] and the delusive theorizers of the sickly and pestilent sentimentality of Boston. They are not your true friends who urge you on to this cause.[iii]

Moses Stanley’s dismay at his daughter’s associates in Boston might be explained as a consequence of his earlier faith that she was in respectable company there in terms of Christian orthodoxy. Boston University’s philosophy program was strongly theistic and influenced by the Methodist affiliation of the institution. Sarah’s first year of philosophy education at the University of Michigan, in 1872-73 prior to her transfer to BU, was in a department led by another Methodist theologian, Benjamin Franklin Crocker. Hence her conversion to Unitarianism and abandonment of orthodox Christian theism would have been as shocking to her father as her interracial marriage.

Cyrus Bartol was one of the founding teachers of the Concord School of Philosophy. As pastor of West Church in Boston from 1837, and sole pastor from 1861 through retirement in 1889, he was the most visible exponent of Transcendentalism in the city in a career spanning five decades. Although Archibald Grimké was a resident of Boston and recent graduate of Harvard Law School, his aunt, uncle and cousins lived in Hyde Park where they were founding members of the Unitarian congregation. By referring to “the Weld,” Moses Stanley accused his future son-in-law’s white relatives of encouraging the marriage for ideological reasons. When Sarah Stanley married Archibald Grimké she took the surname of the most celebrated abolitionist women of the 19th century. Theodore Weld, like his wife Angelina Grimké Weld and her sister Sarah Moore Grimké, had begun as a traditional Protestant and passed through many phases of belief before finding a spiritual home among Unitarians in Hyde Park. The Grimké sisters’ spiritual beliefs had inspired their long careers as abolitionist speakers and writers. Sarah Moore Grimké’s dedication to the anti-slavery cause emerged after an 1823 conversion to Quakerism following several visits to Philadelphia.  Angelina followed suit eight years later, both in joining the Friends and in support for abolitionists. Later they both developed an interest in Spiritualism, but ended life as Unitarians as did Theodore, who also in his final years embraced “mind cure.”

Sarah Moore Grimké died in 1873 before Sarah Stanley went to Boston University; Angelina Grimké Weld had suffered a stroke the same year and died in 1879. They had discovered their biracial nephews Archibald and Francis, sons of their brother Henry, in 1871, and assisted their educational advancement in Massachusetts. Neither of the famed sisters could have been a direct influence on young Sarah, but Angelina’s husband Theodore Weld was a definite presence in her family life.  In his twenties, Theodore became a fervent apostle of the abolitionist cause, and early in his career he encountered the accusation that abolition of slavery would lead to race mixing, described by his biographer Robert Abzug as “one word, amalgamation, which was code for the mixing of the races.”[iv] Thinking of himself “as the John the Baptist of the antislavery movement,” Weld had worked closely with free blacks for decades.[v] When young Archibald first encountered his aunts Sarah and Angelina, Weld fully supported their embrace of him and his brothers as family members. Abzug writes that Theodore “viewed the discovery of Archibald and Francis as the completion of the fateful union he had entered into so many years before with Angelina, coupling the destiny of the Weld family forever with that of the Grimkés—the black Grimkés—of Charleston…a chance, finally, to put into practice what they had all been preaching for so long.”[vi]

After the death of his wife, Theodore Weld, head of the extended Weld-Grimké clan, was a respected figure in his community. Mark Perry’s history of the family depicts him in the early 1880s “walking slowly, on the arm of Sarah Stanley Grimké, through the streets of Hyde Park, where he had once jogged.”[vii] A 1925 biography of Archibald by his daughter describes the thrilling social network into which he was introduced by his aunts and Theodore Weld: “He met the Fosters, Lucy Stone, the famous Miss Elizabeth Peabody, his old friends the Pillsburys, Judge Sewell, Dr. Bartol, Garrison, Sumner and Phillips, prominent and great men of his own race, such as Lewis Auden and Frederick Douglass.”[viii]

This was the world into which Sarah married in 1879. Child of an abolitionist minister, Sarah Stanley was fifteen years old at the end of the Civil War, and at twenty-nine she married a former slave. Themes of warfare and freeing slaves feature in her lessons written in the postwar era. Although her father Moses Stanley appears as her adversary at the time of her marriage, his moral evolution is apparent in his letters over the next two decades. He immediately saw “amalgamation” as an inevitable consequence, as Theodore Weld had insisted for decades, of abolishing slavery:

