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1837.] Mrs. Child's Philothea. 77 



Art. V. — Philothea, a Romance. By Mrs. Child, 
Author of " The Mother's Book," &c. Boston ; Otis, 
Broaders, & Co. 1836. 12rao. pp. 284. 

The early writings of Mrs. Child gave brilliant promise of 
future eminence in the path of imaginative literature. The lit- 
tle tale of "Hobomok" contains passages of pathos and power, 
which are certainly extraordinary, coming from so young and 
untried an, hand. Notwithstanding some serious defects in the 
plot, the numerous excellences of the work, its copious, vig- 
orous, and eloquent style, and the rare descriptive talent it 
manifested, placed its gifted and youthful authoress, at once, 
among our most promising writers of fiction. This romance 
was followed, at a considerable interval, by the tale of " The 
Rebels " ; and public curiosity was strongly excited, to know if 
this second appearance would sustain the reputation won by the 
first. If we remember rightly, the reading circles were some- 
what disappointed ; but still the same vigorous expression, 
lively fancy, and copious eloquence, which charmed the readers 
of " Hobomok," were undeniably exhibited. It was naturally 
supposed that a career, so auspiciously commenced, in the 
fascinating pursuit of literary renown, would be followed out, 
until the authoress's fully developed powers had assumed their 
rightful station in the literature of the country. In this, our 
expectations were not fulfilled. With the exception of a few 
short tales and poems, — a few slender veins that served only 
to show the riches of the mine beneath the surface, — Mrs. 
Child added nothing to the elegant literature of the day. It 
was a subject of some surprise and more regret, that one so 
well qualified to adorn the path she liad apparently chosen, 
should have deserted it so soon. " The practical tendencies 
of the age," she remarks, in an elegantly written preface, 
" and particularly of the country in which I lived, have so 
continually forced me into the actual, that my mind has sel- 
dom obtained freedom to rise into the ideal." Mrs. Child's 
works, subsequent to the publication of "The Rebels," hardly 
come within the scope of this Journal, and we therefore pass 
at once to the new novel, the title of which stands at the 
head of this article. We cannot, however, allow the occasion 
to pass by, without expressing our pleasure at meeting Mrs. 
Child again in the calm and gladsome light of literature. 



78 Mrs. Child's Phihthea. [Jan. 

This novel, as its title indicates, is an attempt to paint the 
manners and life of Grecian classical times. The attempt is 
a bold one, and of a kind rarely attended with much success. 
Mr. Lockhart's "Valerius" is a splendid and powerful delin- 
eation of the first age of the Christian religion. But there was 
an element at work among the fragments of the institutions of 
early classical times, which connected the feelings of that 
period with the predominant feelings of later ages. It was 
not, therefore, so hard a task to give a living picture of that 
period, as Mrs. Child has undertaken in her romance. Mr. 
Bulwer's" Pompeii "has the advantage of describing a wonder- 
ful and terrible event in the physical world, of which an eye- 
witness has left us a striking memorial. He too deals with the 
sufferings of the early Christians, and his work is but slightly 
tinctured with the coloring of classical antiquity. It is a bril- 
liant and gorgeous succession of pictures, but has none of the 
calm and majestic strength of the old masters. Indeed, to 
revive the scenes of historical or classical interest, with a 
fidelity which shall satisfy the imagination and heart, demands 
a power of intellect, that few novel-writers possess. A Mil- 
ton, a Goethe, a Talfourd can do it. Original genius is not the 
only thing needed ; to that must be added minute and thorough 
learning, and a power of keenly searching into the spirit of 
other days. Critical skill must yield the treasures of its long 
and painful investigations ; imagination must summon the forms 
of the departed, and the severest taste must represent them in 
the shapes of historical truth. The classical novelist must 
know how to go beyond the circle of his daily associations, 
and lay aside the feehngs of the modern. He must contem- 
plate life, art, society, and religion under an aspect wholly dif- 
ferent from that, to which his mind has been accustomed from 
his boyish days. He must renounce himself, and transform 
his being, for the time, into the great original he draws. He 
must be able to contemplate the scenes he describes objective- 
ly, as the Germans call it. An egotist, like Lord Byron, 
would find it utterly impossible to write a classical novel. In- 
deed, the universal uproar of this age of new things, in which 
every individual is fighting under his own banner, and means 
to make the most of his chance to better his condition, renders 
the attempt to recall the serene spirit of beauty, which, in our 
imaginations at least, is breathed over the manners, arts, and 
literature of the classical world, peculiarly hazardous, and any 



1837.] Mrs. Child's Philothea. 79 

degree of success peculiarly honorable to the genius of the 
aspirant after that kind of literary fame. 

