The empirical procedures of In Memoriam not only come before but are also more primal if not more primary than the religious principles included in the varied but not finally unintegrated rhetoric of consolation in the poem. These empirical procedures assure a triumph of will that deepens until, by fits and starts from one section of the poem to another, the persona dispels despair through his natural, distinct from his spiritual or natural- spiritual, strategy for recovery from grief. The natural-experiential thesis of In Memoriam, quite apart from its synthesis-antiphony of the natural and spiritual kinds of experience--hence quite apart from the full unity of the poem (see my next two sections)--entails more hope than tragedy. Tennyson's human-centered "science" of bittersweet empiricism rises to the challenge posed not only to his faith but also to his philosophy by "Nature, red in tooth and claw / With ravine" (56.15-16).
Tennyson's "strong empirical bias" (Jerome H. Buckley's phrase)1 includes, of course, his knowledge of nineteenth-century science, which he knew better than did either Coleridge or Carlyle.2 At Cambridge with its "preeminence in the natural sciences," Tennyson concluded that all branches of knowledge should be subject to "scientific demonstration"; thus he showed "greater receptivity" than did the other Apostles to "the method and intention of the new inductive scientists."3 One source for his scientific thought, namely, Robert Chambers's Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation ( 1844), "interprets evolution in terms of progress and as evidence of a benevolent Providence,"4 but the gloomier evolutionary implications of Principles of Geology ( 1830-33) by Sir Charles Lyell, and for that matter of Origin of Species ( 1859) by Charles Darwin, gloss In Memo-