It is what has been flung at me scores & perhaps hundreds of times in years past when I have advocated the rights of the colored race but little did I dream it was an arrow that would pierce my heart.  I have advocated every measure for their full enfranchisement to civil & religious liberty & the opening of our schools & colleges for their education & culture, but amalgamation always seemed unnatural & revolting. Toward them I cherish none but philanthropic feelings but to give them my beautiful & accomplished daughter seems perfectly abhorrent, and that they should be willing to throw themselves into their arms for husbands is an infinite surprise & grief.  The very thought of it is withering to all the love, the charm, the ambition, the aspiration of life.  Death seems the only relief. I am ready to welcome death.[ix]

Despite the hard feelings Moses Stanley expressed towards Sarah’s conversion to Unitarianism in Boston and her marriage to Archibald, her geographical and spiritual mobility seems to follow his example.  She moved from Transcendentalism to New Thought to Hermetic astrology, from Massachusetts to Michigan to California, with the same freedom that Moses had demonstrated in his life. Religious and geographical mobility is thus a theme connecting the Stanley and Weld/Grimké families.

The marriage had begun with a great intensity of feeling on both sides, as evident from this May 29, 1879 letter from Sarah to Archibald:

“Love! Lord! ay===Husband!

Art thou gone so?”  And where am I? – I cannot tell who I am, nor what I should be doing here. I no longer have a separate being. My soul has gone and only a dull machine moves about – these rooms or the streets and commons of Boston.  All is an unmeaning haze until my Prince return and revivify with his breath and magic touch…The Moral Education Society meeting this morning was very interesting indeed.  Mrs. Woolson presided, and made a speech. Among the other speakers were Dr. Bartol, Rev. Mr. Withers, Mr. Allcott, &c – I met Miss Eddy on my way there so we were together.[x] (Allcott is Bronson Alcott; “Miss” Eddy is Mary Baker Eddy- ed.)

In this passage we find the best available clue in her letters to the combination of influences behind Sarah’s earliest writings. Her correspondence only refers once to Bronson Alcott and Mary Baker Eddy, but many times to Cyrus Bartol, a recurring presence throughout her married life. Moses Stanley, in response to Sarah’s announcement of her impending marriage, denounced Bartol’s “delight” at the prospect of her marrying Archie. After leaving him in 1883, Sarah mentioned Bartol and his wife as the only Boston acquaintances with whom she wished to remain in contact. The triangular configuration of Alcott, Eddy, and Bartol provides the context in which Sarah, a Unitarian, became a Mind Cure author and later an exponent of Hermetic and Neoplatonic esotericism.

 

[i] President’s Annual Report, 1878, Boston University.

[ii] John Alfred Faulkner, American Journal of Theology, July 1, 1910, 422-425.

[iii] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series A, Box 1, Folder 5, Manuscript Division, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[iv] Robert Abzug, Passionate Liberator (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 103.

[v] Ibid., 154, 137.

[vi] Ibid., 230

[vii] Mark Perry, Lift Up thy Voice (New York, Viking, 2001), 26.

[viii] Angelina Weld Grimké, “Biographical of Archibald H. Grimké,” Collected Works (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 431

[ix] Archibald H. Grimké papers, Series A, Box 39-1, Folder 5, Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

[x] Ibid., Series C, Box 39-3, Folder 76.

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Sarah in Boston– 2017 convention presentation updated

sarahinboston

Just as Letters to the Sage Volume Two was published I had the opportunity to talk about Sarah Stanley Grimke to a local audience, sharing the same slides as I had presented to the preconference before the 2017 Church of Light convention but adding a few new ones highlighting the contributors to the new volume.

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November 11, 1918

While the world honors the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I, I am thinking of the fact that the Brotherhood of Light was officially inaugurated on the date of the armistice that brought peace.  After fourteen years it changed its name to The Church of Light, but Elbert Benjamine’s lessons continued to be published as the Brotherhood of Light lessons.

Next summer at the biennial convention of The Church of Light we will have a preconference intensive focused on the mysteries surrounding authorship of The Light of Egypt, which was regarded as source material from Brotherhood teachings.  The return of Norman and Genevieve Astley to California from England the previous year seems related to the public emergence of the Brotherhood of Light, as Benjamine/Zain later described them as his mentors.  The attached notice is taken from the church website’s description of events planned for 2019.