Mrs. Child has some intellectual traits, which are well suit- 
ed to success in this field of literary enterprise. She has 
a vigorous and exuberant imagination, and an accurate 
eye for beauty of form. She understands the harmonious 
construction of language, and can describe both nature and 
society with liveliness and truth. Her style, in its general 
character, is rich and eloquent ; abounding in brilliant turns 
and fanciful illustrations. It is generally simple, energetic, 
and impressive, but sometimes it is too dazzling. In fact, the 
copiousness of her imagination, and the ardor of her feelings, 
which lend such power to her enthusiastic eloquence, in a 
measure injure her style for classical novel-writing. It is de- 
ficient in repose ; we must use that word for want of a better. 
Classical scholars feel that ancient literature is deeply impress- 
ed with the peculiar quality, which can be described in its 
effect by that word alone. The study of the best classics 
soothes and solemnizes the mind like the contemplation of na- 
ture, or the presence of a gallery of ancient statues, standing 
before us in the marble stillness of centuries ; and our imagi- 
nation craves the same impressive effect in a work that essays 
to recall the spirit of classical times. In this point of view, 
it appears to us that Mrs. Child has not been entirely success- 
ful. She has not gone out of her peculiar feelings and opin- 
ions far enough to give us something thoroughly Greek. We 
trace distinctly enough certain ways of thinking, that belong, 
not merely to modern times, but to Mrs. Child herself. 
Through the whole work, we are threading the mazes of an 
imaginative faith, and a transcendental philosophy, partly Pla- 
tonic, partly Swedenborgian. This influence has guided her 
in forming the leading characters, and in constructing the dis- 
courses and dialogues, in which their peculiarities are unfolded. 

The time selected by Mrs. Child is the most brilliant pe- 
riod in the history of Athens. Pericles, the master statesman 
of the ancient world, is at the head of affairs, swaying the des- 
tinies of the tumultuous republic. Plato teaches philosophy 
in the Academy, and Phidias builds the temples and carves the 
statues of the gods. Aspasia captivates the gravest sages by 
her beauty, wit, and eloquence, and well nigh overthrows the 
ancient severity of female manners, by introducing among the 
matrons and maidens of the violet-crowned city, the unheard-of 



80 Mrs. Child's Philothea. [Jan. 

freedom of appearing unveiled at the symposia of the wits. 
Tragedy and Comedy have arrived at the highest point of 
cultivation, and all the arts connected with them are elaborated 
till the hand of genius can go no further. The courts of jus- 
tice and the assemblies of the people are thronged by busy, 
inquisitive crowds, for whose entertainment, instruction, or 
corruption, the orators and demagogues are continually at 
work. Swarms of Sophists teach the young men the subtil- 
ties of their pernicious art, against which the keen dialectic 
weapons, forged in the Socratic workshop, ban scarcely 
avail. Strangers throng to Athens from every part of the 
world, to gaze on her wondrous citadel, and the majestic forms 
of her gods. Ambassadors lay the pompous homage of de- 
pendent colonies and semibarbarous nations at her feet. Such 
is the splendid age, in which the scene of Mrs. Child's novel 
is laid. Such are the gorgeous but somewhat indefinite pic- 
tures which the page of history unfolds to us ; and so far the 
character of the age is sufficiently intelligible. But to go be- 
neath this gay and glittering surface, and detect the elements 
at work there ; to follow the statesman from the agora or the 
courts, to the scenes of domestic life ; to accompany the phi- 
losopher from his walk beneath the grove, to his private resi- 
dence, or nightly revel ; to detect beneath the plausible 
exterior of pompous religious rites, the lurking imposture, or 
the sneer of skepticism ; to unravel the threads of apologue, 
irony, playfulness, and symbolical expression in the discourses 
of the philosophers, and learn the almost hidden truth they 
would teach ; to judge truly and delineate strongly the influ- 
ence of woman, both in the strict seclusion of the austere 
lovers of the olden times, and in the free circles of the Aspa- 
sias ; to unfold the secret of that amazingly rapid growth of 
art and letters, which has made Athens and the age of Peri- 
cles for ever illustrious, — were a task for the mightiest genius, 
the profoundest knowledge, the most delicate taste. To say 
that Mrs. Child has not done all this, is far enough from calling 
in question either her ability or learning. 

