This idea

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In terms, this idea (TR:29) (LH:4) (TL:33) refers to []


The following gives a general model of how "this idea" resonated in the mind of Shelley, specifically in respect to the "doctrine of elective affinities", as Moynihan calls it:

“The radical tenets of Shelley’s philosophy appear transmuted to something rich and strange in the medium of his poetry. These principles, which he imbibed from William Godwin’s Political Justice, are, briefly, the perfectibility of man, the usurpation of Church and State, the negation of moral evil, and the doctrine of elective affinities. When religion and government shall have passed away, and liberty, equality and fraternity, the ideals of the French Revolution, shall have come to dwell among men, then will the golden age return. Shelley regarded himself as a seer, a hierophant whose concern was with the regeneration of humanity.”
— Florence Moynihan (1922), “The Centenary of Shelley” (pg. 281)[1]

This elective affinities doctrine, as Shelley had learned it, is found in the works of Albertus Magnus (c.1250) to Newton's "Query 31" (1717), and 18th century affinity chemistry, which followed. Goethe, likewise, before Shelley, had the same "idea" resonating in his mind for five plus decades. Adams, similarly, after Goethe and Shelley, had the same resonating idea, but but this time, or at least by the time of Helmholtz's "On the Thermodynamics of Chemical Processes" (1882), "free energy" became the new "affinity", so to speak.


The following are quotes:

“I perceived something in nature (whether living or lifeless, animate or inanimate) that manifested itself only in contradictions and therefore could not be expressed in any concept, much less any word. It was not divine, for it seemed irrational; not human, for it had no intelligence; not diabolical, for it was beneficent; and not angelic, for it often betrayed malice. It was like chance, for it laced continuity, and like providence, for it suggested context. Everything that limits us seemed penetrable by it, and it appeared to dispose at will over the elements necessary to our existence, to contract time and expand space. It seemed only to accept the impossible and scornfully to reject the possible.”
— Johann Goethe (c.1770), Poetry and Truth (1811-1814) (§20, reflection on age 21 to 25 years)[2]
“The truth is, every thing in this universe has its regular waves and tides.[3] Electricity, sound, the wind, and I believe every part of organic nature will be brought someday within this law. The laws which govern animated beings will be ultimately found to be at bottom the same with those which rule inanimate nature, and as I entertain a profound conviction of the littleness of our kind, and of the curious enormity of creation, I am quite ready to receive with pleasure any basis for a systematic conception of it all. I look for regular tides in the affairs of man, and, of course, in our own affairs. In ever progression, somehow or other, the nations move by the same process which has never been explained but is evident in the oceans and the air. On this theory I should expect at about this time, a turn which would carry us backward.”
— Henry Adams (1863), “Letter to Charles Gaskell”, Oct[4]

End matter


  1. Moynihan, Florence. (1922). “The Centenary of Shelley” (pg. 281), America, 27:281-82.
  2. Schwartz, Peter J. (2010). After Jena: Goethe’s Elective Affinities and the End of the Old Regime (pg. 19). Bucknell University Press.
  3. Adams creed – Hmolpedia 2020.
  4. (a) Adams, Henry. (1863). “Letter to Charles Gaskell”, Oct.
    (b) Adams, Henry. (1982). The Letters of Henry Adams, Volume One: 1858-1868 (editor: Jacob Levenson) (pgs. 395-96). Harvard University Press.
    (c) Stevenson, Elizabeth. (1997). Henry Adams: a Biography (pg. 69). Transaction Publishers.
    (d) Taylor, Matthew A. (2008). Universes Without Selves: Cosmologies of the Non-Human in American Literature (pg. 108), PhD dissertation, Johns Hopkins University. ProQuest, 2009.
    (e) Taylor, Matthew. (2013). Universes Without Us: Posthuman Cosmologies in American Literature (GB) (pg. #). University of Minnesota.

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