Darwinism in Literature

(3851 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) are often assumed to have been major causes of the crisis of religious belief in Victorian England. In fact, many Victorians were anxious about the condition of their faith well before Darwin published his theory of evolution by natural selection. Indeed, the two poems most often associated with Darwin—Alfred Tennyson’s In Memoriam, with its vision of “Nature, red in tooth and claw” (lvi, l. 15), and Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”, where the poet hears the “melancholy, long withdrawing roar” of “The sea of faith” (ll. 21, 25)—were both written before 1859. Darwin’s work issued from a general trend of …

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Holmes, John. "Darwinism in Literature". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 06 January 2009
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=5768, accessed 13 February 2016.]