Science & Education

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 565–588 | Cite as

James Hutton’s Geological Tours of Scotland: Romanticism, Literary Strategies, and the Scientific Quest



Rather than focussing on the relationship between science and literature, this article attempts to read scientific writing as literature. It explores a somewhat neglected element of the story of the emergence of geology in the late eighteenth century—James Hutton’s unpublished accounts of the tours of Scotland that he undertook in the years 1785–1788 in search of empirical evidence for his theory of the earth. Attention to Hutton’s use of literary techniques and conventions highlights the ways these texts dramatise the journey of scientific discovery and allow Hutton’s readers to imagine that they were virtual participants in the geological quest, conducted by a savant whose self-fashioning made him a reliable guide through Scotland’s geomorphology and the landscapes of deep time.


Stratify Rock Late Eighteenth Century Figurative Language Deep Time Granite Vein 


  1. Adamson, S. (1994). Subjectivity in narration: Empathy and echo. In M. Yaguello (Ed.), Subjecthood and subjectivity: The status of the subject in linguistic theory (pp. 193–208). Paris: Ophrys.Google Scholar
  2. Adamson, S. (1995). From empathetic deixis to empathetic narrative: Stylisation and (de)subjectivisation as processes of language change. In D. Stein & S. Wright (Eds.), Subjectivity and subjectivisation: Linguistic perspectives (pp. 195–224). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adamson, S. (1998). Literary language. In S. Romaine (Ed.), The Cambridge history of the English language, Vol. 4, 17761997 (pp. 589–692). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Batten, C. (1978). Pleasurable instruction: Form and convention in 18th century travel literature. Berkeley, LA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baxter, S. (2004). Revolutions in the Earth: James Hutton and the true age of the world. London: Phoenix.Google Scholar
  6. Beer, G. (1983). Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and nineteenth-century fiction. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  7. Bewell, A. (1989). Wordsworth and the enlightenment: Nature, man, and society in the experimental poetry. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bunyan, J. (1666). Grace abounding, with other spiritual autobiographies. In J. Stachniewski & A. Pacheco (Eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press (1998).Google Scholar
  9. Cardinal, R. (1997). Romantic travel. In R. Porter (Ed.), Rewriting the self: Histories from the renaissance to the present. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, W. (1995). Narratology and the history of science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 26, 1–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Craig, G. Y. (Ed.). (1978). James Hutton’s theory of the earth: The lost drawings. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Davies, G. L. (1968). The earth in decay: A history of British geomorphology, 1578–1878. London: Macdonald Technical and Scientific.Google Scholar
  13. Davy, H. (1802). A discourse introductory to a course of lectures on chemistry. In J. Davy (Ed.), The collected works of Sir Humphry Davy, 9 vols. London: Smith, Elder and Co (1839, Vol. 2, pp. 311–326).Google Scholar
  14. De Luc, J. A. (1790–1791). To Dr. James Hutton, F.R.S. Edinburgh, on his Theory of the Earth In The monthly review; or, literary journal, enlarged, vol. II (May–August, 1790), 206–27 and 582–601, vol. III (September–December, 1790), 573–86, and vol. V (May–August, 1791), 564–85.Google Scholar
  15. Dean, D. (1992). James Hutton and the history of geology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Dean, D. (2007). Romantic landscapes: Geology and its cultural influence in Britain, 1765–1835. Ann Arbor: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints.Google Scholar
  17. Dean, D. R. (Ed.). (1997). James Hutton in the field and in the study: A bicentenary tribute to the father of modern geology. Delmar, NY: Scholars’ Facsimiles & Reprints.Google Scholar
  18. Durie, A. J. (2003). Scotland for the holidays: Tourism in Scotland, c. 1780–1939. East Linton: Tuckwell Press.Google Scholar
  19. Frye, N. (1957/1990). Anatomy of criticism: Four essays. Princeton/London: Princeton University Press/Penguin.Google Scholar
  20. Fulford, T., Lee, D., & Kitson, P. J. (2004). Literature, science and exploration in the romantic era: Bodies of knowledge. Cambridge NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Furniss, T. (2010a). A romantic geology: James Hutton’s 1788 “Theory of the Earth”. Romanticism, 16(3), 305–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Furniss, T. (2010b). “Plumb-Pudding Stone” and the romantic sublime: The landscape and geology of the Trossachs in The Statistical Account of Scotland (1791–1799). In C. Bode & J. Labbe (Eds.), Romantic localities: Europe writes place (pp. 51–65). London: Pickering and Chatto.Google Scholar
  23. Gillen, C. (2003). Geology and landscapes of Scotland. Harpenden: Terra.Google Scholar
  24. Glendening, J. (1997). The high road: Romantic tourism, Scotland, and literature, 1720–1820. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  25. Golinski, J. (1998/2005). Making natural knowledge: Constructivism and the history of Science (2nd ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Gould, S. J. (1987). Time’s arrow, time’s cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the discovery of geological time. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Grenier, K. H. (2005). Tourism and identity in Scotland: Creating Caledonia. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  28. Hallam, A. (1983). Great geological controversies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Heringman, N. (2004). Romantic rocks, aesthetic geology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Holloway, J., & Errington, L. (1978). The discovery of Scotland: The appreciation of Scottish scenery through two centuries of painting. Edinburgh: The National Gallery of Scotland.Google Scholar
