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Revival (VII). Caroline Augusta Foley

Caroline Augusta Foley (1857-1942) was a British writer and translator. She made a contribution to the economy before being widely known as an editor, translator and interpreter of Buddhist texts in the Pāli language.She was honorary secretary of the Text Society of Pāli from 1907, and its president from 1923 to 1942.

Caroline Augusta Foley was born on September 27, 1857 in Wadhurst, East Sussex, England, her parents were John Foley and Caroline Elizabeth Foley (born Windham). She was born into a family with a long ecclesiastical history: her father, John Foley, served as vicar of Wadhurst from 1847-88;his grandfather and his great-grandfather had served as rector of Holt, Worcestershire and vicar of Mordiford, Herefordshire, respectively. Two years before his birth, five of his brothers died in December 1855 / January 1856 for diphtheria and are commemorated in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Wadhurst. A surviving brother, John Windham Foley (1848-1926), became a missionary in India and in another, Charles Windham Foley (1856-1933), played in three FA Cup Finals for Old Etonians, being on the winning side in 1852; then he had a career as a lawyer.

Caroline was educated at home by her father and then attended the University College of London where she studied philosophy, psychology and economics (PPE). He completed his BA in 1886 and a master’s degree in philosophy in 1889. During his time at University College, he won both the John Stuart Mill Scholarship and the Hume Scholarship.

It was her psychology tutor George Croom Robertson who «sent her to Professor Rhys Davids,» her future husband, to further her interest in Indian philosophy. He also studied Sanskrit Philosophy and India with Reinhold Rost. Thomas Rhys Davids was elected to the University College in 1896. Caroline Rhys Davids received an honorary degree from D. Litt from the Victoria University of Manchester (now University of Manchester) in 1919.

As a student, I was already a prolific writer and a vocal activist in the movements for the alleviation of poverty, children’s rights and women’s suffrage.

Before moving on to Buddhist studies, Foley made a contribution to the economy. She wrote seventeen entries for the Palgrave of Political Economy (1894-99 / 1910), including «Income of skill», «Science, Economic, unlike art», «Static, Social and social dynamics», as well as twelve entries biographical His entry, «Fashion, economic influence of», was related to his article 1893 Economic Journal, «Fashion», and reflected an unusual economic interest.

He also translated articles for the economic magazine of German, French and Italian, including Carl Menger’s influential 1892 article «On the Origin of Money.» In 1896, Rhys Davids published two class notes by his former teacher and mentor George Croom Robertson: one on psychology and the other on philosophy. He also served on the editorial committee of the Economic Journal from 1891-1895.

Thomas W Rhys Davids encouraged his then student, Caroline, to conduct Buddhist studies and research about Buddhist psychology and the place of women in Buddhism. Thus, among his first works was a translation of the Dhammasanghani, a text of Abhidhamma Theravāda, which he published under the title «A Buddhist Manual of Psychological Ethics: A Translation, Made for the First Time, of the Original Pāli, from the First Book of the Abhidhamma Piṭaka, entitled: Dhammasanghaṇi (Compendium of States or Phenomena) (1900); a second early translation was that of Therīgāthā, a canonical work of verses traditionally attributed to the first Buddhist nuns (under the title of Psalms of the Sisters).

Caroline Foley held two academic positions: Professor of Indian Philosophy at the Victoria University of Manchester (now University of Manchester) (1910-1913); and Professor of the History of Buddhism at the School of Oriental Studies, later renamed the School of Oriental and African Studies (1918-1933). While teaching, she acted simultaneously as the Honorary Secretary of the Pāli Text Society that had been initiated by TW Rhys Davids to transcribe and translate Buddhist Pāli texts in 1881. She held that position from 1907 until the death of her husband in 1922; The following year, she took her place as president of the society.

His translations of pāli texts were sometimes idiosyncratic, but his contribution as an editor, translator and interpreter of Buddhist texts was considerable. She was one of the first academics to translate texts from the Abhidhamma, known for their complexity and difficult use of technical language. He also translated large portions of the Piṭaka Sutta, or edited and supervised the translations of other PTS scholars.

Beyond this, he also wrote numerous articles and popular books on Buddhism; It is in these manuals and journal articles that you can see for the first time your controversy towards several key points of the Theravada doctrine.

After the death of her son in 1917 and her husband in 1922, Rhys Davids turned to spiritualism. He became particularly involved in various forms of psychic communication with the dead, first trying to reach his dead son through seances and then through automatic writing. Later he claimed to have developed clairaudience, as well as the ability to move to the other world when he dreamed.

She kept extensive automatic writing notebooks, along with notes on future life and diaries detailing her experiences. These notes are part of its archive jointly carried out by the University of Cambridge and the University of London.

Although earlier in her career she accepted more dominant beliefs about Buddhist teachings, later in life she rejected the concept of anatta as an «original» Buddhist teaching. She seems to have influenced several of her students in this direction, including AK Coomaraswamy, FL Woodward and IB Horner.

Caroline Augusta Foley married Thomas William Rhys Davids in 1894. They had three children: Vivien Brynhild Caroline Foley Rhys Davids (1895-1978), Arthur Rhys Davids (1897-1917) and Nesta Enid (1900-1973).

Vivien won the Clara Evelyn Mordan Scholarship at St Hugh’s College, Oxford in 1915, then served as County Councilor of Surrey, and received an MBE in 1973. Arthur was a talented scholar and a decorated ace of World War I. But it was murdered in action in 1917. Neither Vivien nor Nesta got married or had children.

Rhys Davids died suddenly in Chipstead, Surrey on June 26, 1942. He was 84 years old.

Unlike her husband, CAF Rhys Davids was deeply influenced by spiritualism and the Theosophical Society. Of these two movements, it was probably spiritualism, but also his studies in psychology with George Croom Robertson at University College London, which inspired his later reinterpretation of Buddhism. It seems that he had little concrete contact with theosophical groups until very late in his career and even criticized the Theosophical belief in some works.

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