An Exploration of Tennyson's Philosophy of Science and Religion in in Memoriam
|Course||English Language and Literature|
|Keywords||Tennyson Carlyle In Memoriam science religion|
The conflict between science and religion was one of the typical features in the Victorianage. Such a conflict haunted nearly all Victorian minds, including Tennyson, who was the mostfamous and influential poet of the age. Of all his works, In Memoriam (1850) is the one that canmostly represent the contradictions of thought and crisis of faith at that time. In Memoriam waswritten to lament his intimate friend Arthur Hallam (1812-1833) while expressing the “crisis offaith” of his era--the contradictions and conflicts between the progress of science and religiousfaith.By close reading and textual analysis, with a combination of the study of the backgroundof the Victorian age and the personal experience of the poet, this paper first analyzesTennyson’s philosophy of science and religion in In Memoriam. Based on textual andcontextual reading, this paper finds that Tennyson has strong curiosity for science, which can befound in his curiosity for astronomy, geology and biology, and he perfectly integrates hisknowledge and theories of science into the creation of In Memoriam. He also shows greatdoubts for Christianity, which is evident in his doubt about the doctrine of Genesis and hisdoubt about Deism. New discoveries of science deepened Tennyson’s understanding of life, andhis view of life as futile and frail stemmed from the sudden death of his dearest friend ArthurHallam. However, Tennyson attempts to compromise between science and religion. There arethree reasons for this: firstly his absorption of new sciences; secondly his insistence upon themoral power in human beings; and thirdly his faith in the power of man’s spirit.Tennyson’s thoughts may have been greatly influenced by Thomas Carlyle. The anxietyover the loss of faith in the Victorian age that Tennyson expressed in In Memoriam is inagreement with Carlyle’s worries about the drawbacks of the times. This paper attempts aresearch on the influence of Carlyle upon Tennyson’s philosophy of science and religion in InMemoriam. By studying the exchange of letters and conversations between them as well as other historical documents, and the similar viewpoints that express in Carlyle’s works andTennyson’s In Memoriam, my investigation shows that in terms of science they both regard thelaw of nature as the manifestation of spiritual power, and they both praise highly thedevelopment of science and progress of civilization. And in terms of religion, both of themregard God as self-evident existence and love as the nexus between man and God.This paper concludes by indicating that Tennyson’s In Memoriam is a record of thespiritual chaos of the Victorian age. Tennyson’s depth of thought and quality of faith are rootedfrom his religious doubt and his solution is to construct a balance between science and religion.In Memoriam is written not merely as a remembrance for his friend but more importantly as aconsolation to the Victorians who were morally uncertain. In the context of similar moral chaos,this paper suggests that Tennyson’s proposal of the compromise between science and religionmight be meaningful to the ethic reconstruction in China today.