Poetry and the ‘Non-Darwinian Revolution’

John Holmes

in Darwin's Bards

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780748639403
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652174 | DOI:
Poetry and the ‘Non-Darwinian Revolution’

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This chapter describes the non-Darwinian and pseudo-Darwinian evolutionary poetry in the late Victorian period. It then explores the acts of bad faith led by Algernon Charles Swinburne and Mathilde Blind. It also investigates how the non-Darwinian elements in George Meredith's later poetry have tended to obscure the more exclusively Darwinian perspectives of his earlier poetry. It evaluates the struggle between Alfred Tennyson's yearning to believe in evolutionary progress and his deep-seated doubts about it in the last years of his life. The Ascent of Man is Blind's most ambitious poem. The bulk of Meredith's nature poetry falls into two collections published five years apart: Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth, and A Reading of Earth. In their different ways Swinburne, Blind, Meredith, and Tennyson all expose the hollowness at the heart of the Victorian enthusiasm for progressive evolution and of the non-Darwinian biology that sustained it.

Keywords: Algernon Charles Swinburne; Mathilde Blind; George Meredith; Alfred Tennyson; The Ascent of Man; non-Darwinian biology; evolutionary poetry

Chapter.  15926 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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