Charles Robert Darwin
On Wednesday, April 26, 1882, sitting in the North Transept of
Westminster Abbey, I looked upon a sad and impressive scene. Under the
dome stood an oaken coffin, quite covered with white wreaths; close by
were seated the distinguished pall-bearers, Sir John Lubbock, Canon
Farrar, the Duke of Argyle, Thomas H. Huxley, James Russell Lowell, and
others. Representatives of many nations were present; the great
scientists of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Russia.
Of the thousands who were gathered to honor the famous dead, every
person wore black, as requested on the cards of admission to the abbey.
Perhaps never in the history of England have so many noted men been
assembled on an occasion like this. As the choir, in their white robes,
stood about the open grave, singing the "Dead March from Saul," the
strains seemed to come from a far-off country, producing an effect never
to be forgotten. Darwin lies buried close to the graves of Sir Isaac
Newton and Sir John Herschel.
At Shrewsbury, England, February 12, 1809, Charles Robert Darwin was
born, in a square, red-brick house at the top of a terraced bank
leading down to the Severn. The greenhouse with its varied plants, the
ornamental shrubs and trees in the grounds, became a delight as soon as
the boy was old enough to observe them.
The mother, Susannah, the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood of Etruria, a
woman with a sweet and happy face, died when Charles was eight years
old, leaving five other children; Marianne, Caroline, Erasmus, Susan,
and Catherine. Charles says of her in his autobiography, "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." She evidently
encouraged the boy's love for flowers, for he used to say, at school,
that his mother had taught him "how, by looking at the inside of the
blossom, the name of the plant could be discovered."
The father, Robert Waring Darwin, was a well known physician, a man of
fine physique and courtly manner, who had amassed wealth by his skill
and business ability. Charles's admiration of him was unbounded: "the
wisest man I ever knew," he used often to say.
"His chief mental characteristics," said Darwin, "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 ten
thousand 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 repaid.
"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."
Charles went to the day-school in Shrewsbury, when he was eight years
old. "By the time I went to this day-school," he says, "my taste for
natural history, and more especially for collecting, was well developed.
I tried to make out the names of plants, 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 brothers ever had this taste....
"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 he 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.
"In the summer of 1818, I went to Dr. Butler's great school in
Shrewsbury, and remained there for seven years, till 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 footpath 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
As Dr. Butler's school was strictly classical, Darwin always felt that,
for him, these years were nearly wasted. He read many authors,
Shakspeare, Thomson's Seasons, Byron, and Scott, but later in life, he
says, lost all taste for poetry. This he greatly regretted, and said, if
he were to live his life over, he would read some poetry every day. The
book that most influenced him was the "Wonders of the World," which gave
him a desire to travel, which was finally realized in the voyage of the
Beagle. He did not forget his zest in collecting, at first, however,
taking only such insects as he found dead, for, after consulting his
sister, he "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
"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."
Dr. Darwin now sent his two boys, Erasmus and Charles, to Edinburgh
University. Here, Charles found the lectures "intolerably dull," all
except those on chemistry by Hope. His father, evidently not being able
to determine for what his son was best fitted in life, suggested his
being a doctor. The youth attended the clinical wards in the hospital,
but one day witnessing two operations, one upon a child, he rushed away.
He says, "Nor did I 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
While in Edinburgh, Charles became deeply interested in marine zooelogy,
and read a paper before the Plinian Society, an association organized
for the study of natural history. He also attended the meetings of the
Wernerian Society, where he heard Audubon deliver some interesting
lectures upon the habits of North American birds, and the Royal Society,
where he saw Sir Walter Scott in the chair as president.
"I looked at him and at the whole scene," says Darwin, "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
honor of being elected, a few years ago, an honorary member of both
these societies more than any other similar honor. If I had been told at
that time that I should one day have been thus honored, 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 England."
During this time, Charles met Sir James Mackintosh, "the best
converser," he says, "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.'... 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."
After two years at Edinburgh, Dr. Darwin, seeing that Charles probably
would never become a physician, sent him to Cambridge University, that
he might prepare for the Episcopal ministry.
Of this time he says, "The three years which I spent at Cambridge were
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." He found great delight in Paley's "Evidences of Christianity,"
and his "Moral Philosophy."
At Cambridge, like Humboldt, he formed a rare friendship, which helped
towards his subsequent success. Professor Henslow was an ardent scholar,
a devoted Christian, and a man of most winning manners and good temper.
From his great knowledge of botany, entomology, chemistry, mineralogy,
and geology, he became a most attractive person to young Darwin, whose
especial passion seemed to be the collecting of beetles. Henslow soon
became equally fond of Darwin, and the two took long walks together
daily, Darwin being known as "the man who walks with Henslow."
Darwin said of this model teacher, years afterward, "He had a remarkable
power of making the young feel completely at ease with him; though we
were all awe-struck with the amount of his knowledge. Before I saw him,
I heard one young man sum up his attainments by simply saying that he
knew everything. When I reflect how immediately we felt at ease with a
man older, and in every way immensely our superior, I think it was as
much owing to the transparent sincerity of his character as to his
kindness of heart, and, perhaps, even still more to a highly remarkable
absence in him of all self-consciousness. One perceived at once that he
never thought of his own varied knowledge or clear intellect, but solely
on the subject in hand.