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Kabbalah in the Ozarks by Vadim Putzu at Rice University conference 10/28-30

In recent months I have become aware of developments in Kabbalah scholarship that augur well for publications discussing the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and Max Theon by Israeli scholars.  Knowing that Vadim Putzu is now in Springfield at Missouri State University where the Johnson correspondence is archived is especially encouraging. Readers of Letters to the Sage will be pleased to know that Thomas Moore Johnson is his subject at the Kabbalah in America conference, which is preceded by a presentation by Julie Chajes of Tel Aviv University on Seth Pancoast, one of Johnson’s correspondents in Volume One. I look forward to learning more about the conference presentations after the fact, and hope to share updates on developments.  Boaz Huss of Ben Gurion University is working on multiple projects involving Max Theon, and is participating at the Rice conference delivering the keynote address featuring another individual of interest, Isaac Myer, who corresponded with Johnson.

 

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Alexander Wilder, the Platonist

Letters to the Sage, Volume Two is now available for order on Amazon.  Almost all the letters in this 438p volume are from Wilder to Thomas Moore Johnson; thirteen additional correspondents write letters to Wilder who then forwarded them to Johnson. This marks the end of a long journey of five and a half years, through more than 1300 pages of handwritten letters from 60 individuals. Contributors to the second volume include introduction author Ronnie Pontiac, glossary author Erica Georgiades, and co-editor Patrick Bowen.

Upcoming blog posts starting in December will excerpt the 25-page chronology I created to give context to the correspondence, but the next one will describe a late October conference of major significance to putting Thomas Moore Johnson and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor on the “radar screen” of academic scholars of religion.

 

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Blowing Rock Commemorates Genevieve Stebbins

As publication date approached for the Alexander Wilder letters, I began anticipating new directions for research once this multi-year project was completed.  High on my to-do list was getting down to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, to pursue traces of the part time residence there of Genevieve Stebbins and Norman Astley around the turn of the twentieth century.  Unexpectedly in late July I learned of an upcoming presentation by an academic scholar, Carrie Streeter at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum (BRAHM). Her topic Genevieve Stebbins was described in the attached notice on the website of the Museum.

On a weeknight it was encouraging to see 49 in attendance for an event that required an admission fee for non-members of the museum.  Carrie’s presentation was intriguing, and very well received.  I learned much more about Stebbins’s early life than I had known, and some details about her time in Blowing Rock that were completely new.

Publication date for the Wilder Letters is expected to be later this month and will be announced here and on the Letters to the Sage Facebook page.  The second print proofs are now in the mail, so final revisions should be finished by the last week of September. Streeter’s academic CV is found on her website carriestreeter.com

 

 

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Letters to the Sage, Volume Two goes to press

For the second volume, Alexander Wilder, the Platonist, I have been lead editor and as it goes to press this month the many contributors to the series are constantly in my thoughts.  The two volumes total 952 pages, with 60 correspondents, 465 letters, and 1038 footnotes and endnotes.  We started with 1318 pages of scanned handwriting.

Here is the section of the acknowledgments that tells something of how the series came to be.

The acknowledgments in Volume One of Letters to the Sage are reproduced here because everyone who assisted with that volume has also thereby assisted with the second, which relies on the same collection of letters, the same two libraries in Missouri, and the same research grants and support cited by the co-editors.  We would be remiss in not adding mentions of three individuals whose writing and editorial endeavors were independent of this project but which nonetheless deserve our gratitude. First and foremost is Ronnie Pontiac, whose introduction to the current volume builds on a series written for Newtopia Magazine in early 2013, just around the time when both co-editors of this volume were approaching the T.M Johnson correspondence. I had become interested in the Johnson Library and Museum the previous summer, after a research visit to Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Center in pursuit of information on Sarah Stanley Grimké; I hoped to consult the JLM to learn more about her connection to the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. Around the same time, Patrick Bowen’s Ph.D. dissertation research was leading him to Springfield, where the Missouri State University Library had recently obtained temporary custody of the Thomas M. Johnson correspondence in order to make digital copies. Patrick and I thus approached the same correspondence with different research objectives unknown to each other, and Ronnie’s articles on Johnson and friends approached them from yet another angle, serendipitously at the same time.   Erica Georgiades’s studies in both Theosophical history and Greek philosophy contributed from yet another direction of expertise, without which the editors would have be unable to discuss Wilder’s Greek scholarship.