The main interest of the tale centres in the fortunes of Phi- 
lothea, the heroine, and a subordinate interest is kept up by 
an underplot, in which are developed the character and ad- 
ventures of Eudora, Philothea's friend and companion. The 
heroine is the granddaughter of the philosopher Anaxagoras, 
and is represented as having been educated by him with sedu- 



1837.] Mrs. Child's Philothea. 81 

lous care. Eudora is a member of the family of Phidias, the 
sculptor, having been purchased by him in early childhood, 
and trained up in his own household. Paralus, the son of 
Pericles, has been under the instruction of Anaxagoras, and 
an attachment has been formed between him and Philothea. 
The young man is compelled to subdue his affections to the 
bidding of parental ambition, and resign all thoughts of marry- 
ing Philothea. An attachment has also sprung up between 
Eudora and a wealthy young Athenian, Philaemon, whose 
mother is a Corinthian by birth. Philaemon is summoned be- 
fore the court of Cynosarges, and condemned to lose his es- 
tates and the privileges of an Athenian citizen, in consequence 
of a slight taint of foreign blood in his veins. The tale opens 
with a scene in which the two maidens are watching the return 
of Philaemon and his friends from the court. 

Meantime the witty and wicked Lothario of Athens, Alci- 
biades, has been struck with the beauty of Eudora, and deter- 
mines to win her to his base purposes. The splendor of his 
name and rank, the grace of his person, and the captivating 
power of his eloquence, have already partially dazzled the 
imagination of the simple-hearted maiden, before her firmer 
friend, Philothea, is aware of the danger. This is the source 
of distress in the plot. To facilitate his libertine designs, Alcibi- 
ades persuades Aspasia to have both Philothea and Eudora 
present at one of her symposia. The description of this re- 
union is one of the most striking portions of the book. The 
characters that figure in it are among the most illustrious of 
that period of Athenian history. Pericles and Aspasia, Plato, 
Anaxagoras, and Alcibiades, with numerous others ; an Ethio- 
pian of distinction ; the Persian ambassador ; Phidias the 
sculptor, and the two maidens, are present and partake of the 
conversation and festivities of the night. Alcibiades per- 
suades the credulous Eudora that he will repudiate his wife 
and marry her ; and Philothea finds it impossible at first to 
dispel the delusion. She grants him an interview, which is 
interrupted accidentally by Philaemon, her lover. The infat- 
uated damsel is only aroused to a sense of her danger by over- 
hearing a conversation at the house of Aspasia, between her 
and Alcibiades, in which her own name is coupled with that 
of Electra, a courtezan of Corinth. In the mean time, Philae- 
mon, shocked at the discovery he has accidentally made, and 
disgusted with the unjust treatment to which he has been sub- 

VOL. XLIV. — NO. 94. 11 



82 Mrs. Child's Philothea. [Jan. 

jected by the court of Cynosarges, prepares to leave his 
country and seek a refuge at the Persian court. 

