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darwin, wallace, tennyson and swedenborg - The Swedenborg ...

darwin, wallace, tennyson and swedenborg - The Swedenborg ...

darwin, wallace, tennyson and swedenborg - The Swedenborg

DARWIN, WALLACE, TENNYSON, AND SWEDENBORGDARWIN, WALLACE, TENNYSON ANDSWEDENBORG: RELIGION AND SCIENCE IN THENINETEENTH CENTURY * Richard Lines †Ihope I need no excuse for speaking about the life and achievements ofCharles Darwin in his bicentenary year. Darwin was born early in 1809,on the 12th February (exactly the same day as Abraham Lincoln), and thebicentenary similarly got off to an early start with television programs,books, articles and exhibitions. 2009 also happens to be the 150th anniversaryof the publication (in November 1859) of his most famous book, Onthe Origin of Species. That work, which set out in five hundred pages ofargument and evidence the theory of evolution by natural selection, accomplishedan intellectual revolution which changed the world for ever.Even if we have not read it and have only a shaky notion of the implicationsof evolution by natural selection, I think we are all of us aware ofDarwin’s intellectual stature and importance, a fact given emphasis by thepresence of his portrait on the modern British ten pound note. As thejournal Naturalist put it when he died in April 1882:One must seek back to Newton or even Copernicus to find a man whoseinfluence on human thought and methods of looking at the universe hasbeen as radical. 1*A lecture delivered at Swedenborg Hall on 9th July, 2009. The Swedenborg Society hasfor a number of years organized a series of lectures each summer in its Hall at 20 BloomsburyWay, London WC1 for members of the Society and the wider public about Swedenborg’s lifeand teaching and his influence on later scientists, writers and thinkers in different fields. Thislecture was the last of four lectures given in the summer of 2009 and aimed to commemoratethe bicentenary of the births of Charles Darwin and Alfred Tennyson and the one hundred andfiftieth anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The lecture alsoattempted to set Darwin and Wallace’s theory of evolution by natural selection in the generalintellectual context of the time and to illustrate the continuing reception of Swedenborg’sthought throughout the nineteenth century.†Richard Lines has been the Secretary of the Swedenborg Society since 2002. He haslectured and written widely on Swedenborg and his influence, particularly with regard toSwedenborg’s influence on English nineteenth-century poets. He graduated in Law fromOxford University, qualified as a barrister and worked for many years in the British GovernmentLegal Service.1Great Victorian Lives: An Era in Obituaries, ed.Ian Brunskill and Andrew Sanders(London: Times Books, 2007), 240. The obituary in The Times suggested that this judgementmay have been premature: ibid., 245.893

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