"Another charm which must have struck every one was that his manner to
old and distinguished persons and to the youngest student was exactly
the same; and to all he showed the same winning courtesy. He would
receive with interest the most trifling observation in any branch of
natural history, and, however absurd a blunder one might make, he
pointed it out so clearly and kindly that one left him no way
disheartened, but only determined to be more accurate the next time.
"His lectures on botany were universally popular, and as clear as
daylight. So popular were they that several of the older members of the
University attended successive courses. Once every week he kept open
house in the evening, and all who cared for natural history attended
these parties, which, by thus favoring intercommunication, did the same
good in Cambridge, in a very pleasant manner, as the scientific
societies do in London.... This was no small advantage to some of the
young men, as it stimulated their mental activity and ambition....
"During the years when I associated so much with Professor Henslow, I
never once saw his temper even ruffled. He never took an ill-natured
view of any one's character, though very far from blind to the foibles
of others. It always struck me that his mind could not be even touched
by any paltry feeling of vanity, envy, or jealousy. With all this
equability of temper and remarkable benevolence, there was no insipidity
of character. A man must have been blind not to have perceived that
beneath this placid exterior there was a vigorous and determined will.
When principles came into play, no power on earth could have turned him
one hair's breadth....
"Reflecting over his character with gratitude and reverence, his moral
attributes rise, as they should do in the highest character, in
preeminence over his intellect."
Through this noble friend, Darwin had the opportunity of taking a five
years' voyage in the ship Beagle, as a naturalist. The bark, of two
hundred and thirty-five tons, under command of Captain Fitz-Roy, was
commissioned by government to survey Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the
shores of Chili, Peru, and some islands in the Pacific, "and to carry a
chain of chronometrical measurements round the world."
Professor Henslow knew the captain, and recommended his young friend for
the position. Darwin had read Humboldt's travels eagerly, and was
delighted with the prospect of a journey like this.
Dr. Darwin was opposed at first, but finally said, "If you can find any
man of common sense who advises you to go, I will give my consent."
Young Darwin at once visited his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood, at Maer, who
approved of the journey, and soon convinced Dr. Darwin of the wisdom of
The vessel sailed December 27, 1831. Though for a young man of an
extremely affectionate nature the separation from family was painful,
yet it was a glad day for Darwin. He had looked forward eagerly to it,
saying, "My second life will then commence, and it shall be as a
birthday for the rest of my life," and so it proved. He said, years
afterward, "The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important
event in my life, and has determined my whole career."
These years were busy, earnest ones, devoted to constant labor. To his
father he wrote from Bahia, or San Salvador, the following spring: "No
person could imagine anything so beautiful as the ancient town of Bahia;
it is fairly embosomed in a luxuriant wood of beautiful trees, and
situated on a steep bank, and overlooks the calm waters of the great Bay
of All Saints. The houses are white and lofty, and, from the windows
being narrow and long, have a very light and elegant appearance.... But
the exquisite, glorious pleasure of walking amongst such flowers and
such trees cannot be comprehended but by those who have experienced
it.... I will not rapturize again, but I give myself great credit in not
being crazy out of pure delight. Give my love to every soul at home....
I think one's affections, like other good things, flourish and increase
in these tropical regions."
Again he writes from Rio de Janeiro: "Here (at Rio-Macoa) I first saw a
tropical forest in all its sublime grandeur--nothing but the reality can
give any idea how wonderful, how magnificent the scene is.... I never
experienced such intense delight. I formerly admired Humboldt, I now
almost adore him; he alone gives any notion of the feelings which are
raised in the mind on first entering the Tropics. I am now collecting
fresh-water and land animals.... I am at present red-hot with spiders;
they are very interesting, and, if I am not mistaken, I have already
taken some new genera." Busy as he was, he was ever thinking of home,
and anxious to receive letters. When they were received, he almost
"cried for pleasure."
He writes to his sister: "If you knew the glowing, unspeakable delight
which I felt at being certain that my father and all of you were well,
only four months ago, you would not grudge the labor lost in keeping up
the regular series of letters."
Later he writes: "It is too delightful to think that I shall see the
leaves fall and hear the robin sing next autumn at Shrewsbury. My
feelings are those of a schoolboy to the smallest point; I doubt whether
ever boy longed for his holidays as much as I do to see you all again."
To his "dear Henslow" he writes: "It is now some months since we have
been at a civilized port; nearly all this time has been spent in the
most southern part of Tierra del Fuego.... The Fuegians are in a more
miserable state of barbarism than I had expected ever to have seen a
human being. In this inclement country they are absolutely naked, and
their temporary houses are like what children make in summer with boughs
Captain Fitz-Roy, on a previous voyage, had carried several natives to
England, and now brought them again to their own land. "They had
become," says Darwin, "entirely European in their habits and wishes, so
much so that the younger one had forgotten his own language, and their
countrymen paid but very little attention to them. We built houses for
them, and planted gardens, but by the time we return again on our
passage round the Horn, I think it will be very doubtful how much of
their property will be left unstolen."
At the Cape of Good Hope, Darwin met and dined with Sir John Herschel.
For some time he lived at St. Helena, "within a stone's throw of
Napoleon's tomb." He became so deeply interested in his geological
investigations in South America, that he wrote his sister Susan: "I
literally could hardly sleep at nights for thinking over my day's work.
