Lewis Campbell

General Description

Date: 1856
Genre: Prose essay


◦ “Lewis Campbell.”. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Scholarly Commentary

Guest Editor: PC Fleming


This essay is by Lewis Campbell (1830-1908), who later became a well-respected Greek scholar, publishing, among other works, a translation and study of Aeschylus (Dictionary of National Biography).

In this essay, Campbell compares two interpretations of the myth of Prometheus, Aeschylus's and Shelley's. He sees Aeschylus's version as a triumph of Athenian freedom over the despotism of Zeus. The triumph takes the form not of a decisive victory, but of a reconcilement of “the interminable struggle of human will and reason against a divinely imposed necessity” (261). Shelley, on the other hand, centers his poem on human reason, and for him Promethean emancipation is “the result, not of the independent ordinance of a higher power, but of the self-working of an inherent energy” (264).

Campbell moves from his discussion of Aeschylus and Shelley to Bacon's essay on “The Fable of Prometheus”, and from Bacon to a discussion of the conflict between religion and science. He concludes with the notion that “the true unbinding of Prometheus is not the triumph of reason, but the reconcilement of science and philosophy with religion” (265).

Printing History

First printed in The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , May, 1856.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1