Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Scientists and Broad Churchmen: an Early Victorian Intellectual Network*

  • Walter F. Cannon
Extract

The late Victorians popularized several ideas which have tended to obscure what was actually going on in intellectual matters in the early part of the nineteenth century. One of these is the notion that, whenever science and religion came into contact, some degree of scientific excellence was sacrificed, if only because the scientists themselves believed in the theological ideas. Another is the judgment that Dean Stanley, a “passive peaceable Protestant” always seeking compromise, was the typical Broad Churchman. And a third is the acceptance of Leslie Stephen's description of an arid “Cambridge rationalism” not only as enlightening (which it is) but also as complete.

These and other similar misconceptions could be propagated because the later Victorian intellectual “aristocracy” or “self-reviewing circle,” as described so well by Noel Annan, was not continuous with that of the earlier period. Such physical descendants as did remain, notably Matthew Arnold and Leslie Stephen, played quite different roles in the new circle from those which their fathers had filled in the older, looser, grouping. The founders of the new aristocracy selected their mythic figures with an eye to current usefulness rather than with strict attention to the history of the earlier generation. This was to be expected. One could not expect Thomas Huxley to emphasize the great abilities of the geologist Adam Sedgwick when it was just such a reputation which supported “the old Adam” in his attack on Darwin's theories.

In order to indicate the inadequacy of the three conceptions listed above, and others like them, it is the purpose of this article to use the indirect method of sketching the coming together of those men who were the mentors not only of Darwin but also of Stanley, of Tennyson, of Frederick Denison Maurice, of Lord Kelvin, and of James Clerk Maxwell.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
*

This article was written during the tenure of a grant from the National Science Foundation. I should like to thank the Council of the Royal Society for permission to use their archives, and the Librarian of the Royal Society for furnishing a year-long welcome. I should also like to thank the Curator of Astronomy and Mathematics of the Science Museum, the Astronomer Royal and Dr. P. S. Laurie of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and the Councils and/or Librarians of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Geological Survey, the Cambridge Philosophical Society, the Colleges of St. John and of the Holy and Undivided Trinity (Cambridge), and Somerville College, for permission to use their archives, and for their assistance.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

1. Derived from Lyell, Charles, Principles of Geology (2nd ed.; London, 18321833), I, 2-13, 6970; popularized by Huxley, Thomas, “On the Reception of the Origin of Species,” in Darwin, Charles, Life and Letters, ed. Darwin, Francis (London, 1888), II, 179204; widely repeated down to the present.

2. Prothero, Rowland, The Life and Correspondence of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (New York, 1894), II, 173.

3. Expertly recapitulated in Annan, Noel, Leslie Stephen (London, 1951), pp. 140ff.

4. “aristocracy” is Annan's term, “self-reviewing circle” is mine.

5. See the studies of Sanders, Charles R., Coleridge and the Broad Church Movement (Durham, N.C., 1942); Forbes, Duncan, The Liberal Anglican Idea of History (Cambridge, 1952); Winstanley, D. A., Early Victorian Cambridge (Cambridge, 1940); Brookfield, Frances M., The Cambridge Apostles (New York, 1907).

6. Private communications.

7. Sanders, , Coleridge and the Broad Church Movement, p. 113.

8. In terminology, therefore, this article is a correction to Cannon, Walter F., “The Role of the Cambridge Movement in Early Nineteenth Century Science,” Proceedings of the Xth International Congress of the History of Science, 1962.

9. See her Scientific Correspondence, in the Mary Somerville Papers, Somerville College, Oxford.

10. Thus Thomas Macaulay refused to take mathematics seriously but was made a Fellow of Trinity in 1824 because of his classical abilities: Trevelyan, George O., Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay (London, 1901), pp. 6061.

11. Schneider, Ben R. Jr., Wordsworth's Cambridge Education (Cambridge, 1952), is a good study of the University's intellectual life at the end of the eighteenth century.

12. Lubbock, Constance A. (ed.), The Herschel Chronicle (Cambridge, 1933), pp. 348–50.

13. Cf. John Herschel to Fearon Fallows, 8 Dec., 1816. John Herschel Papers, St. John's College, Cambridge.

14. On St. Petersburg, see Cannon, Walter F., “John Herschel and the Idea of Science,” J.H.I., XXII (1961), 217-19, 230. On Harvard, see G. P. Bond to Herschel, 24 June, 1851, John Herschel Papers, Royal Society. [These papers are hereafter cited as Herschel Papers, Royal Society. They include a number of copies, which are cited without distinction from originals.]

