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Introduction: “Faln Systemes” and “Dead Chimæras”

  • Judy A. Hayden
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)

Abstract

In his extensive study, The Copernican Question (2011), Robert Westman seeks to discover “why and how Copernicus changed his own thinking about the organization of the heavens” and then to extend that question to ask “what made his discovery persuasive to others after its publication in 1543.”2 But Westman asks a further question that is for many scholars of literature and astronomy a paramount one—and the focus of this collection: “Under what conditions do people change or give up beliefs to which they are most deeply committed?” The reconfiguration—and certainly the relinquishing—of one’s conviction in a world system long held to be finite required for many in the sixteenth, seventeenth and even into the eighteenth centuries a compromise in one’s beliefs and the biblical authority on which he or she had relied—and this did not come without serious and complex challenges.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century World System Paradise Lost Literary Discourse Collective Vision 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Robert Westman, The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism and Celestial Order (Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 2011), xv.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Henry Wotton in a letter to the Earl of Salisbury, as quoted by Westman, Copernican Question, 458. Galileo was not the first to observe the Moon telescopically, but he was the first to make methodical records of his observations. See Westman, Copernican Question, 458; see also Toby E. Huff, Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution. A Global Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), particularly 39–40; Albert Van Helden, “Galileo and the Telescope,” in The Origins of the Telescope, ed. Albert Van Helden et al. (Amsterdam: Knaw Press, 2010), 183; and Huib J. Zuidervaart, “The ‘True Inventor’ of the Telescope. A Survey of 400 Years of Debate,” in The Origins of the Telescope, ed. Albert Van Helden et al. (Amsterdam: Knaw Press, 2010), 17–18; Richard Dunn, The Telescope. A Short History (Greenwich: National Maritime Museum, 2009), 25; William P. Sheehan and Thomas A. Dobbins, Epic Moon. A History of Lunar Exploration in the Age of the Telescope (Richmond, VA: Willman-Bell, Inc, 2001), 3–5; and Ewen A. Whitaker, “Selenography in the Seventeenth Century,” in The General History of Astronomy, Vol. 2, Planetary Astronomy from the Renaissance to the Rise of Astrophysics. Part A: Tycho Brahe to Newton, ed. René Taton and Curtis Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 119–143.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Albert Van Helden, “Galileo, Telescopic Astronomy, and the Copernican System,” in The General History of Astronomy, Vol. 2, Planetary Astronomy from the Renaissance to the Rise of Astrophysics. Part A: Tycho Brahe to Newton, ed. René Taton and Curtis Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 104.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Robert Boyle, The Correspondence of Robert Boyle, ed. Michael Hunter, Antonio Clericuzio and Lawrence M. Principe, 4 vols. (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2001), vol. 1, 55. Letter dated April 8, 1647.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    John Donne, Ignatius His Conclave, ed. T. S. Healy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 13–15.Google Scholar
  6. 19.
    John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Gordon Teskey, Norton Critical Edition (New York: Norton & Company, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    Joad Raymond, Milton’s Angels. The Early-Modern Imagination (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 297. Raymond also notes that Milton points out incidents of sunspots and Lunar geography in this epic; see particularly 297–299. For more on Milton and world systems, see, for example, Catherine Gimelli Martin, Milton among the Puritans: The Case for Historical Revisionism (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010), particularly 216–225 and her essay “What if the Sun Be Centre to the World?’: Milton’s Epistemology, Cosmology, and Paradise of Fools Reconsidered,” Modern Philology 99.2 (2001), 231–265; Jürgen Klein, Astronomie und Anthropozentrik: die Copernicanische Wende bei John Donne, John Milton und den Cambridge Platonists (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1986); Thomas N. Orchard, The Astronomy of Milton’s Paradise Lost (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1896), passim; Laura Dodds, “Milton’s Other Worlds,” in Uncircumscribed Mind: Reading Milton Deeply, ed. Charles W. Durham and Kristin A. Pruitt (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 2008), 164–182; Grant McColley, “Milton’s Dialogue on Astronomy: The Principle Immediate Sources,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 52 (September 1937), 728–762, and his “A Theory of a Plurality of Worlds as a Factor in Milton’s Attitude toward the Copernican Hypothesis,” Modern Language Notes 47.5 (May 1932), 319–325; and Allan H. Gilbert, “Milton’s Textbook of Astronomy,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 38 (June 1923), 297–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 22.
    See Aphra Behn, A Discovery of New Worlds. From the French. Made English by Mrs. A. Behn, in Seneca Unmasked and Other Prose, vol. 4 of The Works of Aphra Behn, ed. Janet Todd, Translations (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1993), 71–165. See Behn’s argument in the “Translator’s Preface,” particularly 78–86.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Edward Howard, Remarks on the New Philosophy ofDes-Cartes. In Four Parts (London: Printed byJ. Gardyner, and Sold byJ. Nutt, near Stationers-Hall, 1700), 182. Howard objects to Descartes “whirling Vortices and “Globuli,” while offering calculations to demonstrate “the Copernican Absurdity” (213). While Howard praises men like William Gilbert (for his magnetic theory) as well as Thomas Harriot and Francis Bacon, he makes no mention in this text of Isaac Newton or any other contemporary astronomer. While Howard may have meant to reject overtly here any theories or advances in the “new” astronomy, and certainly while Bacon may have rejected heliocentrism, Gilbert did suggest a diurnal rotation of the Earth, although he rejected the idea of any rotation in the celestial spheres. Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Marjorie Nicolson, A World in the Moon. A Study of the Changing Attitude toward the Moon in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, VXII.2 (January 1936), 47. Nicolson wrote considerably on this topic. See, for example, her Voyages to the Moon (1948. New York: Macmillan, 1960); “The Telescope and Imagination,” in Modern Philology XXXII (1935), 233–260; and “The ‘New Astronomy’ and English Literary Imagination,” in Studies in Philology XXXII (1935), 428–462. Those looking for examples of moon voyages and/or early flight would do well to consult Nicolson’s Voyages to the Moon and particularly her extensive bibliography on the subject (258–284).Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Galileo Galilei, Sidereus Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger, trans. with introduction, conclusion and notes by Albert Van Helden (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 32.
    Aphra Behn, Emperor of the Moon: A Farce, in The Plays 1682–1696, vol. 7 of The Works of Aphra Behn, ed. Janet Todd (London: William Pickering, 1996), 153–207. Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 152–153.Google Scholar
  14. 35.
    Francis Godwin, The Man in the Moone, ed. William Poole (Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2009).Google Scholar
  15. 38.
    John Suckling, “An answer to a Gentleman in Norfolk that sent to enquire after the Scottish business,” in The Works of John Sucking, vol. 1, The Non-Dramatic Works, ed. Thomas Clayton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 143. The letter is noted here as “Letter No. 38 Epistolary Tract, April 1639.” Though a personal letter, editorial notes point out that this was in fact a political tract in epistolary format that was widely circulated (324).Google Scholar
  16. 39.
    George Wither, Vaticinium Votivum: or, Palæmon’s Prophetick Prayer (Trajecti [London]: anno Caroli Martyris Primo, [1649]), 18.Google Scholar
  17. 41.
    Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution. Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), 226.Google Scholar
  18. 43.
    Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, “Description of a New World Called a Blazing World,” in Political Writings, ed. Susan James (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 1–109. The Empress does eventually allow the Bear-men to keep their telescopes when they point out that they “take more delight in artificial delusions, than in natural truths” and agree to keep their arguments in their own college (28). Google Scholar

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© Judy A. Hayden 2016

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  • Judy A. Hayden

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