The Martians have invaded for a second time and the world is at war!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Andrew Lang

At the Intersection of Victorian Science and Fiction: Andrew Lang's "Romance of the First Radical"


EVER SINCE C. P Snow's famous Rede Lecture of 1959, wherein the scientist-novelist lamented the schism between the sciences and the humanities, the intellectual divergence and mutual hostility between the "two cultures" has been seen as not only inevitable, but also fated to increase. It is easy to overlook the fact that as recently as the last century the two realms were, if not quite united, at least closely intertwined. In his study of this interconnection, Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century, J. A. V. Chapple points out that in the early part of the century, scientists considered themselves "natural philosophers" while many artists demonstrated a lively interest in the latest scientific discoveries.Coleridge,
for example, took an active part in the third meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, which may have also attracted the young Tennyson. Furthermore, the extremely prolific and popular periodicals of the day, including Macmillan's Magazine, Household Words, the Fortnightly Review, Cornhill Magazine, and the Nineteenth Century, published both serious scientific articles and works of literature and criticism. Often these journals provided the original forum for the writings of scientific luminaries. The generally educated reader "could turn from J. W. Croker's merciless assault on Poems by Alfred Tennyson in the April 1833 number of the Quarterly Review to Whewell's urbane assessment of Mary Somerville's Connexion ('her profound mathematical work on the "Mechanism of the Heavens" has already been treated of in this Journal'), without any feeling that, tone apart, they were moving to a different kind of discourse." In many respects they were not.

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