15. Mullett, Charles F., “Charles Babbage, a Scientific Gadfly,” Scientific Monthly, LXVII (1948), 361–71; Morrison, Philip and Morrison, Emily (eds.), Charles Babbage and his Calculating Engines (New York, 1961). The relations of government to scientists and scholars were of considerably greater magnitude and complexity in this period than is usually recognized. They deserve a full study in themselves.

16. Peacock, George, A Treatise on Algebra (Cambridge, 1830), and A Treatise on Algebra (Cambridge, 18421845) [Peacock denied that the second book was a new edition of the first]; Peacock, , “Report on the recent progress and present State of certain branches of Analysis,” British Association Report, III (1833), pp. 185288; Cambridge History of English Literature (Cambridge, 1916), XIV, 555.

17. Boole, George, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (New York, 1854), pp. 239, 299, 403, 416n, 420 (sec. 9); see also Boole to Whewell, 7 Feb., 1854, Whewell Papers, Trinity College, Cambridge; Boole's “Sonnet to the Number Three” quoted in Kneale, William, “Boole and the Revival of Logic,” Mind, LVII (1948), 157; Kneale, William and Kneale, Martha, The Development of Logic (Oxford, 1962), pp. 398, 404.

18. Airy, George, Autobiography, ed. Airy, Wilfred (Cambridge, 1896), p. 48.

19. Herschel to Francis Beaufort, 5 Mar., 1831, Beaufort to Herschel, 7 Mar., 1831. Herschel Papers, Royal Society. The Government had rather hoped to get Herschel himself.

20. For a good account of the affair, see Grosser, Morton, The Discovery of Neptune (Cambridge, Mass., 1962), which is not completely exhaustive as regards the English scene. Grant, Robert, History of Physical Astronomy (London, 1852), pp. 198200, contains a spirited defense of Airy's conduct. At all events, it seems clear that contemporary Cambridge opinion was based as much on chagrin that one of the University's own men had been forestalled as it was on judicious consideration of the duties of the Astronomer Royal.

21. Trevelyan, , Life and Letters of Macaulay, p. 480. Carlyle, of course, was not an Englishman.

22. Whewell, William, An Essay on Mineralogical Classification (Cambridge, 1828); Deas, Herbert, “Crystallography and Crystallographers in England in the Nineteenth Century,” Centaurus, VI (1959), 129–48.

23. See Cannon, Walter F., “Uniformitarian-Catastrophist Debate,” Isis, LI (1960), 44-46, 5355.

24. Evans, Joan, John Ruskin (New York, 1954), pp. 141, 146, 165n; Ruskin's letters to Whewell, Whewell Papers, Trinity College, Cambridge.

25. Clark, J. W., “The Founding and Early History of the Society,” Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc., VII (1891), iivii.

26. “Testimonials in favor of James D. Forbes … for the Chair of Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh,” Roderick Murchison Pamphlet Collection, Geological Survey Library, IV; Forbes to Herschel, 1 Dec, 13 Dec., 1832, Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

27. Herschel to Sedgwick, 7 May, 1856. Herschel Papers, Royal Society; on Forbes's own work, see Sharp, J. C., Tait, P. G., and Reilly, A. Adams, Life and Letters of James David Forbes (London, 1873), chs. xiv-xv; on his relation to Clerk Maxwell, see Campbell, Lewis and Garnett, William, Life of James Clerk Maxwell (London, 1884), esp. p. 57.

28. de Morgan, Sophie, Memoir of Augustus de Morgan (London, 1882), pp. 4648; Dreyer, J. L. E. and Turner, H. H. (eds.), History of the Royal Astronomical Society (London, 1923), pp. 3, 20, 26.

29. B. Edwards, Secretary of the African Association, to Baily, 28 May, 1799. De Morgan Papers, Royal Astronomical Society.

30. Airy, , Autobiography, p. 134.

31. Dreyer, and Turner, , Astronomical Society, p. 118.

32. Kirwan, L. P., A History of Polar Exploration (London, 1959), p. 159, which also discusses the role of Captain Washington.

33. The work of the conspirators is made clear in their correspondences in the John Herschel and Edward Sabine Papers at the Royal Society. For the threat of Peel, see Sabine to Herschel, 1 Apr., 4 Sep., 1839. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

34. Herschel to Fitton, 18 Oct., 1830, Herschel to Babbage, 26 Nov., 1830, Herschel to Beaufort, 26 Nov., 1830. Herschel Papers, Royal Society; Williams, L. Pearce, “The Royal Society and the Founding of the British Association for the Advancement of Science,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society, XVI (1961), 221–33.