A prosecution is now instituted against the most confiden- 
tial friends of Pericles, by the enemies of the great statesman. 
Anaxagoras, Phidias, even Aspasia herself, are summoned be- 
fore the people to answer to various charges, brought against 
them by the intrigues of a powerful faction, who aimed at the 
political destruction of Pericles. The issue of the prosecu- 
tion is the banishment of Phidias, who retires to Elis, and of 
Anaxagoras, who takes up his abode in Lampsacus. Soon 
after, the plague breaks out in Athens, and rages through the 
city, sparing neither high nor low, neither age nor sex. 
Among other illustrious victims is Paralus, the son of Pericles, 
and lover of Philothea. He is left by the awful disease in a 
state of utter helplessness. He retains no recollection of the 
past, save the memory of his lost Philothea. He has no per- 
ception of the objects of sense around him, but is perpetually 
visited with delightful visions from the land of spirits. The 
haughty spirit of Pericles is subdued by these domestic 
calamities ; and he forthwith sends Plato on an embassy, to 
express his earnest wish that Philothea will return to Athens 
and marry his now helpless son. She readily, nay joyfully 
consents, in the hope that she may assist in restoring his shat- 
tered intellect to a healthy tone. She arrives in Athens, and 
is united to Paralus with due solemnities. Pericles, with 
Paralus and Philothea, accompanied by Plato and others, 
journey to Olympia, hoping to benefit the 'health of the suffer- 
er by the stirring scene of the games, and the old associations 
of which they may touch the chord. At Elis they encounter 
Eudora, living in seclusion after the death of Phidias her pro- 
tector. The experiment is unsuccessful, and Paralus dies. 
The mourning party return to Athens, where the funeral honors 
are completed, and the urn, containing the ashes of the best 
beloved son of Pericles, is deposited in his ancestral tomb. 
Philothea gradually wastes away, and soon dies. Eudora is again 
exposed to the persecution of Alcibiades, by whose hirelings 
she is seized and carried forcibly to Salamis. She is rescued 
from this perilous prison by her faithful Geta, but is so swiftly 
pursued that she is compelled to take refuge in Creusa's grot- 
to, where she remains some time. Here she receives a super- 
natural visitation from Paralus and Philothea, and is warned by 
them to seek Artaphemes the Persian. She obeys the celes- 



1837.] Mrs. Child's Philothea. 83 

tial intimation, and finds in Artaphernes her father. After this 
developement she returns with him to Persia, and is at length 
united to her lover, who is in high favor at the Persian court. 

This very brief sketch will give some idea of the ground- 
work, on which Mrs. Child has raised the superstructure of 
her story. It is obvious that she has introduced upon her can- 
vass the figures of mighty historical characters, who will task 
all the vigor of her pencil. How has she succeeded .' We 
have already spoken in general terms of her style. In this 
book it has all its characteristic beauty and force. It is mu- 
sical and significant. The glories of Athens are described in 
language fresh and sparkling, like the radiant forms of art, 
which filled the proud city. The imagery she draws around 
her scenes, and the associations she awakens, are in strict keep- 
ing with the time, the character, and the place. She has mas- 
tered all the learning requisite to the preserving of the outward 
proprieties, and the allusions and scenery are fastidiously cor- 
rect. Indeed, it may justly be said, that she is too laboriously 
classical in minute details ; in her Atticism, she is hyper- Attic, 
and might be known for a foreigner on classic ground, as Theo- 
phrastus was hailed " Stranger " by a fishwoman of Athens, 
in consequence of the elaborate finish of his pronunciation. 
The general idea of each of her historical characters seems to 
us historically correct ; but the details are not always so. The 
picture of the age is in the main truly colored ; yet there are 
many features, in the character of the times, which are not suf- 
ficiently brought out. Thus the plague, of which Thucydides 
has given so true and masterly a description, opens scenes and 
presents contrasts that might have been used with great effect ; 
and the trial of the friends of Pericles might have been describ- 
ed at greater length, and with more fulness of detail. In the 
course of the story, we think that love, in the modern accep- 
tation of the word, plays far too conspicuous a part. The 
gallantries of Alcibiades are too much like the intrigues of a 
modern rake ; and the perils and rescue of Eudora, would be 
in place in a novel of the last century. 

The two characters on which Mrs. Child has expended the 
most care and labor, are evidently those of Plato and Philo- 
thea. So far as her portrait of the philosopher goes, it is un- 
questionably correct ; but, led by some elective affinity, she 
has selected a few of Plato's philosophical doctrines, and re- 
presented his character only through their medium. The conse- 



84 Mrs. Child's Philothea. [Jan. 

quence is, that the Sage of the Academy appears but in one 
light. He is for ever the mystic and the moralizer, with a dash 
of sentiment that almost unmans him. Whether discoursing 
with the carousers at the Symposium, or with the young ladies, 
on a journey, or at Lampsacus, he perpetually arrays his har- 
angues with fanciful analogies, and mystic intimations, and 
poetical rhapsodies. He drags in, seasonably and out of sea- 
son, his strange notions about preexisteuce and the connex- 
ion between the spiritual and outer world ; but he never ap- 
pears like a man engaged with the actual business of life, or 
capable of discussing the high themes of policy ; never as a 
master for statesmen, or teacher of science to vigorous-minded 
youth. But this is a partial view of Plato's character ; true 
as far as it goes, and false in its general effect. The themes 
he is made to touch upon exclusively, he did discuss occasion- 
ally ; they formed a part, but not the whole of his philosophy. 
He indulged his imagination, it is true, with an occasional 
flight into an ideal world ; but he was at times a severe logician, 
and a practical dealer with stubborn facts. In the exuberance 
of his genius, he would even run riot in beautiful visions, and 
fantastic theories ; but he could come down to the elaborate 
discussion of scientific principles, and many of the weighti- 
est arguments, on the most solemn questions of the destiny of 
man, are wrought out by him with an amazing vigor of under- 
standing. Now, as in his writings Plato is often full of plain 
practical common sense, it is a fair inference that his common 
conversation partook largely of the same character ; and in 
this respect we think that our author has not given a full and 
complete view, or even a justly proportioned view, of his intel- 
lectual consdtution. 

Philothea is a beautiful creation. A woman of great per- 
sonal loveliness, educated in the midst of all the influences that 
can refine the imagination, deeply imbued with the more spirit- 
ual part of the Platonic philosophy, in daily communion with 
all of wit and genius that the best portion of Athenian society 
could offer, she rises before us, a being of such pure beauty, 
that we think of her not as of a daughter of this world, but as 
a child of the skies. The character is drawn with a deli- 
cate perception of the minutest proprieties and the finest shades. 
No discordant act breaks the harmony of her being ; no harsh 
or violent sentiment, no wild passion, mingles with the gentlr 
tone of her daily thoughts. The supernatural incidents thi . 



1837.] Mrs. Child's Philothea. 85 

occur after her death, are a beautiful finale to the rich music 
of her life. But can we realize the character r does it belong 
to human life, and Attic life ? No. It is a lovely dream of 
Mrs. Child's imagination. 

We might go on still further, but our readers will be better 
satisfied with some specimens of the book. We cannot 
leave it, however, without expressing our persuasion that it 
will take a permanent place in our elegant literature ; for, 
though deficient in some points of execution, it has the vital 
qualities that will save it from the common doom. Every 
page of it breathes the inspiration of genius, and shows a high- 
ly cultivated taste, in literature and art. The structure of its 
style is such as belongs only to a mind of fresh and vigorous 
powers ; and the greatest fault of its plot, — its tendency to 
an excessive idealism, — will perhaps scarcely abate its popu- 
larity. 

" The room in which the guests were assembled, was furnish- 
ed with less of Asiatic splendor than the private apartment of As- 
pasia; but in its magnificent simplicity, there was a more perfect 
manifestation of ideal beauty. It was divided in the middle by 
eight Ionic columns, alternately of Phrygian and Pentelic marble. 
Between the central pillars stood a superb statue from the hand 
of Phidias, representing Aphrodite guided by Love and crowned 
by the goddess of Persuasion. Around the walls were Phoebus 
and Hermes in Parian marble, and the nine Muses in ivory. A 
fountain of perfumed water from the adjoining room dilTused 
coolness and fragrance as it passed through a number of con- 
cealed pipes, and finally flowed into a magnificent vase, support- 
ed by a troop of Naiades. 

" In a recess stood the famous lion of Myron, surrounded by 
infant loves, playing with his paws, climbing his back, and deco- 
rating his neck with garlands. This beautiful group seemed 
actually to live and move in the clear light and deep shadows 
derived from a silver lamp suspended above. 

" The walls were enriched with some of the choicest paintings 
of Apollodorus, Zeuxis, and Polygnotus. Near a fine likeness 
of Pericles, by Aristolaus, was Aspasia, represented as Chlo- 
ris scattering flowers over the earth, and attended by winged 
Hours. 

