Battling Ladies of the 19th Century - Fighting Over Epicurus vs Plato - "PHILOTHEA - Or Plato Against Epicurus" - A Response to Frances Wright's "A Few Days In Athens"

  • I have just come upon this and I hardly know what to make of it other than that we need to investigate! Joshua this (transcendentalism) is definitely your department, and Don we need your help too, since the book is clearly out of copyright but I cannot find a full PDF to download.

    The title of my post is not mere sensationalism - it appears that this woman decided to directly respond to Frances Wright's "A Few Days in Athens" with a novel taking Plato's side! If so very perceptive to have arrayed Plato against Epicurus rather than the Stoics.

    Take a look at this (I can't figure out the etching -- unless "Lydia Maria" is a man! - in which case I will have to revise the title....

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Battling Ladies of the 19th Century - Fighting Over Epicurus vs Plato - "PHILOTHEA - Or Plato Against Epicurus" - A Reso” to “Battling Ladies of the 19th Century - Fighting Over Epicurus vs Plato - "PHILOTHEA - Or Plato Against Epicurus" - A Response to Frances Wright's "A Few Days In Athens"”.
  • One interesting thing I note is that this book apparently indicates that Frances Wright's book was issued in two parts, first chapters one through twelve, and then chapters thirteen through sixteen later. If so that is news to me.

  • Googling, I found Philothea, A Grecian Romance by L. Maria Child as a free PDF. It might be a different edition of the same story, apparently without the Transcendentalist commentary. Although the commentary could be as interesting as the book!

    One note: in her preface she notes that she wrote the book for her own pleasure :)

  • Yes I am seeing a Gutenberg text edition which may have the main story. But you are right that the PDF version I mentioned in the first post seems to have a lot of background material.

    I can say this after reading the first chapter. She exceeds Frances Wright in terms of writing flowery introductions - and that is not a compliment!

  • The Frontispiece is from an early portrait of Henry David Thoreau which, as you suggest, Cassius, I would know anywhere! The book itself, and its author, are totally unknown to me.

  • I don't know that I can quite get on board with identifying Thoreau as a Platonist or a neoplatonist. He was eclectic in the extreme (not to say eccentric), and seemed far more interested in the mysticism of the east than the philosophy of the west. He also denied the afterlife in one unusually candid journal entry.

    I think he's decidedly more Aristotelian in many ways.

  • IT's going to take some time and effort for us to wade through this text, which may be longer than AFDIA with the philosophy buried under lots of layers of fiction. May well turn out to be worth doing but I want to go through the notes that are apparently added on before going into the text.

  • i am close to resigning myself to reporting that the title "Plato Against Epicurus" is true only in the most abstract sense. While it does appear that Childs had in mind the writing of a proper response to "A Few Days In Athens," she did so by constructing an entirely self-contained story set in the time of Pericles and Plato, and there is no mention of Epicurus whatsoever. I can tell already that in having Plato speak she is emphasizing doctrines that are clearly non-Epicurean, but there seems to be little if any point and counterpoint, and no real effort to compare much of anything from the two doctrines. it's going to take someone highly motivated to wade through the story to look for passages of philosophic importance, and I doubt it makes sense to prioritize this while there is so much else to be done.

  • OMG you don't know how well "taking one for the team" applies. Compared to "Philothea," "A Few Days In Athens" is an action-packed thriller written in the plain and unadorned language of a cowboy talking about the showdown at the OK Corral.

    I am afraid that Philothea captures all the ooziness that I have always associated with the world of "Transcendentalism." I am afraid I don't have the temperament for it.

    I bet that it would probably be possible to go through it and pull out the descriptions and statements of Philothea (the lead character) and Plato (a major character) and we would find lots of good illustrations that could be laid against comparisons from Epicurus / AFDIA. But "taking one for the team" would hardly describe the effort required.

    It would probably take someone like Joshua (with his experience in Thoreau) to even have a hope of getting very far, and I suspect he would think his time would be far more valuably spent elsewhere.

    I probably overstate the hurdle but I do think it would take someone with a strong interest in the project for some personal reason. There are so many other important things to tend to I can't see it being near the top of anyone's list.

    We very much need time spent on the *real* Plato to pull out this very same comparison, so doing it in a fictional setting probably needs to wait.

    But if anyone comes across this thread and wants to tackle it, the project would be very unique and probably even very productive.