35. A general account of the reform is given by Lyons, Henry, The Royal Society, 1660-1940 (Cambridge, 1944), ch. vii.

36. Faraday to Herschel, 21 Aug., 1827, 10 Nov., 1832. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

37. Herschel to Vernon Harcourt, 5 Sep., 1831, Herschel to Whewell, 20 Sep., 1831. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

38. Lithographed Signatures of the Members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science … with a Report of the Proceedings at the Public Meetings (Cambridge, 1833), pp. 82, 9092; Babbage, Charles, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (London, 1864), pp. 433–34; Bonar, James and Macrosty, H. W., Annals of the Royal Statistical Society (London, 1934), pp. 410.

39. Whewell, William, “Mathematical Exposition of some Doctrines of Political Economy,” Trans. Camb. Phil. Soc., III (1830), 191230, and Mathematical Exposition of some of the Leading Doctrines in Mr. Ricardo's ‘Principles of Political Economy and Taxation,’” Trans. Camb. Phil. Soc., IV (1833), 155–98; Babbage, Charles, Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (London, 1832), and cf. his “Travelling Scribbling Book,” pp. 17-87, Babbage Manuscripts, Science Museum. A discussion of Johnes's work in economics is given in Roll, Eric, A History of Economic Thought (rev. ed.; London, 1961), pp. 311–18.

40. Herschel to S. P. Rigaud, 8 Apr., 15 Aug., 1831. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

41. The expansion of this interest is very nicely illustrated by the following sequence: Broderip, W. J., Hints for Collecting Animals and Their Products (London, 1832), a twelve-page pamphlet; the Royal Society's Reports of Committees Requested by the Admiralty for Ross's Antarctic expedition, described in Report of the Committee of Physics (London, 1840), pp. iiiiv; and Herschel, John (ed.), A Manual of Scientific Enquiry; Prepared for the Use of Her Majesty's Navy (London, 1849), a 488-page book published by John Murray, with chapters by Herschel, Airy, Sabine, Whewell, Darwin, Owen, Hooker, Prichard, Beechey, De la Beche, and others.

42. Hare, Augustus J. C., Memorials of a Quiet Life (12th ed.; London, 18741876), I, 149.

43. See his Course of Lectures Containing a Description and Systematic Arrangement of the Several Branches of Divinity (Cambridge, 1809).

44. Tuell, A. K., John Sterling (New York, 1941), p. 162; Bunsen, Frances, Memoir of Baron Bunsen (London, 1868), I, 396.

45. Symons, Julian, Thomas Carlyle (New York, 1952), p. 105.

46. Tuell, , John Sterling, pp. 162–63.

47. Bamford, T. W., Thomas Arnold (London, 1960), p. 195.

48. Quoted in Martin, Kingsley, The Crown and the Establishment (London, 1963), p. 36.

49. Brookfield, , Cambridge Apostles, p. 8.

50. See Cannon, Walter F., “Problem of Miracles in the 1830's,” Victorian Studies, IV (1960), 532, esp. notes 15, 17, and 21; Todhunter, Isaac, William Whewell (London, 1876), I, 349.

51. Packe, Michael, The Life of John Stuart Mill (London, 1954), p. 83.

52. Wordsworth, William and Wordsworth, Dorothy, The Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth: The Later Years, ed. de Selincourt, Ernest (Oxford, 1939), II, 934–36, #1260.

53. Clark, J. W. and Hughes, T. M., The Life and Letters of the Reverend Adam Sedgwick (Cambridge, 1890), I, 246–49; II, 41; Wordsworth to Whewell, 4 Dec., 1828, 12 Mar., 1829. Whewell Papers, Trinity College, Cambridge; Wordsworth, , Letters of … Wordsworth, II, 556-57, 679-80, #973, 1065. The especially relevant section of the Excursion is Bk. II, lines 173-89.

54. Beatty, Frederika, William Wordsworth of Rydal Mount (London, 1939), pp. 230–33.

55. Hare, , Memorials of a Quiet Life, II, 273; III, 224. Hare, Augustus J. C., The Years with Mother (London, n. d.), pp. 40, 51; Bamford, , Thomas Arnold, p. 56; Prothero, , Life and Correspondence of Stanley, I, 100; Clark, and Hughes, , Life and Letters of Sedgwick, I, 431; Wordsworth, , Letters of … Wordsworth, I, 508-10, #941, II, 627-28, #1025, III, 1204–05, #1527.

56. Hare, , Memorials of a Quiet Life, II, 332; III, 235. Hare, , Years with Mother, p. xi.

57. Prothero, , Life and Correspondence of Stanley, I, 3; II, 415. Clark, and Hughes, , Life and Letters of Sedgwick, II, ch. ix.

58. Hare, , Years with Mother, p. 66.

59. Thirlwall, John Connop Jr., Connop Thirlwall (London, 1936), pp. 179, 245.

60. Trevelyan, , Life and Letters of Macaulay, p. 142; Early Roman History,” Quarterly Review, XXXII (1825), 6792.

61. Trevelyan, , Life and Letters of Macaulay, pp. 312, 316-17, 319.

62. Clark, and Hughes, , Life and Letters of Sedgwick, II, 292–93.

63. Herschel's Diary, 20-26 Jan., 1858. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

64. Prothero, , Life and Correspondence of Stanley, II, 317;Herschel, , Preliminary Discourse, p. 10.

65. See Cannon, Walter F., “Impact of Uniformitarianism,” Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc., CV (1961), 301–02.

66. Darwin, , Life and Letters, I, 191–93; Fitzroy to Lady Herschel, 29 June, 1836, Fitzroy to Herschel, 21 Feb., 1841, 8 Apr., 1858. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

67. Hare, , Memorials of a Quiet Life, I, 132.

68. Sanders, , Coleridge and the Broad Church Movement, p. 138; Hare, , Memorids of a Quiet Life, I, 195.

69. Bunsen, , Memoir of Baron Bunsen, I, 140.

70. Hetschel, , Preliminary Discourse, p. 259.

71. Faraday to Herschel, 10 Nov., 1832, and (reporting Faraday's remarks to Andrews) Thomas Andrews to Herschel, 11 Feb., 1871. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

72. Airy to Herschel, 20 Mar., 1857. Herschel Papers, Royal Society; cf. Williams, L. Pearce, “Boscovich and the British Chemists,” Roger Joseph Boscovich, ed. Whyte, L. L. (London, 1961), pp. 153–63; and Williams, L. Pearce, “The Physical Science in the First Half of the Nineteenth Centuary,” History of Science, I (1962), 7, 10.

73. Hare, , Memorials of a Quiet Life, II, 186;Bunsen, , Memoir of Baron Bunsen, I, 427.

74. Sedgwick, Adam, A Discourse on the Studies of the University (Cambridge, 1833); Mill, John S., “Professor Sedgwick's Discourse,” Dissertations and Discussions (Boston, 1864), I, 121–85.

75. Herschel-Mill Correspondence. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

76. Todhunter, , William Whewell, I, 129–30; II, 187, 298.

77. Ellegärd, Alvar, Darwin and the General Reader (Göteborg, 1958), pp. 220ff.

78. Lyell, Charles, Life Letters and Journals, ed. Lyell, K. (London, 1881), I, 270, 312, 351, 355, 359; Todhunter, , Whewell, I, 57; II, 108-09. [Whewell, William], “Lyell — Principles of Geology,” British Critic, IX (1831), 195; Sedgwick, Adam, “Address of the President (1831),” Proc. Geol. Soc. London, I (18261833), 302–03.

79. Stephen-Whewell Correspondence. Whewell Papers, Trinity College, Cambridge.

80. Crowther, J. G., British Scientists of the Nineteenth Century (London, 1962), p. 213.

81. De Morgan, , Augustus de Morgan, pp. 235–55.

82. Herschel's Diary, 17 May, 17 Aug., 18 Nov., 1853; 19 Feb., 16 Dec., 1854; 5 Feb., 1855. Herschel Papers, Royal Society.

83. Packe, , Life of John Stuart Mill, p. 86.

84. As scientists have traditionally recognized the existence of a “Cambridge School of Physics” in the mid-nineteenth century, so theologians from the time of James Martineau have recognized a “Cambridge School of Theology” in the second half of the century. See Thirlwall, , Thirlwall, p. 188; Ramsay, Arthur, F. D. Maurice and the Conflicts of Modern Theology (Cambridge, 1951), p. 105. However I have not investigated Lightfoot, Hort, Westcott, etc., so as to be able to make any assertions of my own.

* This article was written during the tenure of a grant from the National Science Foundation. I should like to thank the Council of the Royal Society for permission to use their archives, and the Librarian of the Royal Society for furnishing a year-long welcome. I should also like to thank the Curator of Astronomy and Mathematics of the Science Museum, the Astronomer Royal and Dr. P. S. Laurie of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, and the Councils and/or Librarians of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Geological Survey, the Cambridge Philosophical Society, the Colleges of St. John and of the Holy and Undivided Trinity (Cambridge), and Somerville College, for permission to use their archives, and for their assistance.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of British Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9371
  • EISSN: 1545-6986
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-british-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed