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.