Pantheistic Poetry; Geological Touring; Chemical Experimentation: Coleridge and Davy in the Mountains and on the Page
COLERIDGE‘S CONTINUING ENGAGEMENT WITH PANTHEISM has been a staple of scholarly discussion since, at least, Thomas McFarland‘s Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition.1 More recently, historically-nuanced revisions of McFarland‘s account have been provided by Richard Berkeley, Nicholas Halmi, and Maximilien van Woudenberg.2 In this process, the significance on Coleridge‘s philosophical and theological thought of his German sojourn of 1798-99 has come into renewed focus. In what follows I examine a less- discussed aspect of Coleridge‘s engagement with pantheism at Göttingen University—its imbrication with what is now called earth science but was then known as natural history. This imbrication, I suggest, shaped Coleridge‘s engagement with nature—the landscape—in 1799, allowing him to adopt a pantheistic view of the world purged of what he had come to see as the atheistic materialism of his mid-1790s influences. In turn, this Coleridgean engagement became one of the formative influences on the nascent culture of geological enquiry in England. It was taken up in the social practice of field investigation and in the model of enquiry adopted by Coleridge‘s friends, who went on, in 1807, to found the world‘s first geological society. I focus in particular on one of these friends—Humphry Davy. Coleridgean Spinozism became one of several shaping influences on Davy‘s conception of nature as a single dynamic ̳economy‘ of processes. Insofar as Davy made important discoveries about nature—isolating new elements and revealing that the interaction of electrical and chemical forces held matter together—then this conception can be said to have had significant effects.
Citation : Fulford, T. (2020) Pantheistic Poetry; Geological Touring; Chemical Experimentation: Coleridge and Davy in the Mountains and on the Page. The Coleridge Bulletin, NS 55, pp. 27-41
Research Institute : Institute of English
Peer Reviewed : Yes
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