" It chanced that Pericles himself reclined beneath his portrait, 
and though political anxiety had taken from his countenance 
something of the cheerful freshness which characterized the pic- 
ture, he still retained the same elevated beauty, — the same deep, 



86 Mrs. Child's Philothea. [Jan. 

quiet expression of intellectual power. At a short distance, with 
his arm resting on the couch, stood his nephew Alcibiades, de- 
servedly called the handsomest man in Athens. lie was laugh- 
ing with Hermippus, the comic writer, whose shrewd, sarcastic, 
and mischievous face was expressive of his calling. Phidias 
slowly paced the room, talking of the current news with the Per- 
sian Artaphernes. Anaxagoras reclined near the statue of Aph- 
rodite, listening and occasionally speaking to Plato, who leaned 
against one of the marble pillars, in earnest conversation with 
a learned Ethiopian. 

" The gorgeous apparel of the Asiatic and African guests, 
contrasted strongly with the graceful simplicity of Grecian cos- 
tume. A saffron-colored mantle and a richly embroidered Me- 
dian vest glittered on the person of the venerable Artaphernes. 
Tithonus, the Ethiopian, wore a skirt of ample folds, which 
scarcely fell below the knee. It was of the glorious Tyrian hue, 
resembling a crimson light shining through transparent purple. 
The edge of the garment was curiously wrought with golden 
palm leaves. It terminated at the waist in a large roll, twined 
with massive chains of gold, and fastened by a clasp of the far- 
famed Ethiopian topaz. The upper part of his person was un- 
covered and unornaraented, save by broad bracelets of gold, 
which formed a magnificent contrast with the sable color of his 
vigorous and finely-proportioned limbs. 

" As the ladies entered, the various groups came forward to 
meet them ; and all were welcomed by Aspasia with earnest 
cordiality and graceful self-possession. While the brief saluta- 
tions were passing, Hipparete, the wife of Alcibiades, came from 
an inner apartment, where she had been waiting for her hostess. 
She was a fair, amiable young matron, evidently conscious of her 
high rank. The short blue tunic, which she wore over a lemon- 
colored robe, was embroidered with golden grasshoppers ; and on 
her forehead sparkled a jewelled insect of the same species. 
It was the emblem of unmixed Athenian blood ; and Hipparete 
alone, of all the ladies present, had a right to wear it. Her man- 
ners were an elaborate copy of Aspasia ; but deprived of the pow- 
erful charm of unconsciousness, which flowed like a principle of 
life into every motion of that beautiful enchantress." — pp.34- 36. 

" At a signal from Plato, slaves filled the goblets with wine, 
and he rose to propose the usual libation to the gods. Every 
Grecian guest joined in the ceremony, singing in a recitative 

tone: 

Dionysus, this to thee, 
God of warm festivity ! 
Giver of tlie fruitful vine. 
To thee we pour the rosy wine ! 



1837.] Mrs. Child's Philothea. 87 

"Music, from the adjoining room, struck in with the chorus, 
and continued for some moments after it had ceased. 

" For a short time, the conversation was confined to the courte- 
sies of the table, as the guests partook of the delicious viands 
before them. Plato ate olives and bread only ; and the water he 
drank was scarcely tinged with Lesbian wine. Alcibiades ralli- 
ed him upon this abstemiousness ; and Pericles reminded him 
that even his great pattern, Socrates, gave Dionysus his dues, 
while he worshipped the heaven-born Pallas. 

" The philosopher quietly replied, ' I can worship the fiery God 
of Vintage, only when married with Nymphs of the Fountain.' 

" ' But tell me, O Anaxagoras and Plato,' exclaimed Tithonus, 
' if, as Hermippus hath said, the Grecian philosophers discard 
the theology of the poets ? Do ye not believe in the gods ? ' 

" Plato would have smiled, had he not reverenced the simpli- 
city that expected a frank and honest answer to a question so 
dangerous. Anaxagoras briefly replied, that the mind which 
did not believe in divine beings must be cold and dark indeed. 

" ' Even so, ' replied Artaphernes devoutly ; ' blessed be Oro- 
masdes, who sends Mithras to warm and enlighten the world ! 
But what surprises me most is, that you Grecians import new 
divinities from other countries as freely as slaves, or papyrus, or 
marble. The sculptor of the gods will scarcely be able to fash- 
ion half the images.' 