The epilogue on Sarah Stanley Grimké draws on research at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, which holds a large collection of the correspondence of her husband and daughter, including the only known letters from Sarah and several about her from her father Moses Stanley and family friends Frances Pillsbury and Emma Austin Tolles. I am very grateful to my friend Marvin T. Jones for his hospitality in Washington and for accompanying me to Howard in 2012 and 2014, where we were welcomed by Chief Librarian and Curator JoEllen el-Bashir, Senior Archivist Ida E. Jones, and Library Technician Richard Jenkins.  In two visits to the Center we found the staff well informed and helpful about the Grimkés, which complemented research in the Mary Baker Eddy Library. My research for this project thus began with Grimké family correspondence at Howard in 2012, proceeded with the Johnson correspondence from Osceola in 2013, and concluded with three weeks of intense focus on the Eddy correspondence in 2014.  Successive immersion in three different sets of letters from the same period enriched my appreciation and understanding of all three.

My first acquaintance with the writings of Sarah Stanley Grimké resulted from a suggestion made by John Patrick Deveney, after I developed an interest in Thomas H. Burgoyne’s literary collaborators in 2011. During research for The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor (1995) he had encountered a rumor about a romantic and literary partnership between Burgoyne and Grimké. Marc Demarest acquired a rare copy of Esoteric Lessons which I scanned for IAPSOP.com, and after reading it encouraged me to pursue biographical research on its author which is reported in the epilogue to this volume.

 

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“The Mystic”– Bronson Alcott in Frothingham’s Transcendentalism in New England (1876)

Octavius Brooks Frothingham

This history of New England Transcendentalism by Octavius Brooks Frothingham first appeared in 1876, the year that Thomas Moore Johnson visited Concord to get better acquainted with Bronson Alcott and his associates.  It provides a uniquely intimate view of the founders of this literary and spiritual movement and is available in multiple free online editions. Here is an excerpt from the opening paragraphs of Frothingham’s chapter on Alcott.

THE MYSTIC.

If among the representatives of spiritual philosophy the first place belongs to Mr. Emerson, the second must be assigned to Mr. Amos Bronson Alcott,—older than Mr. Emerson by four years (he was born in 1779), a contemporary in thought, a companion, for years a fellow townsman, and, if that were possible, more purely and exclusively a devotee of spiritual ideas. Mr. Alcott may justly be called a mystic—one of the very small class of persons who accept without qualification, and constantly teach the doctrine of the soul’s primacy and pre-eminence. He is not a learned man, in the ordinary sense of the term; not a man of versatile mind or various tastes; not a man of general information in worldly or even literary affairs; not a man of extensive commerce with books. Though a reader, and a constant and faithful one, his reading has been limited to books of poetry—chiefly of the meditative and interior sort—and works of spiritual philosophy. Plato, Plotinus, Proclus, Jamblichus, Pythagoras, Boehme, Swedenborg, Fludd, Pordage, Henry More, Law, Crashaw, Selden, are the names oftener than any on his pages and lips. He early made acquaintance with Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and[Pg 250] never ceased to hold it exceedingly precious, at one period making it a rule to read the volume once a year…

Mr. Alcott is a thinker, interior, solitary, deeply conversant with the secrets of his own mind, like thinkers of his order, clear, earnest, but not otherwise than monotonous from the reiteration of his primitive ideas. We have called him a mystic. Bearing in mind the derivations of the word— μυειν—to brood, to meditate, to shut one’s self up in the recesses of consciousness, to sink into the depths of one’s own being for the purpose of exploring the world which that being contains; of discovering how deep and boundless it is, of meeting in its retreats the form of the Infinite Being who walks there in the evening, and makes his voice audible in the[Pg 251] mysterious whispers that breathe over its plains,—it well describes him. He is a philosopher of that school; instead of seeking wisdom by intellectual processes, using induction and deduction, and creeping step by step towards his goal,—he appeals at once to the testimony of consciousness, claims immediate insight, and instead of hazarding a doctrine which he has argued, announces a truth which he has seen; he studies the mystery of being in its inward disclosures, contemplates ultimate laws and fundamental data in his own soul.

While Mr. Emerson’s idealism was nourished—so far as it was supplied with nourishment from foreign sources—by the genius of India, Mr. Alcott’s was fed by the speculation of Greece. Kant was not his master, neither was Fichte nor Schelling, but Pythagoras rather; Pythagoras more than Plato, with whom, notwithstanding his great admiration, he is less intimately allied. He talks about Plato, he talks Pythagoras.