The scenery was so new, and so majestic; everything at an elevation of
twelve thousand feet bears so different an aspect from that in a lower
To another sister he wrote: "I trust and believe that the time spent in
this voyage, if thrown away for all other respects, will produce its
full worth in Natural History; and it appears to me the doing what
little we can to increase the general stock of knowledge is as
respectable an object of life as one can in any likelihood pursue....
What fine opportunities for geology and for studying the infinite host
of living beings! Is not this a prospect to keep up the most flagging
spirit? If I was to throw it away, I don't think I should ever rest
quiet in my grave."
Darwin says: "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." In studying the geology of St. Jago, "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!"
Darwin, stirred by the right kind of ambition, had found his life-work.
It would not be in the church, as his father had fondly hoped, but the
world would be his audience.
On October 5, 1836, Darwin arrived at Shrewsbury, after five years'
absence. He left home a high-spirited, warm-hearted youth, fond of
athletic sports, and vigorous in body. He came back with a passionate
love for science, "with the habit of energetic industry and of
concentrated attention," but with health impaired, which made the whole
of his after life a battle with suffering. Yet he conquered, and gave to
his generation a wonderful example of the power of mind over body; of
victory over obstacles.
During the voyage he was an almost constant sufferer from sea-sickness.
He wrote home the last year: "It is a lucky thing for me that the voyage
is drawing to its close, for I positively suffer more from sea-sickness
now than three years ago."
"After perhaps an hour's work," says Admiral Stokes, "he would say to
me, 'Old fellow, I must take the horizontal for it,' that being the
best relief position from ship motion. A stretch out on one side of the
table for some time would enable him to resume his labors for a while,
when he had again to lie down. It was distressing to witness this early
sacrifice of Mr. Darwin's health, who ever afterwards seriously felt the
ill effects of the Beagle's voyage."
Admiral Mellersh says: "I think he was the only man I ever knew against
whom I never heard a word said; and as people, when shut up in a ship
for five years, are apt to get cross with each other, that is saying a
good deal." Says another: "He was never known to be out of temper, or to
say one unkind or hasty word of or to any one."
This lovely spirit, which so endeared him to everybody, Darwin kept
through life,--a spirit which sheds a halo around every book he wrote,
and makes him worthy the admiration and honor of every young man. Many
persons have the gift of writing books, but comparatively few persons
have the great gift of self-control.
After a brief visit with his family, Darwin hastened to Cambridge, to
prepare his "Journal of Travels." He had learned on the Beagle that "a
man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of
life." After three months of hard work, he went to London, where he
finished the "Journal," and began working on his "Zooelogy of the Voyage
of the Beagle," and his "Geological Observations." He said at this
time: "I have nothing to wish for, excepting stronger health to go on
with the subjects to which I have joyfully determined to devote my
For three years and eight months he worked untiringly. He wrote Henslow:
"I fear the Geology will take me a great deal of time; I was looking
over one set of notes, and the quantity I found I had to read for that
one place was frightful. If I live till I am eighty years old I shall
not cease to marvel at finding myself an author. In the summer before I
started, if any one had told me that I should have been an angel by this
time, I should have thought it an equal impossibility. This marvellous
transformation is all owing to you."
Darwin and Lyell now became very intimate friends. "I am coming into
your way, of only working about two hours at a spell," he writes to
Lyell; "I then go out and do my business in the streets, return and set
to work again, and thus make two separate days out of one." Of Lyell he
said: "One of his chief characteristics was his sympathy with the work
of others.... The science of geology is enormously indebted to
Lyell--more so, as I believe, than to any other man who ever lived."
The "Journal" was published in 1839. January twenty-nine of this year,
Mr. Darwin, now thirty years of age, was married to his cousin, Emma
Wedgwood, daughter of Josiah Wedgwood of Maer, and granddaughter of the
founder of the potteries of Etruria. The extreme happiness of his
married life proved the wisdom of his choice. He said in after years,
"No one can be too kind to my dear wife, who is worth her weight in gold
many times over."
They lived at No. 12 Upper Gower Street, as he wrote a college mate, "a
life of extreme quietness.... We have given up all parties, for they
agree with neither of us; and if one is quiet in London, there is
nothing like its quietness."
In 1842, his "Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs" was published,
a book which cost him, he says, "twenty months of hard work, as I had to
read every work on the islands of the Pacific, and to consult many
charts." Of this book, Professor Geikie says: "This well known treatise,
the most original of all its author's geological memoirs, has become one
of the classics of geological literature. The origin of those remarkable
rings of coral-rock in mid-ocean has given rise to much speculation, but
no satisfactory solution of the problem has been proposed. After
visiting many of them, and examining also coral reefs that fringe
islands and continents, he offered a theory which, for simplicity and
grandeur, strikes every reader with astonishment.... No more admirable
example of scientific method was ever given to the world, and, even if
he had written nothing else, this treatise alone would have placed
Darwin in the very front of investigators of nature."
Lyell wrote to Darwin concerning this book: "It is all true, but do not
flatter yourself that you will be believed till you are growing bald,
like me, with hard work and vexation at the incredulity of the world."