"'If the custom continues,' rejoined Phidias, 'it will indeed 
require a life-time as long as that conferred upon the namesake 
of Tithonus.' 

" ' Thanks to the munificence of artists, every deity has a rep- 
resentative in my dwelling,' observed Aspasia. 

" ' I have heard strangers express their surprise that^he Athe- 
nians have never erected a statue to the principle of Modesty,' 
said Hermippus. 

" ' So much the more need that we enshrine her image in our 
own hearts,' rejoined Plato. 

" The sarcastic comedian made no reply to this quiet re- 
buke. Looking toward Artaphernes, he continued : ' Tell me, 
O servant of the great king, wherein the people of your country 
are more wise in worshipping the sun, than we, who represent 
the same divinity in marble 1 ' 

" ' The principles of the Persian religion are simple, steady, 
and uniform,' replied Artaphernes; 'but the Athenian are 
always changing. You not only adopt foreign gods, but some- 
times create new ones, and admit them into your theology by 
solemn act of the great council. These circumstances have led 
me to suppose that you worship them as mere forms. The Per- 



88 Mrs. Child's Philothea. [Jan. 

sian Magi do indeed prostrate themselves before the rising Sun ; 
but they do it in the name of Oromasdes, the universal Princi- 
ple of Good, of whom that great luminary is the visible symbol. 
In our solemn processions, the chariot sacred to Oromasdes pre- 
cedes the horse dedicated to Mithras ; and there is deep meaning 
in the arrangement. The Sun and the Zodiac, the Balance and 
the Rule, are but emblems of truths, mysterious and eternal. 
As the garlands we throw on the sacred fire feed the flame, 
rather than extinguish it, so the sublime symbols of our religion 
are intended to preserve, not to conceal, the truths within them.' 

" ' Though you disclaim all images of divinity,' rejoined Aspa- 
sia, 'yet we hear of your Mithras pictured like a Persian king, 
trampling on a prostrate ox.' 

"With a smile, Artaphernes replied, 'I see, lady, that yoti 
would fain gain admittance to the Mithraic cave ; but its secrets, 
like those of your own Eleusis, are concealed from all save the 
initiated.' 

" ' They tell us,' said Aspasia, ' that those who are admitted 
to the Eleusinian mysteries die in peace, and go directly to the 
Elysian fields ; while the uninitiated wander about in the infer- 
nal abyss.' 

" ' Of course,' said Anaxagoras, ' Alcibiades will go directly 
to Elysium, though Solon groped his way in darkness.' 

" The old philosopher uttered this with imperturbable gravity, 
as if unconscious of satirical meaning; but some of the guests 
could scarcely repress a smile, as they recollected the dissolute 
life of the young Athenian. 

" ' If Alcibiades spoke his real sentiments,' said Aspasia, ' I 
venture to say he would tell us that the mystic baskets of Deme- 
ter, covered with long purple veils, contain nothing half so much 
worth seeing, as the beautiful maidens who carry them.' 

" She looked at Pericles, and saw that he again cautioned her, 
by raising the rose toward his face, as if inhaling its fragrance. 

" There was a brief pause ; which Anaxagoras interrupted, by 
saying, 'The wise can never reverence images merely as ima- 
ges. There is a mystical meaning in the Athenian manner of 
supplicating the gods with garlands on their heads, and bearing 
in their hands boughs of olive twined with wool. Pallas, at 
whose birth we are told gold rained upon the earth, was unques- 
tionably a personification of wisdom. It is not to be supposed 
that the philosophers of any country consider the sun itself as 
any thing more than a huge ball of fire ; but the sight of that glo- 
rious orb leads the contemplative soul to the belief in one Pure 
Intelligence, one Universal Mind, which, in manifesting itself. 



1837.] Mrs. Child's Fhilothea. 89 

produces order in the material world, and preserves the uncon- 
fused distinction of infinite varieties.' 