 

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Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Epoque

Tobias Churton is described by his current publisher as “Britain’s leader scholar of Western Esotericism, a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism.” His 2016 study Occult Paris is therefore based on many years of study and wide reading. This makes it uniquely valuable as a source of information on individuals in that city who contributed to the esoteric milieu of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Although there was little known contact between the French and American members of the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor after Max Theon relocated to Paris in 1886, two Parisians were especially significant among the spiritual ancestors of The Church of Light. Marie, Countess of Caithness, was associated with Emma Hardinge Britten during the 1870s and 80s and influenced Britten’s books Art Magic and Ghost Land.  Gerard Encausse, best known as Papus, was the most influential individual ever involved with the French HBofL,  although his greatest fame was as the chief proponent of Martinism.  Churton’s expertise on the esoteric subculture of fin-de-siecle Paris makes him a reliable guide to the labyrinth of orders and magi that flourished therein: Rosicrucians, Freemasons, Martinists all being relevant to the ancestry of the HBofL. From the publisher’s web page for the book:

Exploring the magical, artistic, and intellectual world of the Belle Époque, Tobias Churton shows how a wide variety of Theosophists, Rosicrucians, Martinists, Freemasons, Gnostics, and neo-Cathars called fin-de-siècle Paris home. He examines the precise interplay of occultists Joséphin Peladan, Papus, Stanislas de Guaïta, and founder of the modern Gnostic Church Jules Doinel, along with lesser known figures such as Saint-Yves d’Alveydre, Paul Sédir, Charles Barlet, Edmond Bailly, Albert Jounet, Abbé Lacuria, and Lady Caithness. 

The book is so information dense that it reads almost as a reference work rather than a narrative written for popular audiences, but in that role it has great value for filling in many blanks in my own understanding of the era and that of comparable readers. Churton’s subsequent book, Deconstructing Gurdjieff, is more chronological and less thematic, hence more fun to read.  I am pleased that he found useful and cited my own research relating Gurdjieff to Mme. Blavatsky. But for readers of this blog interested in getting deeper into the French background and associates of the spiritual ancestors of the CofL, Occult Paris provides a wealth of relevant and useful background that no other book to my knowledge offers, and perhaps no other author could. .

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Subtitle Change

After reviewing the tag cloud for this blog, I realized that the previous subtitle for History of the Adepts (the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor in America) was misleading because incomplete.  Truth in advertising would suggest a subtitle more representative of the actual content of blog posts over the years.  The HBofL was short-lived in the United States, lasting just over two decades. While the group occupies a pivotal position in the story of the 19th century roots of The Church of Light, it is by no means the sole predecessor organization. Its name was problematic in that the Hermetic content of the lessons was just one part of a broader synthesis, and Hermeticism thrived not in Luxor (upper Egypt) but in Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast.  After the HBofL in America dissolved in 1908-09 following the death of Alma Theon, it took a decade to regroup as the Brotherhood of Light which was formed officially on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. Then in November 1932 it was formally recognized as The Church of Light.

Source traditions for the Brotherhood of Light and The Church of Light are reflected in four authors specifically cited by Elbert Benjamine: Emma Hardinge Britten, Thomas H. Burgoyne, Sarah S. Grimke, and Genevieve Stebbins. Four other founders of the HBofL, Peter Davidson,  Hurrychund Chintamon, Thomas Moore Johnson, and Max Theon, identify several additional lines of spiritual influence.  Linking each with individual exponents, these would be 1) Spiritualism and Rosicrucianism (Britten) 2) Astrology and Tarot (Burgoyne) 3) New Thought and Transcendentalism (Grimke) 4) Yoga (Stebbins) 5) Freemasonry (Davidson), 6) Hinduism and Theosophy (Chintamon), 7) Hermeticism and Neoplatonism (Johnson) and 7) Kabbalah (Theon).

The short-lived HBofL was a microcosm of the macrocosm of the revival of esoteric traditions in late 19th century America. It was the sole direct ancestor of the Brotherhood of Light and Church of Light, but due to the diversity of its sources the collateral ancestry incorporates European and Asian esoteric teachings as well as several movements that emerged in late 19th century America. “Spiritual ancestors of The Church of Light” is therefore a more inclusive description of the range of topics covered in this blog than the previous subtitle.

