This essay sets Thomas Hardy's novel Two on a Tower (1882) in the context of the astronomy and thermodynamics contemporary to it, focusing specifically on coverage of the transits of Venus in 1874 and 1882 and associated discussions of interstellar distance, as well as on the growing awareness of the implications of entropy for the life span of the sun and stars-developments that made the universe seem hostile to human existence and beyond human ability to understand. Investigating how Hardy incorporates and reshapes this scientific material in his novel, I argue that Two on a Tower participates in a reevaluation of the potential of science to fulfill humanity's moral and spiritual needs. Hardy uses his novel to explore whether literature has the ability-as Matthew Arnold, in "Literature and Science" (1882) claims it does-to reconcile or relate science to human experience. In the course of Two on a Tower, however, Hardy discovers this reconciliation to be impossible, and the novel's final chapters recognize both a formal and a moral need to choose the human view of life over the scientific one.
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