" ' Such, no doubt, is the tendency of all reflecting minds/ 
said Phidias; ' but in general, the mere forms are worshipped, 
apart from the sacred truths they represent. The gods we have 
introduced from Egypt are regarded, by the priests of that learn- 
ed land, as emblems of certain divine truths brought down from 
ancient times. They are like the HerraiE at our doors, which 
outwardly appear to rest on inexpressive blocks of stone ; but 
when opened, they are found to contain beautiful statues of the 
gods within them. It is not so witii the new fables which the 
Greeks are continually mixing with their mythology. Pygmali- 
on, as we all know, first departed from the rigid outline of an- 
cient sculpture, and impressed life and motion upon marble. 
The poets, in praise of him, have told us tliat his ardent wishes 
warmed a statue into a lovely and breathing woman. The fable 
is fanciful and pleasing in itself; but will it not hereafter be believ- 
ed as reality 1 Might not the same history be told of much that 
is believed ? It is true,' added he, smiling, ' that I might be 
excused for favoring a belief in images, since mortals are ever 
willing to have their own works adored.' 

" ' What does Plato respond to the inquiries of Phidias ? ' 
asked Artaphernes. 

"The philosopher replied; 'Within the holy mysteries of our 
religion is preserved a pure and deep meaning, as the waters of 
Arethusa flow uncontaminated beneath the earth and the sea. I do 
not presume to decide, whether all that is believed has the inward 
significancy. I have ever deemed such speculations unwise. If 
the chaste daughter of Latona always appears to my thoughts 
veiled in heavenly purity, it is comparatively unimportant wheth- 
er I can prove that Acteon was torn by his dogs, for looking on 
the goddess with wanton eyes. Anaxagoras said wisely, tiiat 
material forms lead the contemplative mind to the worship of 
ideal good, which is in its nature immortal and divine. Homer 
tells us, that the golden chain resting upon Olympus reaches even 
to the earth. Here we see but a few of the last links, and those 
imperfectly. We are like men in a subterranean cave, so chain- 
ed that they can look only forward to the entrance. Far above 
and behind us is a glowing fire ; and beautiful beings, of every 
form, are moving between the light and us poor fettered mortals. 
Some of these bright beings are speaking, and others are silent. 
We see only the shadows cast on the opposite wall of the cavern, 
by the reflection of the fire above ; and if we hear the echo 
of voices, we suppose it belongs to those passing shadows. 
The soul, in its present condition, is an exile from the orb of 

VOL. XLIV. — NO. 94. 12 



90 Mrs. Child's Philothea. [Jan. 

light ; its ignorance is forgetfulness ; and whatever we can per- 
ceive of truth, or imagine of beauty, is but a reminiscence of our 
former more glorious state of being. He who reverences the 
gods, and subdues his own passions, returns at last to the blest 
condition from which he fell. But to talk, or think, about these 
things with proud impatience, or polluted morals, is like pouring 
pure water into a miry trench; he who does it disturbs the mud, 
and thus causes the clear water to become defiled. When Odys- 
seus removed his armour from the walls, and carried it to an 
inner apartment, invisible Pallas moved before him with her gold- 
en lamp, and filled the place with radiance divine. Telema- 
chus, seeing the light, exclaimed, " Surely, my father, some of 
the celestial gods are present." With deep wisdom, the king of 
Ithaca replied, " Be silent. Restrain your intellect, and speak 
not." ' 

"'lam rebuked, O Plato,' answered Phidias; 'and from 
henceforth, when my mind is dark and doubtful, I will remem- 
ber that transparent drops may fall into a turbid well. Nor will 
I forget that sometimes, when I have worked on my statues by 
torch-light, I could not perceive their real expression, because I 
was carving in the shadow of my own hand.' 

" ' Little can be learned of the human soul, and its connexion 
with the Universal Mind,' said Anaxagoras. ' These sublime 
truths seem vague and remote, as Phoeacia appeared to Odysseus 
like a vast shield floating on the surface of the distant ocean. 

" ' The glimmering uncertainty attending all such speculations, 
has led me to attach myself to the Ionic sect, who devote them- 
selves entirely to the study of outward nature.' 

" • And this is useful,' rejoined Plato : ' The man who is to be 
led from a cave will more easily see what the heavens contain by 
looking to the light of the moon and the stars, than by gazing 
on the sun at noonday.' " — pp. 43 - 49.