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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.48 'Puck', cartoon 5

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Following on from Reason Against Unreason and The Sun of the Nineteenth Century, another cartoon in the American humorous magazine Puck depicted Darwin as the epitome of philosophical enlightenment. The Universal Church of the Future – From the Present Religious Outlook, drawn by Joseph Keppler in 1883, depicts a grandly classical public building – something between a church and a library –  where well-dressed people sit in attitudes of sober thought. They are listening to a lecture – or a sermon – on geography; the lecturer gestures dramatically to the globe, positioned between ‘Books of scientific reference’ and ‘Books of religious reference’, as though engaged in reconciling the two. A wise owl is perched on a book labelled ‘Kosmos’ below him, and overhead an outsize portrait of Darwin watches over the proceedings. The austerity of the architecture and the plethora of scientific instruments – a telescope points to the heavens through the oculus of the dome – augment the impression of cold intellectualism; an inscription on the pendentive of the dome tells us that ‘Knowledge is Power’. Admittedly, the frieze of the dome carries a message of social responsibility – do as you would be done by; but Darwin’s ideas do not appear here as the life-enhancing and liberating power that was evoked in Reason Against Unreason a few months earlier. The cartoon almost seems like a satire on scientism. A commentary on The Universal Church, written by the editor of Puck in 1893, noted, ‘The times change and we change with them. When this cartoon was designed, the popular theological fad was the harmonization of science and religion’, but this already seemed a pointless exercise. 

  • physical location Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC. Other copies exist. 

  • accession or collection number control no. 2012645438; reproduction no. LC-DIG-ppmsca-28353   

  • copyright holder Library of Congress, Washington DC. 

  • originator of image Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (signed lower left ‘J. Keppler’) 

  • date of creation January 1883 

  • computer-readable date 1883-01-01 to 1883-01-09   

  • medium and material chromolithography 

  • references and bibliography Puck 12:305 (10 Jan. 1883), centrespread. A Selection of Cartoons from Puck, by Joseph Keppler; with text and introduction by H.C. Bunner (New York: Keppler and Schwarzmann, 1893), pp. vi-vii, 33-5. Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard Samuel West, What Fools These Mortals Be! The Story of Puck: America’s First and Most Influential Magazine of Color Political Cartoons (San Diego: IDW Publishing, 2014), pp. 207-9, no. 178. 



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