 

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Anthony Hern– Acknowledgment and Gratitude

As we complete the second volume of Letters to the Sage, one enjoyable task has been writing additional acknowledgments for individuals and institutions whose assistance was crucial to research on the letters.  In this volume, there are twenty individuals and five institutions or organizations to thank, which is roughly average for my own books and the first volume of LTS.  In all the books I’ve authored or coedited, there are a total of 148 individuals and 58 institutions and organizations thanked in acknowledgments. Many of these were people I knew, and others communicated by correspondence or email. But the person who was my greatest literary benefactor was a man I never met, spoke to on the telephone, or communicated with by email, Anthony Hern of London, England. In 2000 he wrote a report of how his research at the Indian Office Library ended up being published in my book The Masters Revealed.

This research, undertaken in 1993, seems with hindsight to have been destined to occur. I live on the same street as the IOL building then was, and my long time friend Leslie Price had asked if I would do some research for him at the IOL, to follow up a lead he had been given in 1983 by Peter Hopkirk, author of a number of very readable books (‘The Great Game’ and ‘Silk Road to China’ etc.), that there may be records relating to Blavatsky in the IOL. I looked for and found the secret records of the British Government in India relating to HPB and Col Olcott’s visit to India in 1888/89 [sic-typo, 1878-9. KPJ.]

In addition K. Paul Johnson, who has known Leslie since 1986, was keen to see if there were any records in the IOL that would be relevant to his own research for his then forthcoming book ‘The Masters Revealed’ (SUNY Press 1994 ISBN 0791420639). Therefore, it was serendipity that we were also able to offer him the results of the main research that I had done at the IOL and it subsequently formed the basis of the third section of his book. Leslie Price and I considered that by allowing him to make use of the material we had found relating to HPB and Col. Olcott’s visit to India in 1888 [1878-9], we would be able to make the information widely available in the shortest possible time. We were also aware that we did not have the time, resources or enough subject matter to be able to produce a full blown book project. We also thought that, as K. Paul Johnson’s book dealt with the topic of likely candidates for HPB’s Masters, the information of the British India Government records relating to her travels in India at an important time, would be relevant to the theme of Paul’s book. Happily, Paul was amenable to our suggestion.

See the Blavatsky Archives for the full report by Hern.

Working on the acknowledgments for the Alexander Wilder letters has got me thinking about gratitude for decades of assistance from people all around the world.  At the time I wrote the various acknowledgments, I was grateful to the series of individuals who helped with individual projects. Now after decades of such help, I’m deeply thankful not just for the series of individuals who helped me, but for the fact that there were so many with such diverse expert knowledge. As stated in The Masters Revealed, first and foremost thanks for that book went to Mr. Hern and Leslie Price for adding the international diplomatic correspondence that was the core of the third section of the book.  Leslie continues to be a friend and benefactor to whom I can regularly give thanks. I am unable to thank Tony Hern personally as he died in 2008, but owe it to his memory to state that his research added enormously to the value of my SUNY Press books on Theosophy.  Since he wrote no other material on Theosophical history, his contribution is in danger of being forgotten so I want to make it clear that a treasure trove of 19th century letters was both “manna from heaven” for my research in the 1990s and an omen of the same kind of unexpected primary source discovery with Patrick Bowen and the Thomas Moore Johnson correspondence.

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New and Forthcoming Publications by Patrick D. Bowen

Collaborating with Patrick Bowen on Letters to the Sage has been a five year investment of time and energy, which we both look forward to completing this year. Meanwhile, he has two other recent publications in 2017 and another forthcoming in 2018. In Victorian Muslim Patrick addresses the milieu that led him to be interested in Thomas Moore Johnson: late 19th century Western converts to Islam.  Abdullah Quilliam, the most prominent figure in early British Muslim history, is the subject of a scholarly collection published by Hurst Publishing in England, and distributed internationally by Oxford University Press.  From the publisher’s description:

In this timely book, leading experts of the religion, history and politics of Islam offer new perspectives and shed fresh light on Quilliam’s life and work. Through a series of original essays, the authors critically examine Quilliam’s influences, philosophy and outlook, the significance of his work for Islam, his position in the Muslim world and his legacy. Collectively, the authors ask pertinent questions about how conversion to Islam was viewed and received historically, and how a zealous convert like Quilliam negotiated his religious and national identities and sought to indigenise Islam in a non-Muslim country.