Darwin's next work, on the "Volcanic Islands Visited during the Voyage
of the Beagle," was published in 1844. This book, he said, "cost me
eighteen months." His third geological book, "Geological Observations on
South America," was published in 1846.
Meantime, tired of smoky London, Darwin purchased a home in Down, a
retired village five or six hundred feet above the sea. The house was a
square brick building, of three stories, vine-covered, in the midst of
eighteen acres. "Its chief merit," Darwin writes to a friend, "is its
extreme rurality. I think I was never in a more perfectly quiet
country." Here, for forty years, Darwin lived the isolated life of a
student, producing the books that made him the most noted scientist of
his century. Of these years, Mr. Darwin said: "Few persons can have
lived a more retired life than we have done. Besides short visits to the
houses of relations, and occasionally to the seaside or elsewhere, we
have gone nowhere. During the first part of our residence we went a
little into society, and received a few friends here; but my health
almost always suffered from the excitement.... I have, therefore, been
compelled for many years to give up all dinner parties.... From the same
cause I have been able to invite here very few scientific acquaintances.
My chief enjoyment and sole employment throughout life has been
scientific work; and the excitement from such work makes me for the time
forget, or drives quite away, my daily discomfort."
At Down, Darwin worked for eight years on two large volumes concerning
cirripedia (barnacles), describing all the known living species; the
extinct species, or fossil cirripedes, were in two smaller volumes. The
first books were published by the Ray Society, between 1851 and 1854;
the others by the Palaeontographical Society. About two years out of the
eight were lost through illness. Sometimes he became half discouraged.
He wrote a friend, "I have been so steadily going downhill, I cannot
help doubting whether I can ever crawl a little uphill again. Unless I
can, enough to work a little, I hope my life may be very short, for to
lie on a sofa all day and do nothing but give trouble to the best and
kindest of wives and good, dear children is dreadful."
Darwin doubted, in after life, "whether the work was worth the
consumption of so much time," but Professor Huxley thinks he "never did
a wiser thing than when he devoted himself to the years of patient toil
which the cirriped-book cost him.... The value of the cirriped monograph
lies not merely in the fact that it is a very admirable piece of work,
and constituted a great addition to positive knowledge, but still more
in the circumstance that it was a piece of critical self-discipline, the
effect of which manifested itself in everything he wrote afterwards,
and saved him from endless errors of detail." Darwin's patient labor is
shown by his working "for the last half-month, daily, in dissecting a
little animal about the size of a pin's head, from the Chonos
archipelago, and I could spend another month, and daily see more
During these years from 1846 to 1854, death had twice disturbed the
quiet life at Down. In 1849, Dr. Darwin died, and his son Charles was so
ill that he could not attend the funeral. In 1851, Annie Darwin died, at
the age of ten, after a brief illness. "She was," said Darwin, "my
favorite child; her cordiality, openness, buoyant joyousness, and strong
affections made her most lovable.... When quite a baby, this [strong
affection] showed itself in never being easy without touching her mother
when in bed with her; and quite lately she would, when poorly, fondle
for any length of time one of her mother's arms.... She would at almost
any time spend half an hour in arranging my hair, 'making it,' as she
called it, 'beautiful,' or in smoothing, the poor, dear darling, my
collar or cuffs--in short, in fondling me.... Her whole mind was pure
and transparent. One felt one knew her thoroughly and could trust her. I
always thought that, come what might, we should have had, in our old
age, at least one loving soul which nothing could have changed.
"All her movements were vigorous, active, and usually graceful. When
going round the Sandwalk with me, although I walked fast, yet she often
used to go before, pirouetting in the most elegant way, her dear face
bright all the time with the sweetest smiles. Occasionally she had a
pretty coquettish manner towards me, the memory of which is charming....
"In the last short illness her conduct, in simple truth, was angelic.
She never once complained; never became fretful; was ever considerate of
others, and was thankful in the most gentle, pathetic manner for
everything done for her. When so exhausted that she could hardly speak,
she praised everything that was given her, and said some tea 'was
beautifully good.' When I gave her some water, she said, 'I quite thank
you;' and these, I believe, were the last precious words ever addressed
by her dear lips to me."
Such consideration and politeness she naturally inherited. Francis
Darwin says in his delightful life of his father, "He always spoke to
servants with politeness, using the expression, 'Would you be so good,'
in asking for anything. In business matters he was equally courteous.
His solicitor, who had never met him, said, 'Everything I did was right,
and everything was profusely thanked for.'" Of the drawings made by his
children, he would say, "Michael Angelo is nothing to it!" but he always
looked carefully at the work and kindly pointed out mistakes.
"He received," says his son, "many letters from foolish, unscrupulous
people, and all of these received replies. He used to say that if he
did not answer them, he had it on his conscience afterwards, and, no
doubt, it was in great measure the courtesy with which he answered every
one which produced the universal and widespread sense of his kindness of
nature which was so evident on his death."
In November, 1853, Darwin received the Royal Society's Medal. He was
gratified, finding it "a pleasant little stimulus. When work goes badly,
and one ruminates that all is vanity, it is pleasant to have some
tangible proof that others have thought something of one's labors."
November 24, 1859, when Darwin was fifty, his great work, "Origin of
Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored
Races in the Struggle for Life," was published. For twenty years he had
been making experiments with plants and animals, and filling his
note-books with facts. To his old classmate, Fox, he writes asking that
the boys in his school gather lizards' eggs, as well as those of snakes.
