At the Great Exhibition
Exhibitions, Materialism, Industry, Theology of Nature, Engineering, Military Technology, Steamships, War, Progress, Romanticism, Anti-Scientism, Morality, Christianity
Complains that the International Exhibition of 1862 represents an 'apotheosis of unrelieved materialism' in which 'the most sordid (and useful) "manufactures" [are] in the place of honour'. The visitor's 'religious, poetical, supernatural tendencies' are 'crushed by the immensity of materialism here displayed' and 'the awful preponderance of matter gifted with mere base use'. (671) By contrast, 'Heaven's work was visible' at the original Great Exhibition in 1851, and the exhibits there 'were as much part of the natural creation as the work of man's hand'. Now, the 'court [...] devoted to marine architecture and military engineering' is full of 'some very pretty objects for contemplation', but it remains haunted by the 'reproachful ghost' of our earlier 'good intentions' for peace. Although a 'model of an "ironside"' is undoubtedly a product of 'invention and skill' (676), and 'the guns, the Whitworths and Armstrongs' are 'as great an effort of human skill, probably, as any vase that ever was fashioned', they have 'swept the seas of half their poetry, and cut all the romance, all the heart, all the inspiration, out of naval warfare'. Indeed, our 'seamen, sons of sea-kings, rulers of the waves' will find it hard to 'be heroes and stokers at the same time!—to find glory in the collision of a sort of hermetically-sealed sardine-boxes!'. (677) Similarly, the 'shirt spun by our women's own hands of old has a virtue in it which nothing from Manchester looms can pretend to; and thus it is with everything else, more or less' (679). Suggests the need for 'establishing a School of Moral Engineering' (680), and setting up a new exhibition dedicated to 'our newest improvements in Christianity, our latest discoveries in the science of holy living and dying' (681).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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