Patrick’s chapter, “Abdullah Quilliam and the Rise of International Esoteric-Masonic Islamophilia,” identifies Quilliam as a member of more than a dozen fringe Masonic groups, most of them associated with John Yarker. This connects him to Letters to the Sage through Yarker’s correspondence with Johnson and their shared interest in Sufism (although Johnson was not a Mason.)

The second of three volumes of Patrick’s History of Conversion to Islam in the United States is subtitled: The African American Islamic Renaissance, 1920-1975.  Published by Brill Publications in the Netherlands, the book (in the words of the publisher’s website)

offers an in-depth account of African American Islam as it developed in the United States during the fifty-five years that followed World War I. Having been shaped by a wide variety of intellectual and social influences, the ‘African American Islamic Renaissance’ appears here as a movement that was characterized by both great complexity and diversity. Drawing from a wide variety of sources—including dozens of FBI files, rare books and periodicals, little-known archives and interviews, and even folktale collections—Patrick D. Bowen disentangles the myriad social and religious factors that produced this unprecedented period of religious transformation.

More directly relevant to Letters to the Sage is a chapter Patrick contributed to a forthcoming 2018 publication from Oxford University Press, Imagining the East: the Early Theosophical Society.  The chapter title, `”The real pure Yog”: Yoga in the Early TS and H.B. of L.’ is taken from a question asked by  Josephine Cables in one of her letters to Thomas Moore Johnson. Here is a summary by the author:

This chapter argues two main points: First, that the H.B. of L., the Western occult order that was the main competitor of the TS in the 1880s, obtained an interest in yoga directly from its being promoted in the Theosophist magazine in the early 1880s. Second, that, as a result of this Theosophical influence, in 1885 the H.B. of L. became possibly the first Western organization to require the study and practice yoga for all of its members. Using previously unmined letters of early members of the TS and the H.B. of L., this chapter traces the history of yoga in these organizations. Yoga was introduced into the Western organized occult community in the early 1880s when considerable attention was paid to it in the pages of the Theosophist. This led to some English and American readers of the journal to start independently studying yoga. Then, in 1885, the newly-formed H.B. of L., a Theosophist-heavy organization that focused on practical occultism, began instructing members to read about and practice Theosophy-connected forms of yoga as a way to prepare for occult initiation. After 1885, the order ceased explicitly recommending yoga, but it retained some of the practices and ideas that it had originally gained from yoga, incorporating them into its revised teachings. Meanwhile, when some of the early members of the H.B. of L. left the group, such as Rev. William Ayton, they continued to take an interest in yoga and encourage others to study and practice it. In fact, it appears that it was primarily through Ayton that Aleister Crowley and other British occultists became interested in yoga.  

I will also have a chapter in the same collection, “Theosophy in the Bengal Renaissance,” which relates to the second volume of LTS through Alexander Wilder’s admiration for Peary Chand Mitra which features in several of his letters.

 

 


							
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The Most Valuable Five Pages I Ever Wrote

 

This week a random thought led me to look on Amazon for a four volume reference book to which I contributed a biographical entry in 2005. The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers, published by Thoemmes Press in Bristol, England, contains 2698 pages of which my entry on Helena Blavatsky occupies just under five. It was extremely encouraging to be invited to contribute in such august company, as almost all the 500+ contributors were academicians. But the official price for a new copy from Bloomsbury Publishing (which succeeds Thoemmes in a merger) is $1620.00, while the 2010 online edition, published after Bloomsbury was included under the Oxford University Press online imprimatur, is $975.99.

Just knowing I’d contributed one among 1086 entries made me want to see the physical book or the electronic version someday but the prices were well beyond anything I’d consider. However, I found a used copy for $58 and ordered it as a resource for the final annotations to the Letters to the Sage volume 2, written by Alexander Wilder. Wilder does not appear in the entries, but seven people of major interest in the forthcoming Wilder collection do: Bronson Alcott, Borden P. Bowne, Moncure Conway (of special interest to me as the only Transcendentalist Virginian of note), Mary Baker Eddy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Torrey Harris, and William James.

I expected it to be a USED copy but it was totally pristine and unused so it is especially pleasant to handle while checking for details to add to the footnotes of the Wilder letters about people he mentions. All of his acquaintances mentioned in the letters fall into the 1860-1960 time frame of the Dictionary and many were “modern American philosophers” so it could be a gold mine of information for a lot of minor characters. I will be writing future blog entries about some of the seven figures of special interest, but for a month will be diving into this treasure trove for background on our entire cast of correspondents.

 

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