"My object is," he says, "to see whether such eggs will float on
sea-water, and whether they will keep alive thus floating for a month or
two in my cellar. I am trying experiments on transportation of all
organic beings that I can; and lizards are found on every island, and
therefore I am very anxious to see whether their eggs stand sea-water."
Again he writes, asking Fox for ducklings and dorkings; "The chief point
which I am and have been for years very curious about is to ascertain
whether the young of our domestic breeds differ as much from each
other as do their parents, and I have no faith in anything short of
actual measurement and the Rule of Three.... I have got my fan-tails and
pouters in a grand cage and pigeon-house, and they are a decided
amusement to me, and delight to H."
Of this book, Darwin himself says: "I worked on true Baconian
principles, and without any theory--collected facts on a wholesale
scale, more especially with respect to domesticated productions, by
printed inquiries, by conversation with skilful breeders and gardeners,
and by extensive reading. When I see the list of books of all kinds
which I read and abstracted, including whole series of Journals and
Transactions, I am surprised at my industry. I soon perceived that
selection was the keystone of man's success in making useful races of
animals and plants....
"In October, 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my
systematic inquiry, I happened to read 'Malthus on Population,' and,
being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which
everywhere goes on, from long continued observation of the habits of
animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances
favorable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavorable ones to
be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new
species.... But at that time I overlooked one problem of great
importance.... This problem is the tendency in organic beings descended
from the same stock to diverge in character as they become modified.
That they have diverged greatly is obvious from the manner in which
species of all kinds can be classed under genera, genera under families,
families under sub-orders, and so forth.... The solution, as I believe,
is that the modified offspring of all dominant and increasing forms tend
to become adapted to many and highly diversified places in the economy
The book was written slowly, each chapter requiring at least three
months. When the "Origin of Species"--which had reached its thirty-third
thousand in 1888--was published, it created the most profound sensation
throughout the thinking world. Heretofore, most men of science had
believed that each species had been separately created by the
Almighty,--that species were immutable, unchanging.
Mr. Darwin, by twenty years of study, proved to his own mind, and now to
most of the world, that there has been a gradual evolution, through
unnumbered ages, of one form of animal life from another. He said,
"Probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on the earth have
descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first
The theory of evolution was not original with Darwin. Lamarck, in 1801,
published his "Organization of Living Bodies," in which he stated his
belief "that nature, in all the long ages during which the world has
existed, may have produced the different kinds of plants and animals by
gradually enlarging one part and diminishing another to suit the wants
of each." Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, Goethe, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, the
grandfather of Charles, all believed that species are descended from
other species, and in various ways improved.
Some of the reasons for the belief in evolution are so simply and
clearly stated by Arabella B. Buckley, in her "Short History of Natural
Science," that I quote her words:--
"All the Animals of each class are formed on the same plan....
"Why should the animals of one class (such as the vertebrate or
back-boned class) be formed all on one plan, even to the most minute
bones; so that the wing of a bat, the front leg of a horse, the hand of
a man, and the flapper of a porpoise, are all made of the same bones,
which have either grown together, or lengthened and spread apart,
according to the purpose they serve? And, more curious still, why should
some animals have parts which are of no use to them, but only seem to be
there because other animals of the same class also have them? Thus the
whale has teeth like the other mammalia, but they never pierce through
the gum; and the boa-constrictor has the beginnings of hind legs, hidden
under its skin, though they never grow out. Here, again, it seems
extraordinary, if a boa-constrictor and a whale were created
separately, that they should be made with organs which are quite
useless; while, on the other hand, if they were descended from the same
ancestor, as other reptiles and mammalia who have teeth and hind legs,
they might be supposed to have inherited these organs....
"Embryos of animals alike in Structure.
"Another still more remarkable fact was that pointed out by Von Baer,
that the higher animals, such as quadrupeds, before they are perfectly
formed, cannot be distinguished from the embryos of other and lower
animals, such as fish and reptiles. If animals were created separately,
why should a dog begin like a fish, a lizard, and a bird, and have at
first parts which it loses as it grows into its own peculiar form?
"Living animals of a country agree with the fossil ones....
"We know that certain animals are only found in particular countries;
kangaroos and pouched animals, for example, in Australia, and sloths and
armadillos in South America. Now, it is remarkable that all the fossil
quadrupeds in Australia are also pouched animals, though they are of
different kinds and larger in size than those now living; and in the
same way different species of sloth and armadillos are found fossil in
South America; while in the rocks of Europe fossil mammalia are found,
only slightly different from those which are living there now." It seems
natural to conclude that the living have descended from the fossils.
The study of the rocks has produced other "missing links" in the
succession of animal life. Professor Huxley, in some lectures given in
New York in 1876, described the Hesperornis, found in the western
rocks,--a huge bird, five or six feet in length, with teeth like a
reptile. In England a fossil reptile has been found, the Archaeopteryx,
having a reptile-like tail, with a fringe of feathers on each side, and
teeth, "occupying a midway place between a bird and a reptile." Flying
reptiles have been found, and reptiles which walked on their hind legs.
