14.0186 Disraeli's philosopher & the 1857 comet

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Sun Aug 20 2000 - 15:17:18 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 186.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 16:04:08 +0100
             From: "Jim Marchand" <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
             Subject: Re: 14.0182 reactions to the 1857 comet?

    Offhand, I cannot identify the `philosopher', other than to say that he may
    actually be Disraeli himself. There were so many end-of-the-world books,
    many of which used comets. William Whiston's New Theory of the Earth (1696)
    was famous and would certainly fit. Just a little later, there was Ignatius
    Donnelly's Ragnarok (1882), too late to be taken into consideration, but
    with the same theme. It is interesting how the scientific community often
    accepted these books. Look at Martin Gardner, Fads & Fallacies in the Name
    of Science (Dover, 1957).

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Humanist Discussion Group
    <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>) <willard@lists.village.virginia.edu>
    To: Humanist Discussion Group <humanist@lists.Princeton.EDU>
    Date: Saturday, August 19, 2000 2:53 AM

    > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 182.
    > Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
    > <http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/>
    > <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>
    > Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000 08:24:57 +0100
    > From: Mel Wiebe <wiebem@qsilver.queensu.ca>
    > Subject: 1857 comet, reactions to
    >Editing the letters of Benjamin Disraeli, I am stumped by an identification
    >that looks like it should be an easy one; perhaps HUMANIST can help. Here's
    >the problem:
    > In early 1857 a prediction was made that a comet would strike the earth on
    >13 June 1857, causing great alarm in some quarters because of several
    >end-of-the-world prophecies. Others, however, were more amused than
    >frightened. Disraeli on 7 June 1857 wrote to his friend Sarah Brydges
    >Willyams in Torquay about a planned visit, and remarked:
    > "The world is very much frightened about the Comet .... A philosopher, who
    >laughs at the theological view of the question, & therefore shocks the
    >ladies, has however frightened them equally by his scientific announcement
    >that the world has already been destroyed 27 times, that, reasoning by
    >analogy, it must be destroyed again & probably often; that he rather
    >imagines it will not be destroyed on the 13th. Inst, but there is no reason
    >why it shd. not be destroyed before that, as the destructive agencies are
    >all rife -- in the centre of the earth a raging fire, while the misty tail
    >of the comet wd, if it touched us, pour forth an overwhelming deluge -- so
    >in 4 & 20 hours we may be shrivelled or drowned. In the meantime, if the
    >catastrophe do not occur, we hope to be at Torquay by the end of next
    > Who is this "philosopher"?
    >Mel Wiebe, General Editor of _Benjamin Disraeli Letters_, Queen's
    >University, Kingston, Canada

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