In the nineteenth century, various and very different writers and thinkers became fascinated by crystals and by the developing science of crystallography. This article sets out to explore and explain why this might have been the case. In order to do so, it examines the treatment of crystals in works by Hegel, Stendhal, and John Ruskin and looks at the influence of crystallographic science on these texts. It argues that, despite their many differences and divergent concerns, nineteenth-century writers often seized on images of crystal and crystallization for strikingly similar reasons that can be attributed in part to the development and dissemination of crystallography in the period. Across disparate discourses, crystals symbolized both metamorphosis and a radical resistance to change and offered a picture of a world constituted out of the tension between the opposing forces of transformation and stasis. The article contributes to the study of the influence of science on nineteenth-century writers. But it also suggests how the history of science and the study of the representation of specific materials such as crystal can be used to read across and identify relationships between ostensibly quite dissimilar dimensions of nineteenth-century culture.

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