The Fairy Land of Science
Industry, Imagination, Prognostication, Progress, Soul, Force, Energy, Telegraphy, Magnetism, Metaphysics, Romanticism
Claims that the 'achievements of modern industry' and science have 'realized, and more than realized' many of the dreams of early fairy tales, and seem to 'cast on them almost a prophetic lustre'. The tale of Aladdin's ring with which he communicates with the distant genii, for instance, provides 'sincere anticipations' and catches 'the dim outline of the future time' when messages are conveyed by 'the electric telegraph'. (36) In the ceaseless circle of transmutations which force undergoes, science reveals 'a fairy world in which unknown existences lurk under familiar shapes, and every object seems ready, at the shaking of a wand, to take on the strangest transformations' (38). As the 'great discoverers' and 'leaders in science' such as Michael Faraday and Richard Owen all recognize, however, this fairy world consists merely of '"phenomena" [...] a learned word for "appearances"', and the 'true reality of nature remains beyond' even the 'instructed sight' of the scientific observer (39). The recognition of a mysterious 'hidden essence in all things', which is part of an all-pervading unity, 'surrounds science in our day, in spite of the stringent severity of its attitude towards facts, with an unquenchable halo of poetry' (40–41). Suggests that the 'perfect Order' in nature, for which 'we must look deeper than to our sensuous experience', is best apprehended in a passage from Percy B Shelley's poem Alastor; or The Spirit of Solitude (42).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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