Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I

Part 1 out of 10

Adobe PDF icon
Download The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I - Full Text Free Book (Part 1/10) pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

This etext was prepared by Sue Asscher







In choosing letters for publication I have been largely guided by the wish
to illustrate my father's personal character. But his life was so
essentially one of work, that a history of the man could not be written
without following closely the career of the author. Thus it comes about
that the chief part of the book falls into chapters whose titles correspond
to the names of his books.

In arranging the letters I have adhered as far as possible to chronological
sequence, but the character and variety of his researches make a strictly
chronological order an impossibility. It was his habit to work more or
less simultaneously at several subjects. Experimental work was often
carried on as a refreshment or variety, while books entailing reasoning and
the marshalling of large bodies of facts were being written. Moreover,
many of his researches were allowed to drop, and only resumed after an
interval of years. Thus a rigidly chronological series of letters would
present a patchwork of subjects, each of which would be difficult to
follow. The Table of Contents will show in what way I have attempted to
avoid this result.

In printing the letters I have followed (except in a few cases) the usual
plan of indicating the existence of omissions or insertions. My father's
letters give frequent evidence of having been written when he was tired or
hurried, and they bear the marks of this circumstance. In writing to a
friend, or to one of his family, he frequently omitted the articles: these
have been inserted without the usual indications, except in a few
instances, where it is of special interest to preserve intact the hurried
character of the letter. Other small words, such as "of", "to", etc., have
been inserted usually within brackets. I have not followed the originals
as regards the spelling of names, the use of capitals, or in the matter of
punctuation. My father underlined many words in his letters; these have
not always been given in italics,--a rendering which would unfairly
exaggerate their effect.

The Diary or Pocket-book, from which quotations occur in the following
pages, has been of value as supplying a frame-work of facts round which
letters may be grouped. It is unfortunately written with great brevity,
the history of a year being compressed into a page or less; and contains
little more than the dates of the principal events of his life, together
with entries as to his work, and as to the duration of his more serious
illnesses. He rarely dated his letters, so that but for the Diary it would
have been all but impossible to unravel the history of his books. It has
also enabled me to assign dates to many letters which would otherwise have
been shorn of half their value.

Of letters addressed to my father I have not made much use. It was his
custom to file all letters received, and when his slender stock of files
("spits" as he called them) was exhausted, he would burn the letters of
several years, in order that he might make use of the liberated "spits."
This process, carried on for years, destroyed nearly all letters received
before 1862. After that date he was persuaded to keep the more interesting
letters, and these are preserved in an accessible form.

I have attempted to give, in Chapter III., some account of his manner of
working. During the last eight years of his life I acted as his assistant,
and thus had an opportunity of knowing something of his habits and methods.

I have received much help from my friends in the course of my work. To
some I am indebted for reminiscences of my father, to others for
information, criticisms, and advice. To all these kind coadjutors I gladly
acknowledge my indebtedness. The names of some occur in connection with
their contributions, but I do not name those to whom I am indebted for
criticisms or corrections, because I should wish to bear alone the load of
my short-comings, rather than to let any of it fall on those who have done
their best to lighten it.

It will be seen how largely I am indebted to Sir Joseph Hooker for the
means of illustrating my father's life. The readers of these pages will, I
think, be grateful to Sir Joseph for the care with which he has preserved
his valuable collection of letters, and I should wish to add my
acknowledgment of the generosity with which he has placed it at my
disposal, and for the kindly encouragement given throughout my work.

To Mr. Huxley I owe a debt of thanks, not only for much kind help, but for
his willing compliance with my request that he should contribute a chapter
on the reception of the 'Origin of Species.'

Finally, it is a pleasure to acknowledge the courtesy of the publishers of
the 'Century Magazine' who have freely given me the use of their
illustrations. To Messrs. Maull and Fox and Messrs. Elliott and Fry I am
also indebted for their kindness in allowing me the use of reproductions of
their photographs.


October, 1887.



CHAPTER 1.I.--The Darwin Family.

CHAPTER 1.II.--Autobiography.

CHAPTER 1.III.--Reminiscences.


CHAPTER 1.IV.--Cambridge Life--1828-1831.

CHAPTER 1.V.--The Appointment to the 'Beagle'--1831.

CHAPTER 1.VI.--The Voyage--1831-1836.

CHAPTER 1.VII.--London and Cambridge--1836-1842.

CHAPTER 1.VIII.--Religion.

CHAPTER 1.IX.--Life at Down--1842-1854.

CHAPTER 1.X.--The Growth of the 'Origin of Species.'

CHAPTER 1.XI.--The Growth of the 'Origin of Species'--Letters--1843-1856.

CHAPTER 1.XII.--The Unfinished Book--May 1856-June 1858.

CHAPTER 1.XIII.--The Writing of the 'Origin of Species'--June 18, 1858-
November 1859.

CHAPTER 1.XIV.--Professor Huxley on the Reception of the 'Origin of





The earliest records of the family show the Darwins to have been
substantial yeomen residing on the northern borders of Lincolnshire, close
to Yorkshire. The name is now very unusual in England, but I believe that
it is not unknown in the neighbourhood of Sheffield and in Lancashire.
Down to the year 1600 we find the name spelt in a variety of ways--Derwent,
Darwen, Darwynne, etc. It is possible, therefore, that the family migrated
at some unknown date from Yorkshire, Cumberland, or Derbyshire, where
Derwent occurs as the name of a river.

The first ancestor of whom we know was one William Darwin, who lived, about
the year 1500, at Marton, near Gainsborough. His great grandson, Richard
Darwyn, inherited land at Marton and elsewhere, and in his will, dated
1584, "bequeathed the sum of 3s. 4d. towards the settynge up of the
Queene's Majestie's armes over the quearie (choir) doore in the parishe
churche of Marton." (We owe a knowledge of these earlier members of the
family to researches amongst the wills at Lincoln, made by the well-known
genealogist, Colonel Chester.)

The son of this Richard, named William Darwin, and described as
"gentleman," appears to have been a successful man. Whilst retaining his
ancestral land at Marton, he acquired through his wife and by purchase an
estate at Cleatham, in the parish of Manton, near Kirton Lindsey, and fixed
his residence there. This estate remained in the family down to the year
1760. A cottage with thick walls, some fish-ponds and old trees, now alone
show where the "Old Hall" once stood, and a field is still locally known as
the "Darwin Charity," from being subject to a charge in favour of the poor
of Marton. William Darwin must, at least in part, have owed his rise in
station to his appointment in 1613 by James I. to the post of Yeoman of the
Royal Armoury of Greenwich. The office appears to have been worth only 33
pounds a year, and the duties were probably almost nominal; he held the
post down to his death during the Civil Wars.

The fact that this William was a royal servant may explain why his son,
also named William, served when almost a boy for the King, as "Captain-
Lieutenant" in Sir William Pelham's troop of horse. On the partial
dispersion of the royal armies, and the retreat of the remainder to
Scotland, the boy's estates were sequestrated by the Parliament, but they
were redeemed on his signing the Solemn League and Covenant, and on his
paying a fine which must have struck his finances severely; for in a
petition to Charles II. he speaks of his almost utter ruin from having
adhered to the royal cause.

During the Commonwealth, William Darwin became a barrister of Lincoln's
Inn, and this circumstance probably led to his marriage with the daughter
of Erasmus Earle, serjeant-at-law; hence his great-grandson, Erasmus
Darwin, the Poet, derived his Christian name. He ultimately became
Recorder of the city of Lincoln.

The eldest son of the Recorder, again called William, was born in 1655, and
married the heiress of Robert Waring, a member of a good Staffordshire
family. This lady inherited from the family of Lassells, or Lascelles, the
manor and hall of Elston, near Newark, which has remained ever since in the
family. (Captain Lassells, or Lascelles, of Elston was military secretary
to Monk, Duke of Albemarle, during the Civil Wars. A large volume of
account books, countersigned in many places by Monk, are now in the
possession of my cousin Francis Darwin. The accounts might possibly prove
of interest to the antiquarian or historian. A portrait of Captain
Lassells in armour, although used at one time as an archery-target by some
small boys of our name, was not irretrievably ruined.) A portrait of this
William Darwin at Elston shows him as a good-looking young man in a full-
bottomed wig.

This third William had two sons, William, and Robert who was educated as a
barrister. The Cleatham property was left to William, but on the
termination of his line in daughters reverted to the younger brother, who
had received Elston. On his mother's death Robert gave up his profession
and resided ever afterwards at Elston Hall. Of this Robert, Charles Darwin
writes (What follows is quoted from Charles Darwin's biography of his
grandfather, forming the preliminary notice to Ernst Krause's interesting
essay, 'Erasmus Darwin,' London, 1879, page 4.):--

"He seems to have had some taste for science, for he was an early member of
the well-known Spalding Club; and the celebrated antiquary Dr. Stukeley, in
'An Account of the almost entire Sceleton of a large Animal,' etc.,
published in the 'Philosophical Transactions,' April and May 1719, begins
the paper as follows: 'Having an account from my friend Robert Darwin,
Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, a person of curiosity, of a human sceleton
impressed in stone, found lately by the rector of Elston,' etc. Stukeley
then speaks of it as a great rarity, 'the like whereof has not been
observed before in this island to my knowledge.' Judging from a sort of
litany written by Robert, and handed down in the family, he was a strong
advocate of temperance, which his son ever afterwards so strongly

>From a morning that doth shine,
>From a boy that drinketh wine,
>From a wife that talketh Latine,
Good Lord deliver me!

"It is suspected that the third line may be accounted for by his wife, the
mother of Erasmus, having been a very learned lady. The eldest son of
Robert, christened Robert Waring, succeeded to the estate of Elston, and
died there at the age of ninety-two, a bachelor. He had a strong taste for
poetry, like his youngest brother Erasmus. Robert also cultivated botany,
and, when an oldish man, he published his 'Principia Botanica.' This book
in MS. was beautifully written, and my father [Dr. R.W. Darwin] declared
that he believed it was published because his old uncle could not endure
that such fine caligraphy should be wasted. But this was hardly just, as
the work contains many curious notes on biology--a subject wholly neglected
in England in the last century. The public, moreover, appreciated the
book, as the copy in my possession is the third edition."

The second son, William Alvey, inherited Elston, and transmitted it to his
granddaughter, the late Mrs. Darwin, of Elston and Creskeld. A third son,
John, became rector of Elston, the living being in the gift of the family.
The fourth son, the youngest child, was Erasmus Darwin, the poet and

TABLE OF RELATIONSHIP. (An incomplete list of family members.)

ROBERT DARWIN of Elston, 1682-1754, had three sons, William Alvey Darwin,
1726-1783, Robert Waring Darwin, 1724-1816, and Erasmus Darwin, 1731-1802.

William Alvey Darwin, 1726-1783, had a son, William Brown Darwin, 1774-
1841, and a daughter, Anne Darwin.

William Brown Darwin, 1774-1841, had two daughters, Charlotte Darwin and
Sarah Darwin.

Charlotte Darwin married Francis Rhodes, now Francis Darwin of Creskeld and

Sarah Darwin married Edward Noel.

Anne Darwin married Samuel Fox and had a son, William Darwin Fox.

ERASMUS DARWIN, 1731-1802, married (1) MARY HOWARD, 1740-1770, with whom he
had two sons, Charles Darwin, 1758-1778, and ROBERT WARING DARWIN, and (2)
Eliz. Chandos-Pole, 1747-1832, with whom he had a daughter, Violetta
Darwin, and a son, Francis Sacheverel Darwin.

ROBERT WARING DARWIN, 1767-1848, married SUSANNAH WEDGWOOD and had a son,
CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN, b. February 12, 1809, d. April 19, 1882.

Violetta Darwin married Samuel Tertius Galton and had a son, Francis

Francis Sacheverel Darwin, 1786-1859, had two sons, Reginald Darwin and
Edward Darwin, "High Elms."

The table above shows Charles Darwin's descent from Robert, and his
relationship to some other members of the family, whose names occur in his
correspondence. Among these are included William Darwin Fox, one of his
earliest correspondents, and Francis Galton, with whom he maintained a warm
friendship for many years. Here also occurs the name of Francis Sacheverel
Darwin, who inherited a love of natural history from Erasmus, and
transmitted it to his son Edward Darwin, author (under the name of "High
Elms") of a 'Gamekeeper's Manual' (4th Edition 1863), which shows keen
observation of the habits of various animals.

It is always interesting to see how far a man's personal characteristics
can be traced in his forefathers. Charles Darwin inherited the tall
stature, but not the bulky figure of Erasmus; but in his features there is
no traceable resemblance to those of his grandfather. Nor, it appears, had
Erasmus the love of exercise and of field-sports, so characteristic of
Charles Darwin as a young man, though he had, like his grandson, an
indomitable love of hard mental work. Benevolence and sympathy with
others, and a great personal charm of manner, were common to the two.
Charles Darwin possessed, in the highest degree, that "vividness of
imagination" of which he speaks as strongly characteristic of Erasmus, and
as leading "to his overpowering tendency to theorise and generalise." This
tendency, in the case of Charles Darwin, was fully kept in check by the
determination to test his theories to the utmost. Erasmus had a strong
love of all kinds of mechanism, for which Charles Darwin had no taste.
Neither had Charles Darwin the literary temperament which made Erasmus a
poet as well as a philosopher. He writes of Erasmus ('Life of Erasmus
Darwin,' page 68.): "Throughout his letters I have been struck with his
indifference to fame, and the complete absence of all signs of any over-
estimation of his own abilities, or of the success of his works." These,
indeed, seem indications of traits most strikingly prominent in his own
character. Yet we get no evidence in Erasmus of the intense modesty and
simplicity that marked Charles Darwin's whole nature. But by the quick
bursts of anger provoked in Erasmus, at the sight of any inhumanity or
injustice, we are again reminded of him.

On the whole, however, it seems to me that we do not know enough of the
essential personal tone of Erasmus Darwin's character to attempt more than
a superficial comparison; and I am left with an impression that, in spite
of many resemblances, the two men were of a different type. It has been
shown that Miss Seward and Mrs. Schimmelpenninck have misrepresented
Erasmus Darwin's character. (Ibid., pages 77, 79, etc.) It is, however,
extremely probable that the faults which they exaggerate were to some
extent characteristic of the man; and this leads me to think that Erasmus
had a certain acerbity or severity of temper which did not exist in his

The sons of Erasmus Darwin inherited in some degree his intellectual
tastes, for Charles Darwin writes of them as follows:

"His eldest son, Charles (born September 3, 1758), was a young man of
extraordinary promise, but died (May 15, 1778) before he was twenty-one
years old, from the effects of a wound received whilst dissecting the brain
of a child. He inherited from his father a strong taste for various
branches of science, for writing verses, and for mechanics...He also
inherited stammering. With the hope of curing him, his father sent him to
France, when about eight years old (1766-'67), with a private tutor,
thinking that if he was not allowed to speak English for a time, the habit
of stammering might be lost; and it is a curious fact, that in after years,
when speaking French, he never stammered. At a very early age he collected
specimens of all kinds. When sixteen years old he was sent for a year to
[Christ Church] Oxford, but he did not like the place, and thought (in the
words of his father) that the 'vigour of his mind languished in the pursuit
of classical elegance like Hercules at the distaff, and sighed to be
removed to the robuster exercise of the medical school of Edinburgh.' He
stayed three years at Edinburgh, working hard at his medical studies, and
attending 'with diligence all the sick poor of the parish of Waterleith,
and supplying them with the necessary medicines.' The Aesculapian Society
awarded him its first gold medal for an experimental inquiry on pus and
mucus. Notices of him appeared in various journals; and all the writers
agree about his uncommon energy and abilities. He seems like his father to
have excited the warm affection of his friends. Professor Andrew Duncan...
spoke...about him with the warmest affection forty-seven years after his
death when I was a young medical student at Edinburgh...

"About the character of his second son, Erasmus (born 1759), I have little
to say, for though he wrote poetry, he seems to have had none of the other
tastes of his father. He had, however, his own peculiar tastes, viz.,
genealogy, the collecting of coins, and statistics. When a boy he counted
all the houses in the city of Lichfield, and found out the number of
inhabitants in as many as he could; he thus made a census, and when a real
one was first made, his estimate was found to be nearly accurate. His
disposition was quiet and retiring. My father had a very high opinion of
his abilities, and this was probably just, for he would not otherwise have
been invited to travel with, and pay long visits to, men so distinguished
in different ways as Boulton the engineer, and Day the moralist and
novelist." His death by suicide, in 1799, seems to have taken place in a
state of incipient insanity.

Robert Waring, the father of Charles Darwin, was born May 30, 1766, and
entered the medical profession like his father. He studied for a few
months at Leyden, and took his M.D. (I owe this information to the kindness
of Professor Rauwenhoff, Director of the Archives at Leyden. He quotes
from the catalogue of doctors that "Robertus Waring Darwin, Anglo-
britannus," defended (February 26, 1785) in the Senate a Dissertation on
the coloured images seen after looking at a bright object, and "Medicinae
Doctor creatus est a clar. Paradijs." The archives of Leyden University
are so complete that Professor Rauwenhoff is able to tell me that my
grandfather lived together with a certain "Petrus Crompton, Anglus," in
lodgings in the Apothekersdijk. Dr. Darwin's Leyden dissertation was
published in the 'Philosophical Transactions,' and my father used to say
that the work was in fact due to Erasmus Darwin.--F.D.) at that University
on February 26, 1785. "His father" (Erasmus) "brought ('Life of Erasmus
Darwin,' page 85.) him to Shrewsbury before he was twenty-one years old
(1787), and left him 20 pounds, saying, 'Let me know when you want more,
and I will send it you.' His uncle, the rector of Elston, afterwards also
sent him 20 pounds, and this was the sole pecuniary aid which he ever
received...Erasmus tells Mr. Edgeworth that his son Robert, after being
settled in Shrewsbury for only six months, 'already had between forty and
fifty patients.' By the second year he was in considerable, and ever
afterwards in very large, practice."

Robert Waring Darwin married (April 18, 1796) Susannah, the daughter of his
father's friend, Josiah Wedgwood, of Etruria, then in her thirty-second
year. We have a miniature of her, with a remarkably sweet and happy face,
bearing some resemblance to the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds of her
father; a countenance expressive of the gentle and sympathetic nature which
Miss Meteyard ascribes to her. ('A Group of Englishmen,' by Miss Meteyard,
1871.) She died July 15, 1817, thirty-two years before her husband, whose
death occurred on November 13, 1848. Dr. Darwin lived before his marriage
for two or three years on St. John's Hill; afterwards at the Crescent,
where his eldest daughter Marianne was born; lastly at the "Mount," in the
part of Shrewsbury known as Frankwell, where the other children were born.
This house was built by Dr. Darwin about 1800, it is now in the possession
of Mr. Spencer Phillips, and has undergone but little alteration. It is a
large, plain, square, red-brick house, of which the most attractive feature
is the pretty green-house, opening out of the morning-room.

The house is charmingly placed, on the top of a steep bank leading down to
the Severn. The terraced bank is traversed by a long walk, leading from
end to end, still called "the Doctor's Walk." At one point in this walk
grows a Spanish chestnut, the branches of which bend back parallel to
themselves in a curious manner, and this was Charles Darwin's favourite
tree as a boy, where he and his sister Catherine had each their special

The Doctor took a great pleasure in his garden, planting it with ornamental
trees and shrubs, and being especially successful in fruit-trees; and this
love of plants was, I think, the only taste kindred to natural history
which he possessed. Of the "Mount pigeons," which Miss Meteyard describes
as illustrating Dr. Darwin's natural-history taste, I have not been able to
hear from those most capable of knowing. Miss Meteyard's account of him is
not quite accurate in a few points. For instance, it is incorrect to
describe Dr. Darwin as having a philosophical mind; his was a mind
especially given to detail, and not to generalising. Again, those who knew
him intimately describe him as eating remarkably little, so that he was not
"a great feeder, eating a goose for his dinner, as easily as other men do a
partridge." ('A Group of Englishmen,' page 263.) In the matter of dress
he was conservative, and wore to the end of his life knee-breeches and drab
gaiters, which, however, certainly did not, as Miss Meteyard says, button
above the knee--a form of costume chiefly known to us in grenadiers of
Queen Anne's day, and in modern wood-cutters and ploughboys.

Charles Darwin had the strongest feeling of love and respect for his
father's memory. His recollection of everything that was connected with
him was peculiarly distinct, and he spoke of him frequently; generally
prefacing an anecdote with some such phrase as, "My father, who was the
wisest man I ever knew, etc..." It was astonishing how clearly he
remembered his father's opinions, so that he was able to quote some maxims
or hint of his in most cases of illness. As a rule, he put small faith in
doctors, and thus his unlimited belief in Dr. Darwin's medical instinct and
methods of treatment was all the more striking.

His reverence for him was boundless and most touching. He would have
wished to judge everything else in the world dispassionately, but anything
his father had said was received with almost implicit faith. His daughter
Mrs. Litchfield remembers him saying that he hoped none of his sons would
ever believe anything because he said it, unless they were themselves
convinced of its truth,--a feeling in striking contrast with his own manner
of faith.

A visit which Charles Darwin made to Shrewsbury in 1869 left on the mind of
his daughter who accompanied him a strong impression of his love for his
old home. The then tenant of the Mount showed them over the house, etc.,
and with mistaken hospitality remained with the party during the whole
visit. As they were leaving, Charles Darwin said, with a pathetic look of
regret, "If I could have been left alone in that green-house for five
minutes, I know I should have been able to see my father in his wheel-chair
as vividly as if he had been there before me."

Perhaps this incident shows what I think is the truth, that the memory of
his father he loved the best, was that of him as an old man. Mrs.
Litchfield has noted down a few words which illustrate well his feeling
towards his father. She describes him as saying with the most tender
respect, "I think my father was a little unjust to me when I was young, but
afterwards I am thankful to think I became a prime favourite with him."
She has a vivid recollection of the expression of happy reverie that
accompanied these words, as if he were reviewing the whole relation, and
the remembrance left a deep sense of peace and gratitude.

What follows was added by Charles Darwin to his autobiographical
'Recollections,' and was written about 1877 or 1878.

"I may here add a few pages about my father, who was in many ways a
remarkable man.

"He was about 6 feet 2 inches in height, with broad shoulders, and very
corpulent, so that he was the largest man whom I ever saw. When he last
weighed himself, he was 24 stone, but afterwards increased much in weight.
His chief mental characteristics were his powers of observation and his
sympathy, neither of which have I ever seen exceeded or even equalled. His
sympathy was not only with the distresses of others, but in a greater
degree with the pleasures of all around him. This led him to be always
scheming to give pleasure to others, and, though hating extravagance, to
perform many generous actions. For instance, Mr. B--, a small manufacturer
in Shrewsbury, came to him one day, and said he should be bankrupt unless
he could at once borrow 10,000 pounds, but that he was unable to give any
legal security. My father heard his reasons for believing that he could
ultimately repay the money, and from [his] intuitive perception of
character felt sure that he was to be trusted. So he advanced this sum,
which was a very large one for him while young, and was after a time

"I suppose that it was his sympathy which gave him unbounded power of
winning confidence, and as a consequence made him highly successful as a
physician. He began to practise before he was twenty-one years old, and
his fees during the first year paid for the keep of two horses and a
servant. On the following year his practice was large, and so continued
for about sixty years, when he ceased to attend on any one. His great
success as a doctor was the more remarkable, as he told me that he at first
hated his profession so much that if he had been sure of the smallest
pittance, or if his father had given him any choice, nothing should have
induced him to follow it. To the end of his life, the thought of an
operation almost sickened him, and he could scarcely endure to see a person
bled--a horror which he has transmitted to me--and I remember the horror
which I felt as a schoolboy in reading about Pliny (I think) bleeding to
death in a warm bath...

"Owing to my father's power of winning confidence, many patients,
especially ladies, consulted him when suffering from any misery, as a sort
of Father-Confessor. He told me that they always began by complaining in a
vague manner about their health, and by practice he soon guessed what was
really the matter. He then suggested that they had been suffering in their
minds, and now they would pour out their troubles, and he heard nothing
more about the body...Owing to my father's skill in winning confidence he
received many strange confessions of misery and guilt. He often remarked
how many miserable wives he had known. In several instances husbands and
wives had gone on pretty well together for between twenty and thirty years,
and then hated each other bitterly; this he attributed to their having lost
a common bond in their young children having grown up.

"But the most remarkable power which my father possessed was that of
reading the characters, and even the thoughts of those whom he saw even for
a short time. We had many instances of the power, some of which seemed
almost supernatural. It saved my father from ever making (with one
exception, and the character of this man was soon discovered) an unworthy
friend. A strange clergyman came to Shrewsbury, and seemed to be a rich
man; everybody called on him, and he was invited to many houses. My father
called, and on his return home told my sisters on no account to invite him
or his family to our house; for he felt sure that the man was not to be
trusted. After a few months he suddenly bolted, being heavily in debt, and
was found out to be little better than an habitual swindler. Here is a
case of trustfulness which not many men would have ventured on. An Irish
gentleman, a complete stranger, called on my father one day, and said that
he had lost his purse, and that it would be a serious inconvenience to him
to wait in Shrewsbury until he could receive a remittance from Ireland. He
then asked my father to lend him 20 pounds, which was immediately done, as
my father felt certain that the story was a true one. As soon as a letter
could arrive from Ireland, one came with the most profuse thanks, and
enclosing, as he said, a 20 pound Bank of England note, but no note was
enclosed. I asked my father whether this did not stagger him, but he
answered 'not in the least.' On the next day another letter came with many
apologies for having forgotten (like a true Irishman) to put the note into
his letter of the day before...(A gentleman) brought his nephew, who was
insane but quite gentle, to my father; and the young man's insanity led him
to accuse himself of all the crimes under heaven. When my father
afterwards talked over the matter with the uncle, he said, 'I am sure that
your nephew is really guilty of...a heinous crime.' Whereupon [the
gentleman] said, 'Good God, Dr. Darwin, who told you; we thought that no
human being knew the fact except ourselves!' My father told me the story
many years after the event, and I asked him how he distinguished the true
from the false self-accusations; and it was very characteristic of my
father that he said he could not explain how it was.

"The following story shows what good guesses my father could make. Lord
Shelburne, afterwards the first Marquis of Lansdowne, was famous (as
Macaulay somewhere remarks) for his knowledge of the affairs of Europe, on
which he greatly prided himself. He consulted my father medically, and
afterwards harangued him on the state of Holland. My father had studied
medicine at Leyden, and one day [while there] went a long walk into the
country with a friend who took him to the house of a clergyman (we will say
the Rev. Mr. A--, for I have forgotten his name), who had married an
Englishwoman. My father was very hungry, and there was little for luncheon
except cheese, which he could never eat. The old lady was surprised and
grieved at this, and assured my father that it was an excellent cheese, and
had been sent her from Bowood, the seat of Lord Shelburne. My father
wondered why a cheese should be sent her from Bowood, but thought nothing
more about it until it flashed across his mind many years afterwards,
whilst Lord Shelburne was talking about Holland. So he answered, 'I should
think from what I saw of the Rev. Mr. A--, that he was a very able man, and
well acquainted with the state of Holland.' My father saw that the Earl,
who immediately changed the conversation was much startled. On the next
morning my father received a note from the Earl, saying that he had delayed
starting on his journey, and wished particularly to see my father. When he
called, the Earl said, 'Dr. Darwin, it is of the utmost importance to me
and to the Rev. Mr. A-- to learn how you have discovered that he is the
source of my information about Holland.' So my father had to explain the
state of the case, and he supposed that Lord Shelburne was much struck with
his diplomatic skill in guessing, for during many years afterwards he
received many kind messages from him through various friends. I think that
he must have told the story to his children; for Sir C. Lyell asked me many
years ago why the Marquis of Lansdowne (the son or grand-son of the first
marquis) felt so much interest about me, whom he had never seen, and my
family. When forty new members (the forty thieves as they were then
called) were added to the Athenaeum Club, there was much canvassing to be
one of them; and without my having asked any one, Lord Lansdowne proposed
me and got me elected. If I am right in my supposition, it was a queer
concatenation of events that my father not eating cheese half-a-century
before in Holland led to my election as a member of the Athenaeum.

"The sharpness of his observation led him to predict with remarkable skill
the course of any illness, and he suggested endless small details of
relief. I was told that a young doctor in Shrewsbury, who disliked my
father, used to say that he was wholly unscientific, but owned that his
power of predicting the end of an illness was unparalleled. Formerly when
he thought that I should be a doctor, he talked much to me about his
patients. In the old days the practice of bleeding largely was universal,
but my father maintained that far more evil was thus caused than good done;
and he advised me if ever I was myself ill not to allow any doctor to take
more than an extremely small quantity of blood. Long before typhoid fever
was recognised as distinct, my father told me that two utterly distinct
kinds of illness were confounded under the name of typhus fever. He was
vehement against drinking, and was convinced of both the direct and
inherited evil effects of alcohol when habitually taken even in moderate
quantity in a very large majority of cases. But he admitted and advanced
instances of certain persons who could drink largely during their whole
lives without apparently suffering any evil effects, and he believed that
he could often beforehand tell who would thus not suffer. He himself never
drank a drop of any alcoholic fluid. This remark reminds me of a case
showing how a witness under the most favourable circumstances may be
utterly mistaken. A gentleman-farmer was strongly urged by my father not
to drink, and was encouraged by being told that he himself never touched
any spirituous liquor. Whereupon the gentleman said, 'Come, come, Doctor,
this won't do--though it is very kind of you to say so for my sake--for I
know that you take a very large glass of hot gin and water every evening
after your dinner.' (This belief still survives, and was mentioned to my
brother in 1884 by an old inhabitant of Shrewsbury.--F.D.) So my father
asked him how he knew this. The man answered, 'My cook was your kitchen-
maid for two or three years, and she saw the butler every day prepare and
take to you the gin and water.' The explanation was that my father had the
odd habit of drinking hot water in a very tall and large glass after his
dinner; and the butler used first to put some cold water in the glass,
which the girl mistook for gin, and then filled it up with boiling water
from the kitchen boiler.

"My father used to tell me many little things which he had found useful in
his medical practice. Thus ladies often cried much while telling him their
troubles, and thus caused much loss of his precious time. He soon found
that begging them to command and restrain themselves, always made them weep
the more, so that afterwards he always encouraged them to go on crying,
saying that this would relieve them more than anything else, and with the
invariable result that they soon ceased to cry, and he could hear what they
had to say and give his advice. When patients who were very ill craved for
some strange and unnatural food, my father asked them what had put such an
idea into their heads; if they answered that they did not know, he would
allow them to try the food, and often with success, as he trusted to their
having a kind of instinctive desire; but if they answered that they had
heard that the food in question had done good to some one else, he firmly
refused his assent.

"He gave one day an odd little specimen of human nature. When a very young
man he was called in to consult with the family physician in the case of a
gentleman of much distinction in Shropshire. The old doctor told the wife
that the illness was of such a nature that it must end fatally. My father
took a different view and maintained that the gentleman would recover: he
was proved quite wrong in all respects (I think by autopsy) and he owned
his error. He was then convinced that he should never again be consulted
by this family; but after a few months the widow sent for him, having
dismissed the old family doctor. My father was so much surprised at this,
that he asked a friend of the widow to find out why he was again consulted.
The widow answered her friend, that 'she would never again see the odious
old doctor who said from the first that her husband would die, while Dr.
Darwin always maintained that he would recover!' In another case my father
told a lady that her husband would certainly die. Some months afterwards
he saw the widow, who was a very sensible woman, and she said, 'You are a
very young man, and allow me to advise you always to give, as long as you
possibly can, hope to any near relative nursing a patient. You made me
despair, and from that moment I lost strength.' My father said that he had
often since seen the paramount importance, for the sake of the patient, of
keeping up the hope and with it the strength of the nurse in charge. This
he sometimes found difficult to do compatibly with truth. One old
gentleman, however, caused him no such perplexity. He was sent for by
Mr.P--, who said, 'From all that I have seen and heard of you I believe
that you are the sort of man who will speak the truth, and if I ask, you
will tell me when I am dying. Now I much desire that you should attend me,
if you will promise, whatever I may say, always to declare that I am not
going to die.' My father acquiesced on the understanding that his words
should in fact have no meaning.

"My father possessed an extraordinary memory, especially for dates, so that
he knew, when he was very old, the day of the birth, marriage, and death of
a multitude of persons in Shropshire; and he once told me that this power
annoyed him; for if he once heard a date, he could not forget it; and thus
the deaths of many friends were often recalled to his mind. Owing to his
strong memory he knew an extraordinary number of curious stories, which he
liked to tell, as he was a great talker. He was generally in high spirits,
and laughed and joked with every one--often with his servants--with the
utmost freedom; yet he had the art of making every one obey him to the
letter. Many persons were much afraid of him. I remember my father
telling us one day, with a laugh, that several persons had asked him
whether Miss --, a grand old lady in Shropshire, had called on him, so that
at last he enquired why they asked him; and he was told that Miss --, whom
my father had somehow mortally offended, was telling everybody that she
would call and tell 'that fat old doctor very plainly what she thought of
him.' She had already called, but her courage had failed, and no one could
have been more courteous and friendly. As a boy, I went to stay at the
house of --, whose wife was insane; and the poor creature, as soon as she
saw me, was in the most abject state of terror that I ever saw, weeping
bitterly and asking me over and over again, 'Is your father coming?' but
was soon pacified. On my return home, I asked my father why she was so
frightened, and he answered he was very glad to hear it, as he had
frightened her on purpose, feeling sure that she would be kept in safety
and much happier without any restraint, if her husband could influence her,
whenever she became at all violent, by proposing to send for Dr. Darwin;
and these words succeeded perfectly during the rest of her long life.

"My father was very sensitive, so that many small events annoyed him or
pained him much. I once asked him, when he was old and could not walk, why
he did not drive out for exercise; and he answered, 'Every road out of
Shrewsbury is associated in my mind with some painful event.' Yet he was
generally in high spirits. He was easily made very angry, but his kindness
was unbounded. He was widely and deeply loved.

"He was a cautious and good man of business, so that he hardly ever lost
money by an investment, and left to his children a very large property. I
remember a story showing how easily utterly false beliefs originate and
spread. Mr. E --, a squire of one of the oldest families in Shropshire,
and head partner in a bank, committed suicide. My father was sent for as a
matter of form, and found him dead. I may mention, by the way, to show how
matters were managed in those old days, that because Mr. E -- was a rather
great man, and universally respected, no inquest was held over his body.
My father, in returning home, thought it proper to call at the bank (where
he had an account) to tell the managing partners of the event, as it was
not improbable that it would cause a run on the bank. Well, the story was
spread far and wide, that my father went into the bank, drew out all his
money, left the bank, came back again, and said, 'I may just tell you that
Mr. E -- has killed himself,' and then departed. It seems that it was then
a common belief that money withdrawn from a bank was not safe until the
person had passed out through the door of the bank. My father did not hear
this story till some little time afterwards, when the managing partner said
that he had departed from his invariable rule of never allowing any one to
see the account of another man, by having shown the ledger with my father's
account to several persons, as this proved that my father had not drawn out
a penny on that day. It would have been dishonourable in my father to have
used his professional knowledge for his private advantage. Nevertheless,
the supposed act was greatly admired by some persons; and many years
afterwards, a gentleman remarked, 'Ah, Doctor, what a splendid man of
business you were in so cleverly getting all your money safe out of that

"My father's mind was not scientific, and he did not try to generalize his
knowledge under general laws; yet he formed a theory for almost everything
which occurred. I do not think I gained much from him intellectually; but
his example ought to have been of much moral service to all his children.
One of his golden rules (a hard one to follow) was, 'Never become the
friend of any one whom you cannot respect.'"

Dr. Darwin had six children (Of these Mrs. Wedgwood is now the sole
survivor.): Marianne, married Dr. Henry Parker; Caroline, married Josiah
Wedgwood; Erasmus Alvey; Susan, died unmarried; Charles Robert; Catherine,
married Rev. Charles Langton.

The elder son, Erasmus, was born in 1804, and died unmarried at the age of

He, like his brother, was educated at Shrewsbury School and at Christ's
College, Cambridge. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and in London, and
took the degree of Bachelor of Medicine at Cambridge. He never made any
pretence of practising as a doctor, and, after leaving Cambridge, lived a
quiet life in London.

There was something pathetic in Charles Darwin's affection for his brother
Erasmus, as if he always recollected his solitary life, and the touching
patience and sweetness of his nature. He often spoke of him as "Poor old
Ras," or "Poor dear old Philos"--I imagine Philos (Philosopher) was a relic
of the days when they worked at chemistry in the tool-house at Shrewsbury--
a time of which he always preserved a pleasant memory. Erasmus being
rather more than four years older than Charles Darwin, they were not long
together at Cambridge, but previously at Edinburgh they lived in the same
lodgings, and after the Voyage they lived for a time together in Erasmus'
house in Great Marlborough Street. At this time also he often speaks with
much affection of Erasmus in his letters to Fox, using words such as "my
dear good old brother." In later years Erasmus Darwin came to Down
occasionally, or joined his brother's family in a summer holiday. But
gradually it came about that he could not, through ill health, make up his
mind to leave London, and then they only saw each other when Charles Darwin
went for a week at a time to his brother's house in Queen Anne Street.

The following note on his brother's character was written by Charles Darwin
at about the same time that the sketch of his father was added to the

"My brother Erasmus possessed a remarkably clear mind with extensive and
diversified tastes and knowledge in literature, art, and even in science.
For a short time he collected and dried plants, and during a somewhat
longer time experimented in chemistry. He was extremely agreeable, and his
wit often reminded me of that in the letters and works of Charles Lamb. He
was very kind-hearted...His health from his boyhood had been weak, and as a
consequence he failed in energy. His spirits were not high, sometimes low,
more especially during early and middle manhood. He read much, even whilst
a boy, and at school encouraged me to read, lending me books. Our minds
and tastes were, however, so different, that I do not think I owe much to
him intellectually. I am inclined to agree with Francis Galton in
believing that education and environment produce only a small effect on the
mind of any one, and that most of our qualities are innate."

Erasmus Darwin's name, though not known to the general public, may be
remembered from the sketch of his character in Carlyle's 'Reminiscences,'
which I here reproduce in part:--

"Erasmus Darwin, a most diverse kind of mortal, came to seek us out very
soon ('had heard of Carlyle in Germany, etc.') and continues ever since to
be a quiet house-friend, honestly attached; though his visits latterly have
been rarer and rarer, health so poor, I so occupied, etc., etc. He had
something of original and sarcastically ingenious in him, one of the
sincerest, naturally truest, and most modest of men; elder brother of
Charles Darwin (the famed Darwin on Species of these days) to whom I rather
prefer him for intellect, had not his health quite doomed him to silence
and patient idleness...My dear one had a great favour for this honest
Darwin always; many a road, to shops and the like, he drove her in his cab
(Darwingium Cabbum comparable to Georgium Sidus) in those early days when
even the charge of omnibuses was a consideration, and his sparse
utterances, sardonic often, were a great amusement to her. 'A perfect
gentleman,' she at once discerned him to be, and of sound worth and
kindliness in the most unaffected form." (Carlyle's 'Reminiscences,' vol.
ii. page 208.)

Charles Darwin did not appreciate this sketch of his brother; he thought
Carlyle had missed the essence of his most lovable nature.

I am tempted by the wish of illustrating further the character of one so
sincerely beloved by all Charles Darwin's children, to reproduce a letter
to the "Spectator" (September 3, 1881) by his cousin Miss Julia Wedgwood.

"A portrait from Mr. Carlyle's portfolio not regretted by any who loved the
original, surely confers sufficient distinction to warrant a few words of
notice, when the character it depicts is withdrawn from mortal gaze.
Erasmus, the only brother of Charles Darwin, and the faithful and
affectionate old friend of both the Carlyles, has left a circle of mourners
who need no tribute from illustrious pen to embalm the memory so dear to
their hearts; but a wider circle must have felt some interest excited by
that tribute, and may receive with a certain attention the record of a
unique and indelible impression, even though it be made only on the hearts
of those who cannot bequeath it, and with whom, therefore, it must speedily
pass away. They remember it with the same distinctness as they remember a
creation of genius; it has in like manner enriched and sweetened life,
formed a common meeting-point for those who had no other; and, in its
strong fragrance of individuality, enforced that respect for the
idiosyncracies of human character without which moral judgment is always
hard and shallow, and often unjust. Carlyle was one to find a peculiar
enjoyment in the combination of liveliness and repose which gave his
friend's society an influence at once stimulating and soothing, and the
warmth of his appreciation was not made known first in its posthumous
expression; his letters of anxiety nearly thirty years ago, when the frail
life which has been prolonged to old age was threatened by serious illness,
are still fresh in my memory. The friendship was equally warm with both
husband and wife. I remember well a pathetic little remonstrance from her
elicited by an avowal from Erasmus Darwin, that he preferred cats to dogs,
which she felt a slur on her little 'Nero;' and the tones in which she
said, 'Oh, but you are fond of dogs! you are too kind not to be,' spoke of
a long vista of small, gracious kindnesses, remembered with a tender
gratitude. He was intimate also with a person whose friends, like those of
Mr. Carlyle, have not always had cause to congratulate themselves on their
place in her gallery,--Harriet Martineau. I have heard him more than once
call her a faithful friend, and it always seemed to me a curious tribute to
something in the friendship that he alone supplied; but if she had written
of him at all, I believe the mention, in its heartiness of appreciation,
would have afforded a rare and curious meeting-point with the other
'Reminiscences,' so like and yet so unlike. It is not possible to transfer
the impression of a character; we can only suggest it by means of some
resemblance; and it is a singular illustration of that irony which checks
or directs our sympathies, that in trying to give some notion of the man
whom, among those who were not his kindred, Carlyle appears to have most
loved, I can say nothing more descriptive than that he seems to me to have
had something in common with the man whom Carlyle least appreciated. The
society of Erasmus Darwin had, to my mind, much the same charm as the
writings of Charles Lamb. There was the same kind of playfulness, the same
lightness of touch, the same tenderness, perhaps the same limitations. On
another side of his nature, I have often been reminded of him by the
quaint, delicate humour, the superficial intolerance, the deep springs of
pity, the peculiar mixture of something pathetic with a sort of gay scorn,
entirely remote from contempt, which distinguish the Ellesmere of Sir
Arthur Helps' earlier dialogues. Perhaps we recall such natures most
distinctly, when such a resemblance is all that is left of them. The
character is not merged in the creation; and what we lose in the power to
communicate our impression, we seem to gain in its vividness. Erasmus
Darwin has passed away in old age, yet his memory retains something of a
youthful fragrance; his influence gave much happiness, of a kind usually
associated with youth, to many lives besides the illustrious one whose
records justify, though certainly they do not inspire, the wish to place
this fading chaplet on his grave."

The foregoing pages give, in a fragmentary manner, as much perhaps as need
be told of the family from which Charles Darwin came, and may serve as an
introduction to the autobiographical chapter which follows.



[My father's autobiographical recollections, given in the present chapter,
were written for his children,--and written without any thought that they
would ever be published. To many this may seem an impossibility; but those
who knew my father will understand how it was not only possible, but
natural. The autobiography bears the heading, 'Recollections of the
Development of my Mind and Character,' and end with the following note:--
"Aug.3, 1876. This sketch of my life was begun about May 28th at Hopedene
(Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood's house in Surrey.), and since then I have written
for nearly an hour on most afternoons." It will easily be understood that,
in a narrative of a personal and intimate kind written for his wife and
children, passages should occur which must here be omitted; and I have not
thought it necessary to indicate where such omissions are made. It has
been found necessary to make a few corrections of obvious verbal slips, but
the number of such alterations has been kept down to the minimum.--F.D.]

A German Editor having written to me for an account of the development of
my mind and character with some sketch of my autobiography, I have thought
that the attempt would amuse me, and might possibly interest my children or
their children. I know that it would have interested me greatly to have
read even so short and dull a sketch of the mind of my grandfather, written
by himself, and what he thought and did, and how he worked. I have
attempted to write the following account of myself, as if I were a dead man
in another world looking back at my own life. Nor have I found this
difficult, for life is nearly over with me. I have taken no pains about my
style of writing.

I was born at Shrewsbury on February 12th, 1809, and my earliest
recollection goes back only to when I was a few months over four years old,
when we went to near Abergele for sea-bathing, and I recollect some events
and places there with some little distinctness.

My mother died in July 1817, when I was a little over eight years old, and
it is odd that I can remember hardly anything about her except her death-
bed, her black velvet gown, and her curiously constructed work-table. In
the spring of this same year I was sent to a day-school in Shrewsbury,
where I stayed a year. I have been told that I was much slower in learning
than my younger sister Catherine, and I believe that I was in many ways a
naughty boy.

By the time I went to this day-school (Kept by Rev. G. Case, minister of
the Unitarian Chapel in the High Street. Mrs. Darwin was a Unitarian and
attended Mr. Case's chapel, and my father as a little boy went there with
his elder sisters. But both he and his brother were christened and
intended to belong to the Church of England; and after his early boyhood he
seems usually to have gone to church and not to Mr. Case's. It appears
("St. James' Gazette", Dec. 15, 1883) that a mural tablet has been erected
to his memory in the chapel, which is now known as the 'Free Christian
Church.') my taste for natural history, and more especially for collecting,
was well developed. I tried to make out the names of plants (Rev. W.A.
Leighton, who was a schoolfellow of my father's at Mr. Case's school,
remembers his bringing a flower to school and saying that his mother had
taught him how by looking at the inside of the blossom the name of the
plant could be discovered. Mr. Leighton goes on, "This greatly roused my
attention and curiosity, and I enquired of him repeatedly how this could be
done?"--but his lesson was naturally enough not transmissible.--F.D.), and
collected all sorts of things, shells, seals, franks, coins, and minerals.
The passion for collecting which leads a man to be a systematic naturalist,
a virtuoso, or a miser, was very strong in me, and was clearly innate, as
none of my sisters or brother ever had this taste.

One little event during this year has fixed itself very firmly in my mind,
and I hope that it has done so from my conscience having been afterwards
sorely troubled by it; it is curious as showing that apparently I was
interested at this early age in the variability of plants! I told another
little boy (I believe it was Leighton, who afterwards became a well-known
lichenologist and botanist), that I could produce variously coloured
polyanthuses and primroses by watering them with certain coloured fluids,
which was of course a monstrous fable, and had never been tried by me. I
may here also confess that as a little boy I was much given to inventing
deliberate falsehoods, and this was always done for the sake of causing
excitement. For instance, I once gathered much valuable fruit from my
father's trees and hid it in the shrubbery, and then ran in breathless
haste to spread the news that I had discovered a hoard of stolen fruit.

I must have been a very simple little fellow when I first went to the
school. A boy of the name of Garnett took me into a cake shop one day, and
bought some cakes for which he did not pay, as the shopman trusted him.
When we came out I asked him why he did not pay for them, and he instantly
answered, "Why, do you not know that my uncle left a great sum of money to
the town on condition that every tradesman should give whatever was wanted
without payment to any one who wore his old hat and moved [it] in a
particular manner?" and he then showed me how it was moved. He then went
into another shop where he was trusted, and asked for some small article,
moving his hat in the proper manner, and of course obtained it without
payment. When we came out he said, "Now if you like to go by yourself into
that cake-shop (how well I remember its exact position) I will lend you my
hat, and you can get whatever you like if you move the hat on your head
properly." I gladly accepted the generous offer, and went in and asked for
some cakes, moved the old hat and was walking out of the shop, when the
shopman made a rush at me, so I dropped the cakes and ran for dear life,
and was astonished by being greeted with shouts of laughter by my false
friend Garnett.

I can say in my own favour that I was as a boy humane, but I owed this
entirely to the instruction and example of my sisters. I doubt indeed
whether humanity is a natural or innate quality. I was very fond of
collecting eggs, but I never took more than a single egg out of a bird's
nest, except on one single occasion, when I took all, not for their value,
but from a sort of bravado.

I had a strong taste for angling, and would sit for any number of hours on
the bank of a river or pond watching the float; when at Maer (The house of
his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood.) I was told that I could kill the worms with
salt and water, and from that day I never spitted a living worm, though at
the expense probably of some loss of success.

Once as a very little boy whilst at the day school, or before that time, I
acted cruelly, for I beat a puppy, I believe, simply from enjoying the
sense of power; but the beating could not have been severe, for the puppy
did not howl, of which I feel sure, as the spot was near the house. This
act lay heavily on my conscience, as is shown by my remembering the exact
spot where the crime was committed. It probably lay all the heavier from
my love of dogs being then, and for a long time afterwards, a passion.
Dogs seemed to know this, for I was an adept in robbing their love from
their masters.

I remember clearly only one other incident during this year whilst at Mr.
Case's daily school,--namely, the burial of a dragoon soldier; and it is
surprising how clearly I can still see the horse with the man's empty boots
and carbine suspended to the saddle, and the firing over the grave. This
scene deeply stirred whatever poetic fancy there was in me.

In the summer of 1818 I went to Dr. Butler's great school in Shrewsbury,
and remained there for seven years still Midsummer 1825, when I was sixteen
years old. I boarded at this school, so that I had the great advantage of
living the life of a true schoolboy; but as the distance was hardly more
than a mile to my home, I very often ran there in the longer intervals
between the callings over and before locking up at night. This, I think,
was in many ways advantageous to me by keeping up home affections and
interests. I remember in the early part of my school life that I often had
to run very quickly to be in time, and from being a fleet runner was
generally successful; but when in doubt I prayed earnestly to God to help
me, and I well remember that I attributed my success to the prayers and not
to my quick running, and marvelled how generally I was aided.

I have heard my father and elder sister say that I had, as a very young
boy, a strong taste for long solitary walks; but what I thought about I
know not. I often became quite absorbed, and once, whilst returning to
school on the summit of the old fortifications round Shrewsbury, which had
been converted into a public foot-path with no parapet on one side, I
walked off and fell to the ground, but the height was only seven or eight
feet. Nevertheless the number of thoughts which passed through my mind
during this very short, but sudden and wholly unexpected fall, was
astonishing, and seem hardly compatible with what physiologists have, I
believe, proved about each thought requiring quite an appreciable amount of

Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than Dr.
Butler's school, as it was strictly classical, nothing else being taught,
except a little ancient geography and history. The school as a means of
education to me was simply a blank. During my whole life I have been
singularly incapable of mastering any language. Especial attention was
paid to verse-making, and this I could never do well. I had many friends,
and got together a good collection of old verses, which by patching
together, sometimes aided by other boys, I could work into any subject.
Much attention was paid to learning by heart the lessons of the previous
day; this I could effect with great facility, learning forty or fifty lines
of Virgil or Homer, whilst I was in morning chapel; but this exercise was
utterly useless, for every verse was forgotten in forty-eight hours. I was
not idle, and with the exception of versification, generally worked
conscientiously at my classics, not using cribs. The sole pleasure I ever
received from such studies, was from some of the odes of Horace, which I
admired greatly.

When I left the school I was for my age neither high nor low in it; and I
believe that I was considered by all my masters and by my father as a very
ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect. To my deep
mortification my father once said to me, "You care for nothing but
shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself
and all your family." But my father, who was the kindest man I ever knew
and whose memory I love with all my heart, must have been angry and
somewhat unjust when he used such words.

Looking back as well as I can at my character during my school life, the
only qualities which at this period promised well for the future, were,
that I had strong and diversified tastes, much zeal for whatever interested
me, and a keen pleasure in understanding any complex subject or thing. I
was taught Euclid by a private tutor, and I distinctly remember the intense
satisfaction which the clear geometrical proofs gave me. I remember, with
equal distinctness, the delight which my uncle gave me (the father of
Francis Galton) by explaining the principle of the vernier of a barometer.
with respect to diversified tastes, independently of science, I was fond of
reading various books, and I used to sit for hours reading the historical
plays of Shakespeare, generally in an old window in the thick walls of the
school. I read also other poetry, such as Thomson's 'Seasons,' and the
recently published poems of Byron and Scott. I mention this because later
in life I wholly lost, to my great regret, all pleasure from poetry of any
kind, including Shakespeare. In connection with pleasure from poetry, I
may add that in 1822 a vivid delight in scenery was first awakened in my
mind, during a riding tour on the borders of Wales, and this has lasted
longer than any other aesthetic pleasure.

Early in my school days a boy had a copy of the 'Wonders of the World,'
which I often read, and disputed with other boys about the veracity of some
of the statements; and I believe that this book first gave me a wish to
travel in remote countries, which was ultimately fulfilled by the voyage of
the "Beagle". In the latter part of my school life I became passionately
fond of shooting; I do not believe that any one could have shown more zeal
for the most holy cause than I did for shooting birds. How well I remember
killing my first snipe, and my excitement was so great that I had much
difficulty in reloading my gun from the trembling of my hands. This taste
long continued, and I became a very good shot. When at Cambridge I used to
practise throwing up my gun to my shoulder before a looking-glass to see
that I threw it up straight. Another and better plan was to get a friend
to wave about a lighted candle, and then to fire at it with a cap on the
nipple, and if the aim was accurate the little puff of air would blow out
the candle. The explosion of the cap caused a sharp crack, and I was told
that the tutor of the college remarked, "What an extraordinary thing it is,
Mr. Darwin seems to spend hours in cracking a horse-whip in his room, for I
often hear the crack when I pass under his windows."

I had many friends amongst the schoolboys, whom I loved dearly, and I think
that my disposition was then very affectionate.

With respect to science, I continued collecting minerals with much zeal,
but quite unscientifically--all that I cared about was a new-NAMED mineral,
and I hardly attempted to classify them. I must have observed insects with
some little care, for when ten years old (1819) I went for three weeks to
Plas Edwards on the sea-coast in Wales, I was very much interested and
surprised at seeing a large black and scarlet Hemipterous insect, many
moths (Zygaena), and a Cicindela which are not found in Shropshire. I
almost made up my mind to begin collecting all the insects which I could
find dead, for on consulting my sister I concluded that it was not right to
kill insects for the sake of making a collection. From reading White's
'Selborne,' I took much pleasure in watching the habits of birds, and even
made notes on the subject. In my simplicity I remember wondering why every
gentleman did not become an ornithologist.

Towards the close of my school life, my brother worked hard at chemistry,
and made a fair laboratory with proper apparatus in the tool-house in the
garden, and I was allowed to aid him as a servant in most of his
experiments. He made all the gases and many compounds, and I read with
great care several books on chemistry, such as Henry and Parkes' 'Chemical
Catechism.' The subject interested me greatly, and we often used to go on
working till rather late at night. This was the best part of my education
at school, for it showed me practically the meaning of experimental
science. The fact that we worked at chemistry somehow got known at school,
and as it was an unprecedented fact, I was nicknamed "Gas." I was also
once publicly rebuked by the head-master, Dr. Butler, for thus wasting my
time on such useless subjects; and he called me very unjustly a "poco
curante," and as I did not understand what he meant, it seemed to me a
fearful reproach.

As I was doing no good at school, my father wisely took me away at a rather
earlier age than usual, and sent me (Oct. 1825) to Edinburgh University
with my brother, where I stayed for two years or sessions. My brother was
completing his medical studies, though I do not believe he ever really
intended to practise, and I was sent there to commence them. But soon
after this period I became convinced from various small circumstances that
my father would leave me property enough to subsist on with some comfort,
though I never imagined that I should be so rich a man as I am; but my
belief was sufficient to check any strenuous efforts to learn medicine.

The instruction at Edinburgh was altogether by lectures, and these were
intolerably dull, with the exception of those on chemistry by Hope; but to
my mind there are no advantages and many disadvantages in lectures compared
with reading. Dr. Duncan's lectures on Materia Medica at 8 o'clock on a
winter's morning are something fearful to remember. Dr.-- made his
lectures on human anatomy as dull as he was himself, and the subject
disgusted me. It has proved one of the greatest evils in my life that I
was not urged to practise dissection, for I should soon have got over my
disgust; and the practice would have been invaluable for all my future
work. This has been an irremediable evil, as well as my incapacity to
draw. I also attended regularly the clinical wards in the hospital. Some
of the cases distressed me a good deal, and I still have vivid pictures
before me of some of them; but I was not so foolish as to allow this to
lessen my attendance. I cannot understand why this part of my medical
course did not interest me in a greater degree; for during the summer
before coming to Edinburgh I began attending some of the poor people,
chiefly children and women in Shrewsbury: I wrote down as full an account
as I could of the case with all the symptoms, and read them aloud to my
father, who suggested further inquiries and advised me what medicines to
give, which I made up myself. At one time I had at least a dozen patients,
and I felt a keen interest in the work. My father, who was by far the best
judge of character whom I ever knew, declared that I should make a
successful physician,--meaning by this one who would get many patients. He
maintained that the chief element of success was exciting confidence; but
what he saw in me which convinced him that I should create confidence I
know not. I also attended on two occasions the operating theatre in the
hospital at Edinburgh, and saw two very bad operations, one on a child, but
I rushed away before they were completed. Nor did I ever attend again, for
hardly any inducement would have been strong enough to make me do so; this
being long before the blessed days of chloroform. The two cases fairly
haunted me for many a long year.

My brother stayed only one year at the University, so that during the
second year I was left to my own resources; and this was an advantage, for
I became well acquainted with several young men fond of natural science.
One of these was Ainsworth, who afterwards published his travels in
Assyria; he was a Wernerian geologist, and knew a little about many
subjects. Dr. Coldstream was a very different young man, prim, formal,
highly religious, and most kind-hearted; he afterwards published some good
zoological articles. A third young man was Hardie, who would, I think,
have made a good botanist, but died early in India. Lastly, Dr. Grant, my
senior by several years, but how I became acquainted with him I cannot
remember; he published some first-rate zoological papers, but after coming
to London as Professor in University College, he did nothing more in
science, a fact which has always been inexplicable to me. I knew him well;
he was dry and formal in manner, with much enthusiasm beneath this outer
crust. He one day, when we were walking together, burst forth in high
admiration of Lamarck and his views on evolution. I listened in silent
astonishment, and as far as I can judge without any effect on my mind. I
had previously read the 'Zoonomia' of my grandfather, in which similar
views are maintained, but without producing any effect on me. Nevertheless
it is probable that the hearing rather early in life such views maintained
and praised may have favoured my upholding them under a different form in
my 'Origin of Species.' At this time I admired greatly the 'Zoonomia;' but
on reading it a second time after an interval of ten or fifteen years, I
was much disappointed; the proportion of speculation being so large to the
facts given.

Drs. Grant and Coldstream attended much to marine Zoology, and I often
accompanied the former to collect animals in the tidal pools, which I
dissected as well as I could. I also became friends with some of the
Newhaven fishermen, and sometimes accompanied them when they trawled for
oysters, and thus got many specimens. But from not having had any regular
practice in dissection, and from possessing only a wretched microscope, my
attempts were very poor. Nevertheless I made one interesting little
discovery, and read, about the beginning of the year 1826, a short paper on
the subject before the Plinian Society. This was that the so-called ova of
Flustra had the power of independent movement by means of cilia, and were
in fact larvae. In another short paper I showed that the little globular
bodies which had been supposed to be the young state of Fucus loreus were
the egg-cases of the wormlike Pontobdella muricata.

The Plinian Society was encouraged and, I believe, founded by Professor
Jameson: it consisted of students and met in an underground room in the
University for the sake of reading papers on natural science and discussing
them. I used regularly to attend, and the meetings had a good effect on me
in stimulating my zeal and giving me new congenial acquaintances. One
evening a poor young man got up, and after stammering for a prodigious
length of time, blushing crimson, he at last slowly got out the words, "Mr.
President, I have forgotten what I was going to say." The poor fellow
looked quite overwhelmed, and all the members were so surprised that no one
could think of a word to say to cover his confusion. The papers which were
read to our little society were not printed, so that I had not the
satisfaction of seeing my paper in print; but I believe Dr. Grant noticed
my small discovery in his excellent memoir on Flustra.

I was also a member of the Royal Medical Society, and attended pretty
regularly; but as the subjects were exclusively medical, I did not much
care about them. Much rubbish was talked there, but there were some good
speakers, of whom the best was the present Sir J. Kay-Shuttleworth. Dr.
Grant took me occasionally to the meetings of the Wernerian Society, where
various papers on natural history were read, discussed, and afterwards
published in the 'Transactions.' I heard Audubon deliver there some
interesting discourses on the habits of N. American birds, sneering
somewhat unjustly at Waterton. By the way, a negro lived in Edinburgh, who
had travelled with Waterton, and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds,
which he did excellently: he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often
to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.

Mr. Leonard Horner also took me once to a meeting of the Royal Society of
Edinburgh, where I saw Sir Walter Scott in the chair as President, and he
apologised to the meeting as not feeling fitted for such a position. I
looked at him and at the whole scene with some awe and reverence, and I
think it was owing to this visit during my youth, and to my having attended
the Royal Medical Society, that I felt the honour of being elected a few
years ago an honorary member of both these Societies, more than any other
similar honour. If I had been told at that time that I should one day have
been thus honoured, I declare that I should have thought it as ridiculous
and improbable, as if I had been told that I should be elected King of

During my second year at Edinburgh I attended --'s lectures on Geology and
Zoology, but they were incredibly dull. The sole effect they produced on
me was the determination never as long as I lived to read a book on
Geology, or in any way to study the science. Yet I feel sure that I was
prepared for a philosophical treatment of the subject; for an old Mr.
Cotton in Shropshire, who knew a good deal about rocks, had pointed out to
me two or three years previously a well-known large erratic boulder in the
town of Shrewsbury, called the "bell-stone"; he told me that there was no
rock of the same kind nearer than Cumberland or Scotland, and he solemnly
assured me that the world would come to an end before any one would be able
to explain how this stone came where it now lay. This produced a deep
impression on me, and I meditated over this wonderful stone. So that I
felt the keenest delight when I first read of the action of icebergs in
transporting boulders, and I gloried in the progress of Geology. Equally
striking is the fact that I, though now only sixty-seven years old, heard
the Professor, in a field lecture at Salisbury Craigs, discoursing on a
trapdyke, with amygdaloidal margins and the strata indurated on each side,
with volcanic rocks all around us, say that it was a fissure filled with
sediment from above, adding with a sneer that there were men who maintained
that it had been injected from beneath in a molten condition. When I think
of this lecture, I do not wonder that I determined never to attend to

>From attending --'s lectures, I became acquainted with the curator of the
museum, Mr. Macgillivray, who afterwards published a large and excellent
book on the birds of Scotland. I had much interesting natural-history talk
with him, and he was very kind to me. He gave me some rare shells, for I
at that time collected marine mollusca, but with no great zeal.

My summer vacations during these two years were wholly given up to
amusements, though I always had some book in hand, which I read with
interest. During the summer of 1826 I took a long walking tour with two
friends with knapsacks on our backs through North wales. We walked thirty
miles most days, including one day the ascent of Snowdon. I also went with
my sister a riding tour in North Wales, a servant with saddle-bags carrying
our clothes. The autumns were devoted to shooting chiefly at Mr. Owen's,
at Woodhouse, and at my Uncle Jos's (Josiah Wedgwood, the son of the
founder of the Etruria Works.) at Maer. My zeal was so great that I used
to place my shooting-boots open by my bed-side when I went to bed, so as
not to lose half a minute in putting them on in the morning; and on one
occasion I reached a distant part of the Maer estate, on the 20th of August
for black-game shooting, before I could see: I then toiled on with the
game-keeper the whole day through thick heath and young Scotch firs.

I kept an exact record of every bird which I shot throughout the whole
season. One day when shooting at Woodhouse with Captain Owen, the eldest
son, and Major Hill, his cousin, afterwards Lord Berwick, both of whom I
liked very much, I thought myself shamefully used, for every time after I
had fired and thought that I had killed a bird, one of the two acted as if
loading his gun, and cried out, "You must not count that bird, for I fired
at the same time," and the gamekeeper, perceiving the joke, backed them up.
After some hours they told me the joke, but it was no joke to me, for I had
shot a large number of birds, but did not know how many, and could not add
them to my list, which I used to do by making a knot in a piece of string
tied to a button-hole. This my wicked friends had perceived.

How I did enjoy shooting! But I think that I must have been half-
consciously ashamed of my zeal, for I tried to persuade myself that
shooting was almost an intellectual employment; it required so much skill
to judge where to find most game and to hunt the dogs well.

One of my autumnal visits to Maer in 1827 was memorable from meeting there
Sir J. Mackintosh, who was the best converser I ever listened to. I heard
afterwards with a glow of pride that he had said, "There is something in
that young man that interests me." This must have been chiefly due to his
perceiving that I listened with much interest to everything which he said,
for I was as ignorant as a pig about his subjects of history, politics, and
moral philosophy. To hear of praise from an eminent person, though no
doubt apt or certain to excite vanity, is, I think, good for a young man,
as it helps to keep him in the right course.

My visits to Maer during these two or three succeeding years were quite
delightful, independently of the autumnal shooting. Life there was
perfectly free; the country was very pleasant for walking or riding; and in
the evening there was much very agreeable conversation, not so personal as
it generally is in large family parties, together with music. In the
summer the whole family used often to sit on the steps of the old portico,
with the flower-garden in front, and with the steep wooded bank opposite
the house reflected in the lake, with here and there a fish rising or a
water-bird paddling about. Nothing has left a more vivid picture on my
mind than these evenings at Maer. I was also attached to and greatly
revered my Uncle Jos; he was silent and reserved, so as to be a rather
awful man; but he sometimes talked openly with me. He was the very type of
an upright man, with the clearest judgment. I do not believe that any
power on earth could have made him swerve an inch from what he considered
the right course. I used to apply to him in my mind the well-known ode of
Horace, now forgotten by me, in which the words "nec vultus tyranni, etc.,"
come in.
(Justum et tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava jubentium
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solida.)

CAMBRIDGE 1828-1831.

After having spent two sessions in Edinburgh, my father perceived, or he
heard from my sisters, that I did not like the thought of being a
physician, so he proposed that I should become a clergyman. He was very
properly vehement against my turning into an idle sporting man, which then
seemed my probable destination. I asked for some time to consider, as from
what little I had heard or thought on the subject I had scruples about
declaring my belief in all the dogmas of the Church of England; though
otherwise I liked the thought of being a country clergyman. Accordingly I
read with care 'Pearson on the Creed,' and a few other books on divinity;
and as I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of
every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be
fully accepted.

Considering how fiercely I have been attacked by the orthodox, it seems
ludicrous that I once intended to be a clergyman. Nor was this intention
and my father's wish ever formerly given up, but died a natural death when,
on leaving Cambridge, I joined the "Beagle" as naturalist. If the
phrenologists are to be trusted, I was well fitted in one respect to be a
clergyman. A few years ago the secretaries of a German psychological
society asked me earnestly by letter for a photograph of myself; and some
time afterwards I received the proceedings of one of the meetings, in which
it seemed that the shape of my head had been the subject of a public
discussion, and one of the speakers declared that I had the bump of
reverence developed enough for ten priests.

As it was decided that I should be a clergyman, it was necessary that I
should go to one of the English universities and take a degree; but as I
had never opened a classical book since leaving school, I found to my
dismay, that in the two intervening years I had actually forgotten,
incredible as it may appear, almost everything which I had learnt, even to
some few of the Greek letters. I did not therefore proceed to Cambridge at
the usual time in October, but worked with a private tutor in Shrewsbury,
and went to Cambridge after the Christmas vacation, early in 1828. I soon
recovered my school standard of knowledge, and could translate easy Greek
books, such as Homer and the Greek Testament, with moderate facility.

During the three years which I spent at Cambridge my time was wasted, as
far as the academical studies were concerned, as completely as at Edinburgh
and at school. I attempted mathematics, and even went during the summer of
1828 with a private tutor (a very dull man) to Barmouth, but I got on very
slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being able to
see any meaning in the early steps in algebra. This impatience was very
foolish, and in after years I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed
far enough at least to understand something of the great leading principles
of mathematics, for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense. But I do
not believe that I should ever have succeeded beyond a very low grade.
With respect to Classics I did nothing except attend a few compulsory
college lectures, and the attendance was almost nominal. In my second year
I had to work for a month or two to pass the Little-Go, which I did easily.
Again, in my last year I worked with some earnestness for my final degree
of B.A., and brushed up my Classics, together with a little Algebra and
Euclid, which latter gave me much pleasure, as it did at school. In order
to pass the B.A. examination, it was also necessary to get up Paley's
'Evidences of Christianity,' and his 'Moral Philosophy.' This was done in
a thorough manner, and I am convinced that I could have written out the
whole of the 'Evidences' with perfect correctness, but not of course in the
clear language of Paley. The logic of this book and, as I may add, of his
'Natural Theology,' gave me as much delight as did Euclid. The careful
study of these works, without attempting to learn any part by rote, was the
only part of the academical course which, as I then felt and as I still
believe, was of the least use to me in the education of my mind. I did not
at that time trouble myself about Paley's premises; and taking these on
trust, I was charmed and convinced by the long line of argumentation. By
answering well the examination questions in Paley, by doing Euclid well,
and by not failing miserably in Classics, I gained a good place among the
oi polloi or crowd of men who do not go in for honours. Oddly enough, I
cannot remember how high I stood, and my memory fluctuates between the
fifth, tenth, or twelfth, name on the list. (Tenth in the list of January

Public lectures on several branches were given in the University,
attendance being quite voluntary; but I was so sickened with lectures at
Edinburgh that I did not even attend Sedgwick's eloquent and interesting
lectures. Had I done so I should probably have become a geologist earlier
than I did. I attended, however, Henslow's lectures on Botany, and liked
them much for their extreme clearness, and the admirable illustrations; but
I did not study botany. Henslow used to take his pupils, including several
of the older members of the University, field excursions, on foot or in
coaches, to distant places, or in a barge down the river, and lectured on
the rarer plants and animals which were observed. These excursions were

Although, as we shall presently see, there were some redeeming features in
my life at Cambridge, my time was sadly wasted there, and worse than
wasted. From my passion for shooting and for hunting, and, when this
failed, for riding across country, I got into a sporting set, including
some dissipated low-minded young men. We used often to dine together in
the evening, though these dinners often included men of a higher stamp, and
we sometimes drank too much, with jolly singing and playing at cards
afterwards. I know that I ought to feel ashamed of days and evenings thus
spent, but as some of my friends were very pleasant, and we were all in the
highest spirits, I cannot help looking back to these times with much

But I am glad to think that I had many other friends of a widely different
nature. I was very intimate with Whitley (Rev. C. Whitley, Hon. Canon of
Durham, formerly Reader in Natural Philosophy in Durham University.), who
was afterwards Senior Wrangler, and we used continually to take long walks
together. He inoculated me with a taste for pictures and good engravings,
of which I bought some. I frequently went to the Fitzwilliam Gallery, and
my taste must have been fairly good, for I certainly admired the best
pictures, which I discussed with the old curator. I read also with much
interest Sir Joshua Reynolds' book. This taste, though not natural to me,
lasted for several years, and many of the pictures in the National Gallery
in London gave me much pleasure; that of Sebastian del Piombo exciting in
me a sense of sublimity.

I also got into a musical set, I believe by means of my warm-hearted
friend, Herbert (The late John Maurice Herbert, County Court Judge of
Cardiff and the Monmouth Circuit.), who took a high wrangler's degree.
>From associating with these men, and hearing them play, I acquired a strong
taste for music, and used very often to time my walks so as to hear on week
days the anthem in King's College Chapel. This gave me intense pleasure,
so that my backbone would sometimes shiver. I am sure that there was no
affectation or mere imitation in this taste, for I used generally to go by
myself to King's College, and I sometimes hired the chorister boys to sing
in my rooms. Nevertheless I am so utterly destitute of an ear, that I
cannot perceive a discord, or keep time and hum a tune correctly; and it is
a mystery how I could possibly have derived pleasure from music.

My musical friends soon perceived my state, and sometimes amused themselves
by making me pass an examination, which consisted in ascertaining how many
tunes I could recognise when they were played rather more quickly or slowly
than usual. 'God save the King,' when thus played, was a sore puzzle.
There was another man with almost as bad an ear as I had, and strange to
say he played a little on the flute. Once I had the triumph of beating him
in one of our musical examinations.

But no pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much eagerness or
gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles. It was the mere passion
for collecting, for I did not dissect them, and rarely compared their
external characters with published descriptions, but got them named anyhow.
I will give a proof of my zeal: one day, on tearing off some old bark, I
saw two rare beetles, and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and
new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one which I
held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas! it ejected some intensely acrid
fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out,
which was lost, as was the third one.

I was very successful in collecting, and invented two new methods; I
employed a labourer to scrape during the winter, moss off old trees and
place it in a large bag, and likewise to collect the rubbish at the bottom
of the barges in which reeds are brought from the fens, and thus I got some
very rare species. No poet ever felt more delighted at seeing his first
poem published than I did at seeing, in Stephens' 'Illustrations of British
Insects,' the magic words, "captured by C. Darwin, Esq." I was introduced
to entomology by my second cousin W. Darwin Fox, a clever and most pleasant
man, who was then at Christ's College, and with whom I became extremely
intimate. Afterwards I became well acquainted, and went out collecting,
with Albert Way of Trinity, who in after years became a well-known
archaeologist; also with H. Thompson of the same College, afterwards a
leading agriculturist, chairman of a great railway, and Member of
Parliament. It seems therefore that a taste for collecting beetles is some
indication of future success in life!

I am surprised what an indelible impression many of the beetles which I
caught at Cambridge have left on my mind. I can remember the exact
appearance of certain posts, old trees and banks where I made a good
capture. The pretty Panagaeus crux-major was a treasure in those days, and
here at Down I saw a beetle running across a walk, and on picking it up
instantly perceived that it differed slightly from P. crux-major, and it
turned out to be P. quadripunctatus, which is only a variety or closely
allied species, differing from it very slightly in outline. I had never
seen in those old days Licinus alive, which to an uneducated eye hardly
differs from many of the black Carabidous beetles; but my sons found here a
specimen, and I instantly recognised that it was new to me; yet I had not
looked at a British beetle for the last twenty years.

I have not as yet mentioned a circumstance which influenced my whole career
more than any other. This was my friendship with Professor Henslow.
Before coming up to Cambridge, I had heard of him from my brother as a man
who knew every branch of science, and I was accordingly prepared to
reverence him. He kept open house once every week when all undergraduates,
and some older members of the University, who were attached to science,
used to meet in the evening. I soon got, through Fox, an invitation, and
went there regularly. Before long I became well acquainted with Henslow,
and during the latter half of my time at Cambridge took long walks with him
on most days; so that I was called by some of the dons "the man who walks
with Henslow;" and in the evening I was very often asked to join his family
dinner. His knowledge was great in botany, entomology, chemistry,
mineralogy, and geology. His strongest taste was to draw conclusions from
long-continued minute observations. His judgment was excellent, and his
whole mind well balanced; but I do not suppose that any one would say that
he possessed much original genius. He was deeply religious, and so
orthodox that he told me one day he should be grieved if a single word of
the Thirty-nine Articles were altered. His moral qualities were in every
way admirable. He was free from every tinge of vanity or other petty
feeling; and I never saw a man who thought so little about himself or his
own concerns. His temper was imperturbably good, with the most winning and
courteous manners; yet, as I have seen, he could be roused by any bad
action to the warmest indignation and prompt action.

I once saw in his company in the streets of Cambridge almost as horrid a
scene as could have been witnessed during the French Revolution. Two body-
snatchers had been arrested, and whilst being taken to prison had been torn
from the constable by a crowd of the roughest men, who dragged them by
their legs along the muddy and stony road. They were covered from head to
foot with mud, and their faces were bleeding either from having been kicked
or from the stones; they looked like corpses, but the crowd was so dense
that I got only a few momentary glimpses of the wretched creatures. Never
in my life have I seen such wrath painted on a man's face as was shown by
Henslow at this horrid scene. He tried repeatedly to penetrate the mob;
but it was simply impossible. He then rushed away to the mayor, telling me
not to follow him, but to get more policemen. I forget the issue, except
that the two men were got into the prison without being killed.

Henslow's benevolence was unbounded, as he proved by his many excellent
schemes for his poor parishioners, when in after years he held the living
of Hitcham. My intimacy with such a man ought to have been, and I hope
was, an inestimable benefit. I cannot resist mentioning a trifling
incident, which showed his kind consideration. Whilst examining some
pollen-grains on a damp surface, I saw the tubes exserted, and instantly
rushed off to communicate my surprising discovery to him. Now I do not
suppose any other professor of botany could have helped laughing at my
coming in such a hurry to make such a communication. But he agreed how
interesting the phenomenon was, and explained its meaning, but made me
clearly understand how well it was known; so I left him not in the least
mortified, but well pleased at having discovered for myself so remarkable a
fact, but determined not to be in such a hurry again to communicate my

Dr. Whewell was one of the older and distinguished men who sometimes
visited Henslow, and on several occasions I walked home with him at night.
Next to Sir J. Mackintosh he was the best converser on grave subjects to
whom I ever listened. Leonard Jenyns (The well-known Soame Jenyns was
cousin to Mr. Jenyns' father.), who afterwards published some good essays
in Natural History (Mr. Jenyns (now Blomefield) described the fish for the
Zoology of the "Beagle"; and is author of a long series of papers, chiefly
Zoological.), often stayed with Henslow, who was his brother-in-law. I
visited him at his parsonage on the borders of the Fens [Swaffham Bulbeck],
and had many a good walk and talk with him about Natural History. I became
also acquainted with several other men older than me, who did not care much
about science, but were friends of Henslow. One was a Scotchman, brother
of Sir Alexander Ramsay, and tutor of Jesus College: he was a delightful
man, but did not live for many years. Another was Mr. Dawes, afterwards
Dean of Hereford, and famous for his success in the education of the poor.
These men and others of the same standing, together with Henslow, used
sometimes to take distant excursions into the country, which I was allowed
to join, and they were most agreeable.

Looking back, I infer that there must have been something in me a little
superior to the common run of youths, otherwise the above-mentioned men, so
much older than me and higher in academical position, would never have
allowed me to associate with them. Certainly I was not aware of any such
superiority, and I remember one of my sporting friends, Turner, who saw me
at work with my beetles, saying that I should some day be a Fellow of the
Royal Society, and the notion seemed to me preposterous.

During my last year at Cambridge, I read with care and profound interest
Humboldt's 'Personal Narrative.' This work, and Sir J. Herschel's
'Introduction to the Study of Natural Philosophy,' stirred up in me a
burning zeal to add even the most humble contribution to the noble
structure of Natural Science. No one or a dozen other books influenced me
nearly so much as these two. I copied out from Humboldt long passages
about Teneriffe, and read them aloud on one of the above-mentioned
excursions, to (I think) Henslow, Ramsay, and Dawes, for on a previous
occasion I had talked about the glories of Teneriffe, and some of the party
declared they would endeavour to go there; but I think that they were only
half in earnest. I was, however, quite in earnest, and got an introduction
to a merchant in London to enquire about ships; but the scheme was, of
course, knocked on the head by the voyage of the "Beagle".

My summer vacations were given up to collecting beetles, to some reading,
and short tours. In the autumn my whole time was devoted to shooting,
chiefly at Woodhouse and Maer, and sometimes with young Eyton of Eyton.
Upon the whole the three years which I spent at Cambridge were the most
joyful in my happy life; for I was then in excellent health, and almost
always in high spirits.

As I had at first come up to Cambridge at Christmas, I was forced to keep
two terms after passing my final examination, at the commencement of 1831;
and Henslow then persuaded me to begin the study of geology. Therefore on
my return to Shropshire I examined sections, and coloured a map of parts
round Shrewsbury. Professor Sedgwick intended to visit North Wales in the
beginning of August to pursue his famous geological investigations amongst
the older rocks, and Henslow asked him to allow me to accompany him. (In
connection with this tour my father used to tell a story about Sedgwick:
they had started from their inn one morning, and had walked a mile or two,
when Sedgwick suddenly stopped, and vowed that he would return, being
certain "that damned scoundrel" (the waiter) had not given the chambermaid
the sixpence intrusted to him for the purpose. He was ultimately persuaded
to give up the project, seeing that there was no reason for suspecting the
waiter of especial perfidy.--F.D.) Accordingly he came and slept at my
father's house.

A short conversation with him during this evening produced a strong
impression on my mind. Whilst examining an old gravel-pit near Shrewsbury,
a labourer told me that he had found in it a large worn tropical Volute
shell, such as may be seen on the chimney-pieces of cottages; and as he
would not sell the shell, I was convinced that he had really found it in
the pit. I told Sedgwick of the fact, and he at once said (no doubt truly)
that it must have been thrown away by some one into the pit; but then
added, if really embedded there it would be the greatest misfortune to
geology, as it would overthrow all that we know about the superficial
deposits of the Midland Counties. These gravel-beds belong in fact to the
glacial period, and in after years I found in them broken arctic shells.
But I was then utterly astonished at Sedgwick not being delighted at so
wonderful a fact as a tropical shell being found near the surface in the
middle of England. Nothing before had ever made me thoroughly realise,
though I had read various scientific books, that science consists in
grouping facts so that general laws or conclusions may be drawn from them.

Next morning we started for Llangollen, Conway, Bangor, and Capel Curig.
This tour was of decided use in teaching me a little how to make out the
geology of a country. Sedgwick often sent me on a line parallel to his,
telling me to bring back specimens of the rocks and to mark the
stratification on a map. I have little doubt that he did this for my good,
as I was too ignorant to have aided him. On this tour I had a striking
instance of how easy it is to overlook phenomena, however conspicuous,
before they have been observed by any one. We spent many hours in Cwm
Idwal, examining all the rocks with extreme care, as Sedgwick was anxious
to find fossils in them; but neither of us saw a trace of the wonderful
glacial phenomena all around us; we did not notice the plainly scored
rocks, the perched boulders, the lateral and terminal moraines. Yet these
phenomena are so conspicuous that, as I declared in a paper published many
years afterwards in the 'Philosophical Magazine' ('Philosophical Magazine,'
1842.), a house burnt down by fire did not tell its story more plainly than
did this valley. If it had still been filled by a glacier, the phenomena
would have been less distinct than they now are.

At Capel Curig I left Sedgwick and went in a straight line by compass and
map across the mountains to Barmouth, never following any track unless it
coincided with my course. I thus came on some strange wild places, and
enjoyed much this manner of travelling. I visited Barmouth to see some
Cambridge friends who were reading there, and thence returned to Shrewsbury
and to Maer for shooting; for at that time I should have thought myself mad
to give up the first days of partridge-shooting for geology or any other


On returning home from my short geological tour in North Wales, I found a
letter from Henslow, informing me that Captain Fitz-Roy was willing to give
up part of his own cabin to any young man who would volunteer to go with
him without pay as naturalist to the Voyage of the "Beagle". I have given,
as I believe, in my MS. Journal an account of all the circumstances which
then occurred; I will here only say that I was instantly eager to accept
the offer, but my father strongly objected, adding the words, fortunate for
me, "If you can find any man of common sense who advises you to go I will
give my consent." So I wrote that evening and refused the offer. On the
next morning I went to Maer to be ready for September 1st, and, whilst out
shooting, my uncle (Josiah Wedgwood.) sent for me, offering to drive me
over to Shrewsbury and talk with my father, as my uncle thought it would be
wise in me to accept the offer. My father always maintained that he was
one of the most sensible men in the world, and he at once consented in the
kindest manner. I had been rather extravagant at Cambridge, and to console
my father, said, "that I should be deuced clever to spend more than my
allowance whilst on board the 'Beagle';" but he answered with a smile, "But
they tell me you are very clever."

Next day I started for Cambridge to see Henslow, and thence to London to
see Fitz-Roy, and all was soon arranged. Afterwards, on becoming very
intimate with Fitz-Roy, I heard that I had run a very narrow risk of being
rejected, on account of the shape of my nose! He was an ardent disciple of
Lavater, and was convinced that he could judge of a man's character by the
outline of his features; and he doubted whether any one with my nose could
possess sufficient energy and determination for the voyage. But I think he
was afterwards well satisfied that my nose had spoken falsely.

Fitz-Roy's character was a singular one, with very many noble features: he
was devoted to his duty, generous to a fault, bold, determined, and
indomitably energetic, and an ardent friend to all under his sway. He
would undertake any sort of trouble to assist those whom he thought
deserved assistance. He was a handsome man, strikingly like a gentleman,
with highly courteous manners, which resembled those of his maternal uncle,
the famous Lord Castlereagh, as I was told by the Minister at Rio.
Nevertheless he must have inherited much in his appearance from Charles
II., for Dr. Wallich gave me a collection of photographs which he had made,
and I was struck with the resemblance of one to Fitz-Roy; and on looking at
the name, I found it Ch. E. Sobieski Stuart, Count d'Albanie, a descendant
of the same monarch.

Fitz-Roy's temper was a most unfortunate one. It was usually worst in the
early morning, and with his eagle eye he could generally detect something
amiss about the ship, and was then unsparing in his blame. He was very
kind to me, but was a man very difficult to live with on the intimate terms
which necessarily followed from our messing by ourselves in the same cabin.
We had several quarrels; for instance, early in the voyage at Bahia, in
Brazil, he defended and praised slavery, which I abominated, and told me
that he had just visited a great slave-owner, who had called up many of his
slaves and asked them whether they were happy, and whether they wished to
be free, and all answered "No." I then asked him, perhaps with a sneer,
whether he thought that the answer of slaves in the presence of their
master was worth anything? This made him excessively angry, and he said
that as I doubted his word we could not live any longer together. I
thought that I should have been compelled to leave the ship; but as soon as
the news spread, which it did quickly, as the captain sent for the first
lieutenant to assuage his anger by abusing me, I was deeply gratified by
receiving an invitation from all the gun-room officers to mess with them.
But after a few hours Fitz-Roy showed his usual magnanimity by sending an
officer to me with an apology and a request that I would continue to live
with him.

His character was in several respects one of the most noble which I have
ever known.

The voyage of the "Beagle" has been by far the most important event in my
life, and has determined my whole career; yet it depended on so small a
circumstance as my uncle offering to drive me thirty miles to Shrewsbury,
which few uncles would have done, and on such a trifle as the shape of my
nose. I have always felt that I owe to the voyage the first real training
or education of my mind; I was led to attend closely to several branches of
natural history, and thus my powers of observation were improved, though
they were always fairly developed.

The investigation of the geology of all the places visited was far more
important, as reasoning here comes into play. On first examining a new
district nothing can appear more hopeless than the chaos of rocks; but by
recording the stratification and nature of the rocks and fossils at many
points, always reasoning and predicting what will be found elsewhere, light
soon begins to dawn on the district, and the structure of the whole becomes
more or less intelligible. I had brought with me the first volume of
Lyell's 'Principles of Geology,' which I studied attentively; and the book
was of the highest service to me in many ways. The very first place which
I examined, namely St. Jago in the Cape de Verde islands, showed me clearly
the wonderful superiority of Lyell's manner of treating geology, compared
with that of any other author, whose works I had with me or ever afterwards

Another of my occupations was collecting animals of all classes, briefly
describing and roughly dissecting many of the marine ones; but from not
being able to draw, and from not having sufficient anatomical knowledge, a
great pile of MS. which I made during the voyage has proved almost useless.
I thus lost much time, with the exception of that spent in acquiring some
knowledge of the Crustaceans, as this was of service when in after years I
undertook a monograph of the Cirripedia.

During some part of the day I wrote my Journal, and took much pains in
describing carefully and vividly all that I had seen; and this was good
practice. My Journal served also, in part, as letters to my home, and
portions were sent to England whenever there was an opportunity.

The above various special studies were, however, of no importance compared
with the habit of energetic industry and of concentrated attention to
whatever I was engaged in, which I then acquired. Everything about which I
thought or read was made to bear directly on what I had seen or was likely
to see; and this habit of mind was continued during the five years of the
voyage. I feel sure that it was this training which has enabled me to do
whatever I have done in science.

Looking backwards, I can now perceive how my love for science gradually
preponderated over every other taste. During the first two years my old
passion for shooting survived in nearly full force, and I shot myself all
the birds and animals for my collection; but gradually I gave up my gun
more and more, and finally altogether, to my servant, as shooting
interfered with my work, more especially with making out the geological
structure of a country. I discovered, though unconsciously and insensibly,
that the pleasure of observing and reasoning was a much higher one than
that of skill and sport. That my mind became developed through my pursuits
during the voyage is rendered probable by a remark made by my father, who
was the most acute observer whom I ever saw, of a sceptical disposition,
and far from being a believer in phrenology; for on first seeing me after
the voyage, he turned round to my sisters, and exclaimed, "Why, the shape
of his head is quite altered."

To return to the voyage. On September 11th (1831), I paid a flying visit
with Fitz-Roy to the "Beagle" at Plymouth. Thence to Shrewsbury to wish my
father and sisters a long farewell. On October 24th I took up my residence
at Plymouth, and remained there until December 27th, when the "Beagle"
finally left the shores of England for her circumnavigation of the world.
We made two earlier attempts to sail, but were driven back each time by
heavy gales. These two months at Plymouth were the most miserable which I
ever spent, though I exerted myself in various ways. I was out of spirits
at the thought of leaving all my family and friends for so long a time, and
the weather seemed to me inexpressibly gloomy. I was also troubled with
palpitation and pain about the heart, and like many a young ignorant man,
especially one with a smattering of medical knowledge, was convinced that I
had heart disease. I did not consult any doctor, as I fully expected to
hear the verdict that I was not fit for the voyage, and I was resolved to
go at all hazards.

I need not here refer to the events of the voyage--where we went and what
we did--as I have given a sufficiently full account in my published
Journal. The glories of the vegetation of the Tropics rise before my mind
at the present time more vividly than anything else; though the sense of
sublimity, which the great deserts of Patagonia and the forest-clad
mountains of Tierra del Fuego excited in me, has left an indelible
impression on my mind. The sight of a naked savage in his native land is
an event which can never be forgotten. Many of my excursions on horseback
through wild countries, or in the boats, some of which lasted several
weeks, were deeply interesting: their discomfort and some degree of danger
were at that time hardly a drawback, and none at all afterwards. I also
reflect with high satisfaction on some of my scientific work, such as
solving the problem of coral islands, and making out the geological
structure of certain islands, for instance, St. Helena. Nor must I pass
over the discovery of the singular relations of the animals and plants
inhabiting the several islands of the Galapagos archipelago, and of all of
them to the inhabitants of South America.

As far as I can judge of myself, I worked to the utmost during the voyage
from the mere pleasure of investigation, and from my strong desire to add a
few facts to the great mass of facts in Natural Science. But I was also
ambitious to take a fair place among scientific men,--whether more
ambitious or less so than most of my fellow-workers, I can form no opinion.

The geology of St. Jago is very striking, yet simple: a stream of lava
formerly flowed over the bed of the sea, formed of triturated recent shells
and corals, which it has baked into a hard white rock. Since then the
whole island has been upheaved. But the line of white rock revealed to me
a new and important fact, namely, that there had been afterwards subsidence
round the craters, which had since been in action, and had poured forth
lava. It then first dawned on me that I might perhaps write a book on the
geology of the various countries visited, and this made me thrill with
delight. That was a memorable hour to me, and how distinctly I can call to
mind the low cliff of lava beneath which I rested, with the sun glaring
hot, a few strange desert plants growing near, and with living corals in
the tidal pools at my feet. Later in the voyage, Fitz-Roy asked me to read
some of my Journal, and declared it would be worth publishing; so here was
a second book in prospect!

Towards the close of our voyage I received a letter whilst at Ascension, in
which my sisters told me that Sedgwick had called on my father, and said
that I should take a place among the leading scientific men. I could not
at the time understand how he could have learnt anything of my proceedings,
but I heard (I believe afterwards) that Henslow had read some of the
letters which I wrote to him before the Philosophical Society of Cambridge
(Read at the meeting held November 16, 1835, and printed in a pamphlet of
31 pages for distribution among the members of the Society.), and had
printed them for private distribution. My collection of fossil bones,
which had been sent to Henslow, also excited considerable attention amongst
palaeontologists. After reading this letter, I clambered over the
mountains of Ascension with a bounding step, and made the volcanic rocks
resound under my geological hammer. All this shows how ambitious I was;
but I think that I can say with truth that in after years, though I cared
in the highest degree for the approbation of such men as Lyell and Hooker,
who were my friends, I did not care much about the general public. I do
not mean to say that a favourable review or a large sale of my books did
not please me greatly, but the pleasure was a fleeting one, and I am sure
that I have never turned one inch out of my course to gain fame.


These two years and three months were the most active ones which I ever
spent, though I was occasionally unwell, and so lost some time. After
going backwards and forwards several times between Shrewsbury, Maer,
Cambridge, and London, I settled in lodgings at Cambridge (In Fitzwilliam
Street.) on December 13th, where all my collections were under the care of
Henslow. I stayed here three months, and got my minerals and rocks
examined by the aid of Professor Miller.

I began preparing my 'Journal of Travels,' which was not hard work, as my
MS. Journal had been written with care, and my chief labour was making an
abstract of my more interesting scientific results. I sent also, at the
request of Lyell, a short account of my observations on the elevation of
the coast of Chile to the Geological Society. ('Geolog. Soc. Proc. ii.
1838, pages 446-449.)

On March 7th, 1837, I took lodgings in Great Marlborough Street in London,
and remained there for nearly two years, until I was married. During these
two years I finished my Journal, read several papers before the Geological
Society, began preparing the MS. for my 'Geological Observations,' and
arranged for the publication of the 'Zoology of the Voyage of the
"Beagle".' In July I opened my first note-book for facts in relation to
the Origin of Species, about which I had long reflected, and never ceased
working for the next twenty years.

During these two years I also went a little into society, and acted as one
of the honorary secretaries of the Geological Society. I saw a great deal
of Lyell. One of his chief characteristics was his sympathy with the work
of others, and I was as much astonished as delighted at the interest which
he showed when, on my return to England, I explained to him my views on
coral reefs. This encouraged me greatly, and his advice and example had
much influence on me. During this time I saw also a good deal of Robert
Brown; I used often to call and sit with him during his breakfast on Sunday
mornings, and he poured forth a rich treasure of curious observations and
acute remarks, but they almost always related to minute points, and he
never with me discussed large or general questions in science.

During these two years I took several short excursions as a relaxation, and
one longer one to the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy, an account of which was
published in the 'Philosophical Transactions.' (1839, pages 39-82.) This
paper was a great failure, and I am ashamed of it. Having been deeply
impressed with what I had seen of the elevation of the land of South
America, I attributed the parallel lines to the action of the sea; but I
had to give up this view when Agassiz propounded his glacier-lake theory.
Because no other explanation was possible under our then state of
knowledge, I argued in favour of sea-action; and my error has been a good
lesson to me never to trust in science to the principle of exclusion.

As I was not able to work all day at science, I read a good deal during
these two years on various subjects, including some metaphysical books; but
I was not well fitted for such studies. About this time I took much
delight in Wordsworth's and Coleridge's poetry; and can boast that I read
the 'Excursion' twice through. Formerly Milton's 'Paradise Lost' had been
my chief favourite, and in my excursions during the voyage of the "Beagle",
when I could take only a single volume, I always chose Milton.


(After speaking of his happy married life, and of his children, he

During the three years and eight months whilst we resided in London, I did
less scientific work, though I worked as hard as I possibly could, than
during any other equal length of time in my life. This was owing to
frequently recurring unwellness, and to one long and serious illness. The
greater part of my time, when I could do anything, was devoted to my work
on 'Coral Reefs,' which I had begun before my marriage, and of which the
last proof-sheet was corrected on May 6th, 1842. This book, though a small
one, cost me twenty months of hard work, as I had to read every work on the
islands of the Pacific and to consult many charts. It was thought highly
of by scientific men, and the theory therein given is, I think, now well

No other work of mine was begun in so deductive a spirit as this, for the
whole theory was thought out on the west coast of South America, before I
had seen a true coral reef. I had therefore only to verify and extend my
views by a careful examination of living reefs. But it should be observed
that I had during the two previous years been incessantly attending to the
effects on the shores of South America of the intermittent elevation of the
land, together with denudation and the deposition of sediment. This
necessarily led me to reflect much on the effects of subsidence, and it was
easy to replace in imagination the continued deposition of sediment by the
upward growth of corals. To do this was to form my theory of the formation
of barrier-reefs and atolls.

Besides my work on coral-reefs, during my residence in London, I read
before the Geological Society papers on the Erratic Boulders of South
America ('Geolog. Soc. Proc.' iii. 1842.), on Earthquakes ('Geolog. Trans.
v. 1840.), and on the Formation by the Agency of Earth-worms of Mould.
('Geolog. Soc. Proc. ii. 1838.) I also continued to superintend the
publication of the 'Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle".' Nor did I ever
intermit collecting facts bearing on the origin of species; and I could
sometimes do this when I could do nothing else from illness.

In the summer of 1842 I was stronger than I had been for some time, and
took a little tour by myself in North Wales, for the sake of observing the
effects of the old glaciers which formerly filled all the larger valleys.
I published a short account of what I saw in the 'Philosophical Magazine.'

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest