Career of Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie

Another tidbit for my eventual online history of Classics at Sewanee–the very eccentric Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, who attended the University in the 1890s and was a “Professor of Extension” in the 1910s.

From the Introductory matter to his translations of Proclus (1925)

Career of Dr Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie

He was born in Scotland’s ‘Bonny Dundee’ on July 22, 1871 of an interesting ancestry, whose spiritual heritage determined his career.

His maternal grandmother, Frances Wright of Dundee first achieved a literary prominence by writing a dozen dramas of which Altorf was produced in Philadelphia, and published. Then she felt the call to ascertain truth, and in 1802 visited the then young United States, recording her impressions in her Views of Manners and Society in America. In this investigation her conscience was outraged by two abuses which in characteristic fashion she immediately set out to rectify. As to slavery, she secured from the State of Tennessee a grant of 2400 acres, on the Wolf River, 18 miles E of Memphis, named Nashoba, on which she educated slaves, and freed them in Hayti. As to the subjection of Woman, she was the real pioneer of the Woman’s Rights movement, and is so recognized in Appleton’s Encyclopedia. This naturally led to her last phase, a sociologic one, which led her to visit the colony of Robert Dale Owen in New Harmony, Ind.

Here she met and married Casimir Silvain Phiquepal d’Arusmont, a noble French emigre from Agen, who brought over with him a number of French youths to educate, on the way stopping in Philadelphia with Col McClure. He was a philosopher and scientist, and invented the since then so popular tonic sol-fa system. The married pair then went to Paris where was born their daughter Frances Sylva. But Frances Wright returned to the United States to her lecturing, and published her still continually reprinted A Few Days in Athens. She then practised law in Cincinnati, where she died, resting in Spring Grove Cemetery.

To these five phases of thought was added the note of religious devotion by Frances Sylva, who was converted in Notre Dame by Lacordaire, and devoted her sons to the sacred ministry, and that in the Episcopal Church, as the only sufficiently liberal one.

Being born too late in his family’s fortunes to be given an education, he earned one, taking his M. A. in 1890 and Theology at Sewanee; his Ph.D. in 1893 at Tulane; A.M. Harvard, 1894; M.D., with three gold medals, 1904; Marburg and Jena, 1911; Ph.D, Columbia, 1915; Professor in Extension, Sewanee, in 1912.

His mother’s devotional interest fructified in his Communion with God, Presence of God, Ladder of God and Why You Want to Become a Churchman.

His grandfather’s philosophical and educational interests resulted in his monumental opening to the world in translations of Plotinus, Numenius, Pythagoras and Zoroaster; Teachers’ Problems and How to Solve Them.

A combination of both these interests resulted in Angels, Ancient & Modern; the Mithraic Mysteries, the Angelic Mysteries of the Nine Heavens, etc

His grandmother’s literary taste produced the Spiritual Message of Literature, Collected Poems, Perronik.

Her quest for truth originated his Message of the Master, How the Master Saved the World, Studies in Comparative Religion, his New Testament Translation.

Her crusades against abuses continued in his Dawn of Liberty, A Bunch of Thistles.

Her sociologic ideals matured in his Complete Progressive Education, A Romance of Two Centuries, etc.

But the very unusual breadth of his conflicting interests checkmated his career, so far as worldly advancement. Little understood or recognized, he had to find consolation in earning his living honestly by teaching a language to children, by pouring out his religious experiences to the few who visited his semi-deserted East Side church, and in putting the accumulated results of his studies in such shape that, to the greater glory of God, they may be of service to humanity, if possible thro’ his children (Sylvia Camilla, Sept. 1, 1916; and Kenneth Launfal, Jan 19, 1918).

His has been a drawn battle over-delayed by self-support.


About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Classics, Sewanee, Slavery, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s