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Secular ChainsPoetry and the Politics of Religion from Milton to Pope$
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Philip Connell

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199269587

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199269587.001.0001

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The Literature of Physico-Theology

The Literature of Physico-Theology

(p.177) 5 The Literature of Physico-Theology
Secular Chains

Philip Connell

Oxford University Press

Moving forward into the early Hanoverian era, this chapter analyses the political significance of Newtonian apologetic as it found expression in the poetry of James Thomson. The heterodox inclinations of leading Newtonian divines, such as Samuel Clarke, William Whiston, and Thomas Rundle, compromised whiggish attempts to enlist the new science in the service of Hanoverian panegyric, despite Queen Caroline’s well-publicized Newtonian enthusiasms. But for those whigs—both court and opposition—who were disturbed by Robert Walpole’s alliance with the heresy-hunting bishop of London, Edmund Gibson, the ‘latitudinarian’ associations of Newtonian religion could hold a strong political appeal. This latter possibility is shown to inform the blend of Shaftesburean enthusiasm and Newtonian physico-theology in Thomson’s The Seasons (1730).

Keywords:   James Thomson, Isaac Newton, Samuel Clarke, William Whiston, Thomas Rundle, Robert Walpole, Queen Caroline, Edmund Gibson, The Seasons, physico-theology

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