Those who have visited Yale and Amherst Colleges must have seen the huge
bird-tracks or reptile foot-prints taken from the rocks in the
Professor Huxley showed the probable descent of the horse with its
hoofed foot from the extinct three-toed Hipparion of Europe, and that
from the four-toed Orohippus of the Eocene formation. He declared it
probable that a five-toed horse would be found, and Professor Marsh, in
the West, has found the Eohippus, corresponding very nearly to Professor
The question among naturalists was, "How can plants and animals have
become thus changed?" Darwin showed how it was possible to effect most
of these changes by "natural selection," or the choosing of the best to
survive in the struggle for existence. As man by grafting secures the
finest fruit, and by care in animal life the swiftest horses for speed
as well as the strongest for labor, so nature selects her best for the
higher development of the race.
Darwin says, "There is no exception to the rule that every organic being
naturally increases at so high a rate that, if not destroyed, the earth
would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair. Even
slow-breeding man has doubled in twenty-five years, and, at this rate,
in less than a thousand years there would literally not be standing-room
for his progeny.... The elephant is reckoned the slowest breeder of all
known animals; it will be safest to assume that it begins breeding when
thirty years old, and goes on breeding till ninety years old, bringing
forth six young in the interval, and surviving till one hundred years
old; if this be so, after a period of from 740 to 750 years, there would
be nearly nineteen million elephants alive, descended from the first
In various ways the weakest are destroyed. Darwin, on a piece of ground
three feet long and two wide, says, "I marked all the seedlings of our
native weeds as they came up, and, out of 357, no less than 295 were
destroyed, chiefly by slugs and insects."
He gives this interesting instance of the struggle for existence. "I
find from experiments that humble-bees are almost indispensable to the
fertilization of the heart's-ease, for other bees do not visit this
flower.... Humble-bees alone visit red clover, as other bees cannot
reach the nectar.... Hence we may infer as highly probable that, if the
whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the
heart's-ease and red clover would become very rare, or wholly disappear.
The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great measure
upon the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; the
number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number
of cats." Hence, as Mr. Darwin shows, the frequency of certain flowers
in a district may depend upon the number of cats!
Darwin showed, by most interesting experiments with pigeons, that the
various breeds come from the wild rock-pigeon; that dogs are descended,
probably, from the wolf; that different varieties can be produced and
perpetuated under changing conditions of life; that species are only
well marked and permanent varieties. He showed how organs can be changed
by use or disuse; such as, the erect ears of wild animals become
drooping under domestication; or moles have only rudimentary eyes,
covered with skin or fur, because not needed for sight.
In the "Origin of Species," the theory of evolution received proof which
was so nearly incontrovertible that the subject was brought prominently
before the world as never before. Mr. Alfred Russell Wallace, an able
scientist, came to the same conclusion as Darwin in regard to the power
of "Natural Selection," and published, at the same time as the
"Origin," an essay "On the Tendency of Varieties to depart indefinitely
from the Original Type."
At once Darwin was attacked from every quarter. Probably not since
Galileo showed that the earth moves round the sun has a man been so
censured and persecuted for his opinions as was Darwin. He was declared
atheistic, unsettling the Christian belief, and opposed to the teachings
of the Bible. Professor Asa Gray of Cambridge, Mass., a devoted
Christian and able scientist, defended and explained Darwin's views, now
published in "Darwiniana," claiming that the doctrine of evolution is in
no wise opposed to the power and goodness of the Almighty, and quotes
Charles Kingsley's words: "We know of old that God was so wise that he
could make all things; but behold, he is so much wiser than even that,
that he can make all things make themselves." Kingsley wrote Darwin: "I
have gradually learnt to see that it is just as noble a conception of
Deity to believe that he created primal forms capable of
self-development into all forms needful pro tempore and pro loco, as
to believe that he required a fresh act of intervention to supply the
lacunas which he himself had made. I question whether the former be
not the loftier thought." Gray believed that "to do any work by an
instrument must require, and therefore presuppose, the exertion rather
of more than of less power than to do it directly." Darwin said, "There
is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been
originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and
that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law
of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms, most beautiful and
most wonderful, have been and are being evolved." Darwin always felt
grateful to Asa Gray for his defence. He wrote him: "I declare that you
know my book as well as I do myself; and bring to the question new lines
of illustration and argument, in a manner which excites my astonishment
and almost my envy!... I said, in a former letter, that you were a
lawyer, but I made a gross mistake; I am sure that you are a poet. No, I
will tell you what you are, a hybrid, a complex cross of lawyer, poet,
naturalist, and theologian!"
Darwin wisely made no reply to his critics. He said, years later: "My
views have often been grossly misrepresented, bitterly opposed and
ridiculed, but this has been generally done, as I believe, in good
faith. On the whole, I do not doubt that my works have been over and
over again greatly overpraised. I rejoice that I have avoided
controversies, and this I owe to Lyell, who, many years ago, in
reference to my geological works, strongly advised me never to get
entangled in a controversy, as it rarely did any good, and caused a
miserable loss of time and temper.
