Signs of the Times
Progress, Superstition, Supernaturalism, Alchemy, Astrology, Religion, Astronomy, Scientific Practitioners, Cell Biology, Physiology, Education, Nationalism, Gender, Politics, Political Economy, Commerce, Government, Spiritualism, Imposture, Charlatanry
Begins by comparing present with past wisdom. Insists that, unlike our ancestors, we no longer believe in witches, warlocks, 'ghosts that whipped through key-holes, and their spirits that laughed at door-locks', exorcists, the 'miracle-mongering monk', 'alchemy, transmutation, and astrology'. Claims, 'We don't say "Stop!" to Science, when it contradicts theology: / And Huxley has no need to fear Bruno's fate, or Galileo's, / And primary cells and nerve-force veneramur sicut Deos'. Notes how we 'esteem the march of mind', in particular 'a talisman called "Competitive Examination"', / To draw the collective wisdom to the service of the nation'. Identifies other signs of progress, including men's hostility to women 'for doing away with the differences of sex, and its [electoral] disabilities', the conflicts between 'Labour' and 'Capital' and 'matter with mind', and the fact that self-government and centralization have neutralized each other leaving both 'in stagnation'. Describes the phenomena of modern spiritualism, including Daniel D Home's ability to float and handle hot coals, and the spiritualist healer F L Newton 'out-Homing Home' with his spiritualist healing practices. Concludes by suggesting that 'for all our march of intellect, and our monarchy of mind' there are more gullible audiences for imposture than impostors: 'There's never a Reynard the Fox, but he draws his tail of fools behind; / And there's never a quack that quacks, but he finds green geese to echo his quacking'.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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