  31. Holmes, R. (2008). The age of wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science. London: Harper.Google Scholar
  32. Hutton, J. (1785). The 1785 abstract of James Hutton’s theory of the earth. Intr. G.Y. Craig. Scottish Academic Press: Edinburgh (1987).Google Scholar
  33. Hutton, J. (1788). Theory of the earth; or an investigation of the laws observable in the composition, dissolution, and restoration of land upon the globe. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, I, 209–304.Google Scholar
  34. Hutton, J. (1794). Observations on granite. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 3(2), 77–85.Google Scholar
  35. Hutton, J. (1795). Theory of the earth, with proofs and illustrations, 2 vols. Edinburgh/London: William Creech/Cadell and Davies.Google Scholar
  36. Hutton, J. (1899/1997). In Sir A. Geikie (Ed.), Theory of the earth, with proofs and illustrations. vol. III. London: The Geological Society.Google Scholar
  37. Jameson, R. (1798). An outline of the mineralogy of the Shetland Islands, and of the Island of Arran. Edinburgh and London.Google Scholar
  38. Jameson, R. (1800). Mineralogy of the Scottish Isles; with Mineralogical observations made in a tour through different parts of the Mainland of Scotland, 2 vols. Edinburgh and London.Google Scholar
  39. Jones, J. (1984). The geological collection of James Hutton. Annals of Science, 41(3), 223–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jordanova, L. (1989). Sexual visions: Images of gender in science and medicine between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  41. Kant, I. (1790/1793). The critique of the power of judgement. In P. Guyer (Ed.), (trans. Guyer, P., & Matthews, E.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2000).Google Scholar
  42. Kirwan, R. (1793). Examination of the supposed igneous origin of stony substances. Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy. 5, 51–87.Google Scholar
  43. Kirwan, R. (1799). Geological essays. London.Google Scholar
  44. Leask, N. (2002). Curiosity and the aesthetics of travel writing 1770–1840: ‘From an Antique Land’. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Levere, T. H. (1981). Poetry realized in nature: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and early nineteenth-century science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Locke, J. (1689). In R. Woolhouse (Ed.), An essay concerning human understanding. London: Penguin (1997).Google Scholar
  47. McIntyre, D. B., & McKirdy, A. (1997/2001). James Hutton: The founder of modern geology. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland.Google Scholar
  48. McKirdy, A., John, G., & Roger C. (2007/2009). Land of mountain and flood: The geology and landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn and Scottish Natural Heritage.Google Scholar
  49. Newton, I. (1730). In Sir E. Whittaker, I. B. Cohen, & D. H. D. Roller (Eds.), Optics: Or, a treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections and colours of light (4th ed.). New York: Dover (1952/1979).Google Scholar
  50. Nicholas, C. J., & Pearson, P. N. (2007). Robert Jameson on the Isle of Arran, 1797–1799: In search of Hutton’s “Theory of the Earth”. In W. Jackson (Ed.), Four centuries of geological travel (pp. 31–47).Google Scholar
  51. Nicolson, M. H. (1959). Mountain gloom and Mountain glory: The development of the aesthetics of the infinite. Cornell: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  52. O’Connor, R. (2007). The earth on show: Fossils and the poetics of popular science, 1801–1856. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Parks, G. (1964). The turn to the romantic in the travel literature of the eighteenth century. Modern Language Quarterly, 25(1) (March), 22–23.Google Scholar
  54. Playfair, J. (1805). Biographical account of the late Dr James Hutton. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. V, 39–99.Google Scholar
  55. Porter, R. (1977/1980). The making of geology: Earth science in Britain, 16601815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Rossi, P. (1979). The dark abyss of time: The history of the earth and the history of nations from Hooke to Vico (trans. Cochrane, L. G.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1984).Google Scholar
  57. Rudwick, M. (1996). Geological travel and theoretical innovation: The role of the “Liminal” experience. Social Studies of Science, 26, 143–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rudwick, M. J. S. (2005). Bursting the limits of time: The reconstruction of geohistory in the age of revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Shapin, S. (1984). Pump and circumstance: Robert Boyle’s literary technology. Social Studies of Science, 14(4), 481–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shelley, M. (1818/1831). Frankenstein, or the modern prometheus. In M. Hindle (Ed.), London: Penguin (2003).Google Scholar
  61. Stafford, B. M. (1984). Voyage into substance: Art, science, nature, and the illustrated travel account 17601840. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  62. Tomkeieff, S. I. (1948). James Hutton and the philosophy of geology. Transactions of the Edinburgh Geological Society, 14(2), 253–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tyrrell, G. W. (1950). ‘Hutton on Arran’. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, LXIII(iv), 369–376.Google Scholar
  64. Walker, J. (1812). Essays on natural history and rural economy. London.Google Scholar
  65. Whittow, J.B. (1977/1979). Geology and scenery in Scotland. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  66. Williams, J. (1789). The natural history of the Mineral Kingdom, 2 vols. Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  67. Wyatt, J. (1995). Wordsworth and the geologists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Wyse Jackson, P. N. (Ed.). (2007). Four centuries of geological travel: The search for knowledge on foot, bicycle, sledge and camel. London: The Geological Society.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of StrathclydeGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations