Hypatia: Or, New Foes with an Old Face Analysis

Charles Kingsley

Places Discussed


*Alexandria. Egyptian port city founded by the Greeks some three hundred years before the Christian era and named after the great leader and conqueror Alexander. The Greek foundation still survives in Kingsley’s fifth century city in its language, basic town-plan, museum, and lecture halls, where a form of Greek philosophy known as neoplatonism, was expounded, particularly by Hypatia, a young goddesslike and charismatic philosopher. Alexandria also has Roman buildings, notably the Caesarium, now being used by Christians as their main church, and the port, which is crucial to Rome, for through it pass grain supplies and much of Africa’s exported wealth. A Roman military garrison occupies the city, which is governed by a prefect appointed by Rome. The Roman games, or circus, are still used by the prefect to keep the mob on his side.

Two other cultures also compete for influence. Traditionally, Alexandria also had an influential Jewish population, academic and financial by nature. Kingsley shows the devious nature of this influence, and the destabilizing effect when its financial basis is largely destroyed by the mob. The “mob” is, in effect, a Christian one, comprising some two thirds of the city’s population. They are led by Christian monks and church officers under the authority of Archbishop Cyril, the metropolitan of Egypt and third-most powerful figure in fifth century Christendom. The mob also destroys Hypatia...

(The entire section is 518 words.)


Chapman, Raymond. Faith and Revolt: Studies in the Literary Influence of the Oxford Movement. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970. This book explores the traces that the Oxford Movement left on nineteenth century literature. Three chapters compare and contrast Kings-ley’s and John Henry Newman’s religious views.

Martin, Robert Bernard. The Dust of Combat: A Life of Charles Kingsley. New York: W. W. Norton, 1960. The best biography of the man. A chapter is devoted to Kingsley’s relationship with his publishers, the genesis of Hypatia, and his efforts to publish it in serial and book forms.

Sanders, Andrew. The Victorian Historical Novel, 1840-1880. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. A critical examination of a select group of novels written under the influence of Sir Walter Scott, focusing on works by the great midcentury writers. A chapter discusses Hypatia and the rejoinders to it, Fabiola and Callista.

Vance, Norman. The Sinews of the Spirit: The Ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian Literature and Religious Thought. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Covering the period from the early 1830’s to the late 1860’s, this is an important study of the ways that Victorians attempted to combine various meanings of “Christian” and “manliness.” A chapter compares the attitudes toward celibacy of Kingsley and Newman.

Wolff, Robert Lee. Gains and Losses: Novels of Faith and Doubt in Victorian England. New York: Garland, 1977. This is a comprehensive critical discussion of several hundred novels with religious themes. It has an extensive analysis of Hypatia, and it explores the relationships between that novel and the earlier works by Elizabeth Harris and John Henry Newman.