"Whenever I have found out that I have blundered, or that my work has
been imperfect, and when I have been contemptuously criticised, and
even when I have been overpraised, so that I have felt mortified, it has
been my greatest comfort to say hundreds of times to myself, 'that I
have worked as hard and as well as I could, and no man can do more than
The "Origin" has been translated into French, German, Italian, Dutch,
Russian, Swedish, and many other languages. Huxley says of it, "Even a
cursory glance at the history of the biological sciences during the last
quarter of a century is sufficient to justify the assertion that the
most potent instrument for the extension of the realm of natural
knowledge which has come into men's hands since the publication of
Newton's 'Principia' is Darwin's 'Origin of Species.'"
The year after the "Origin" was published, Darwin began arranging his
notes for his two large volumes, "Variation of Animals and Plants under
Domestication," which, however, were not published till 1868. On these
two books he spent over four years. They are a wonderful collection of
facts, gathered from books and from his own marvellous experiments and
observations, confirming and illustrating the law of "Natural Selection"
given in the "Origin."
Darwin had already received the Copley medal of the Royal Society, the
greatest honor a scientific man can receive in England, and the Prussian
Order "Pour le Merite," founded by Frederick II. The order consists of
thirty German members and a few distinguished foreigners. In 1862 the
"Fertilization of Orchids" was published, which, required ten months of
labor. In this work Darwin took the utmost delight. He wrote to a friend
who had sent him some of these flowers: "It is impossible to thank you
enough. I was almost mad at the wealth of Orchids.... I never was more
interested in any subject in my life than in this of Orchids." The
peculiarities of the flowers therein described, as Darwin says,
"transcend in an incomparable manner the contrivances and adaptations
which the most fertile imagination of man could invent."
In the "Origin" he describes an orchid which "has part of its labellum
or lower lip hollowed out into a great bucket, into which drops of
almost pure water continually fall from two secreting horns which stand
above it; and when the bucket is half full the water overflows by a
spout on one side. The basal part of the labellum stands over the
bucket, and is itself hollowed out into a sort of chamber with two
lateral entrances; within this chamber there are curious fleshy ridges.
The most ingenious man, if he had not witnessed what takes place, could
never have imagined what purpose all these parts serve. But Dr. Crueger
saw crowds of large humble-bees visiting the gigantic flowers of this
orchid, not in order to suck nectar, but to gnaw off the ridges within
the chamber above the bucket; in doing this they frequently pushed each
other into the bucket, and, their wings being thus wetted, they could
not fly away, but were compelled to crawl out through the passage formed
by the spout or overflow.... The passage is narrow, and is roofed over
by the column, so that a bee, in forcing its way out, first rubs its
back against the viscid stigma and then against the viscid glands of the
pollen-masses. The pollen-masses are thus glued to the back of the bee
which first happens to crawl out through the passage of a lately
expanded flower, and are thus carried away....
"When the bee, thus provided, flies to another flower, or to the same
flower a second time, and is pushed by its comrades into the bucket and
then crawls out by the passage, the pollen-mass necessarily comes first
into contact with the viscid stigma, and adheres to it, and the flower
is fertilized. Now at last we see the full use of every part of the
flower; of the water-secreting horns, of the bucket half full of water,
which prevents the bees from flying away, and forces them to crawl out
through the spout, and rub against the properly placed viscid
pollen-masses and the viscid stigma."
Darwin said: "The Botanists praise my Orchid-book to the skies.... There
is a superb, but, I fear, exaggerated, review in the 'London Review.'
But I have not been a fool, as I thought I was, to publish; for Asa
Gray, about the most competent judge in the world, thinks almost as
highly of the book as does the 'London Review.'"
Darwin wrote several other books on plants. "The Movements and Habits of
Climbing Plants" was published in 1875; "Insectivorous Plants," in
1875; "Effects of Cross and Self-Fertilization," in 1876; "The different
Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species," in 1877; "The Power of
Movement in Plants," in 1880.
When writing his "Different Forms of Flowers," he said, "I am all on
fire at the work;" and of "Insectivorous Plants," "I have been working
like a madman at Drosera. Here is a fact for you which is certain as you
stand where you are, though you won't believe it, that a bit of hair,
1/78000 of one grain in weight, placed on gland, will cause one of the
gland-bearing hairs of Drosera to curve inwards, and will alter the
condition of the content of every cell in the foot-stalk of the gland."
But he was growing tired with his constant and multifarious labors. He
wrote to Hooker: "You ask about my book, and all that I can say is that
I am ready to commit suicide; I thought it was decently written, but
find so much wants rewriting that it will not be ready to go to printers
for two months, and will then make a confoundedly big book. Murray will
say that it is no use publishing in the middle of summer, so I do not
know what will be the upshot; but I begin to think that every one who
publishes a book is a fool."
In 1871 the "Descent of Man" was published. He worked on this book three
years, and he wrote to his friend, Sir J. D. Hooker, that it has "half
killed" him. For the first edition Darwin received over seven thousand
dollars. It had an immense circulation in England and America, and
created a furor in Germany.
Darwin believed "that man is descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished
with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habits, and an
inhabitant of the Old World. This creature, if its whole structure had
been examined by a naturalist, would have been classed among the
quadrumana, as surely as would the common and still more ancient
progenitor of the Old and New World monkeys.
"The quadrumana and all the higher mammals are probably derived from an
ancient marsupial animal, and this, through a long line of diversified
forms, either from some reptile-like or some amphibian-like creature,
and this again from some fishlike animal. In the dim obscurity of the
past, we can see that the early progenitor of all the vertebrata must
have been an aquatic animal, provided with branchiae, with the two sexes
united in the same individual, and with the most important organs of the
body (such as the brain and heart) imperfectly developed. This animal
seems to have been more like the larvae of our existing marine Ascidians
than any known form."
Most naturalists believe, with Darwin, that man has developed from some
lower form, but many urge that at some stage of development he received
the gift of speech, and mental and moral powers, from an omnipotent
Darwin received much abuse and much ridicule for his views. Mr. James D.
Hague tells in "Harper's Magazine" of a visit paid to the great
scientist, when a picture in the "Hornet" was shown; the body of a
gorilla, with the head of Darwin. The latter laughed and said, "The head
is cleverly done, but the gorilla is bad; too much chest; it couldn't be
The "Descent of Man" shows the widest research, and is a storehouse of
most interesting facts. "Sexual Selection" shows some of the most
remarkable provisions of nature, and is as interesting as any novel.
This book, like the "Origin," has been translated into various
In 1872 "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals" was
published. Over five thousand copies were sold on the day of
publication. It was begun at the birth of his first child, thirty-three
years before. He says, "I at once commenced to make notes on the first
dawn of the various expressions which he exhibited, for I felt
convinced, even at this early period, that the most complex and fine
shades of expression must all have had a gradual and natural origin." He
wrote to a college friend regarding this baby: "He is so charming that I
cannot pretend to any modesty. I defy anybody to flatter us on our baby,
for I defy any one to say anything in its praise of which we are not
fully conscious.... I had not the smallest conception there was so much
in a five-mouth baby. You will perceive by this that I have a fine
degree of paternal fervor."
In 1881, "The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms,
with Observations on their Habits," was published. "Fragments of burnt
marl, cinders, etc., which had been thickly strewed over the surface of
several meadows were found, after a few years, lying at a depth of some
inches beneath the turf, but still forming a layer." Ascertaining that
this was the work of worms, Darwin made a study of their structure,
habits, and work, in his garden, his fields, and in pots of earth kept
in his study. The intelligence of worms, the construction of their
burrows, and the amount of labor they can perform, are described in a
most entertaining manner. Over fifty thousand worms are found in a
single acre of land, or about three hundred and fifty-six pounds. "In
many parts of England a weight of more than ten tons of dry earth
annually passes through their bodies, and is brought to the surface, on
each acre of land.... Worms prepare the ground in an excellent manner
for the growth of fibrous-rooted plants and for seedlings of all kinds.
They periodically expose the mould to the air, and sift it so that no
stones larger than the particles which they can swallow are left in it.
They mingle the whole intimately together, like a gardener who prepares
fine soil for his choicest plants.... The plough is one of the most
ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he
existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to
be thus ploughed, by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are
many other animals which have played so important a part in the history
of the world as have these lowly organized creatures."
In three years eighty-five hundred copies of the "Earthworms" were sold.
Mr. Darwin was now seventy-two years old. Already many honors had come
to him, after the severe and bitter censure. In 1877, he received the
degree of LL.D. from Cambridge University. In 1878, he was elected a
corresponding member of the French Institute, and of the Berlin Academy
of Sciences. In 1879, he received the Baly Medal of the Royal College of
Physicians. In 1879, from the Royal Academy of Turin, the Bressa Prize
of twelve thousand francs. He valued highly two photographic albums sent
from Germany and Holland; one containing the pictures of one hundred and
fifty-four noted scientific men; the other, of two hundred and seventeen
lovers of natural science in the Netherlands. He wrote in thanks: "I am
well aware that my books could never have been written, and would not
have made any impression on the public mind, had not an immense amount
of material been collected by a long series of admirable observers; and
it is to them that honor is chiefly due. I suppose that every worker at
science occasionally feels depressed, and doubts whether what he has
published has been worth the labor which it has cost him, but for the
few remaining years of my life, whenever I want cheering, I will look at
the portraits of my distinguished co-workers in the field of science,
and remember their generous sympathy."
He was made a member of more than seventy of the learned societies of
the world; in America, Austria, India, Belgium, Denmark, France,
Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
Darwin's work was now almost over. His dear friend Lyell had gone before
him, of whom he said, "I never forget that almost everything which I
have done in science I owe to the study of his great works." His brother
Erasmus, to whom he was tenderly attached, died in 1881. In the spring
of 1882 he was unable to work continuously as usual, and suffered from
pain about the heart. On the night of April 18, he had a severe attack
and fainted. When he was restored to consciousness, he said, "I am not
the least afraid to die." He died the next day, April 19.
Darwin died as he had lived, with a heart overflowing with sympathy and
tenderness. He said, "I feel no remorse from having committed any great
sin, but have often and often regretted that I have not done more direct
good to my fellow-creatures."
In his home life he was singularly blest. His son says, "No one except
my mother knows the full amount of suffering he endured, or the full
amount of his wonderful patience. For all the latter years of his life
she never left him for a night; and her days were so planned that all
his resting hours might be shared with her. She shielded him from every
avoidable annoyance, and omitted nothing that might save him trouble, or
prevent him becoming overtired, or that might alleviate the many
discomforts of his ill-health. I hesitate to speak thus freely of a
thing so sacred as the life-long devotion which prompted all this
constant and tender care. But it is ... a principal feature of his life
that for nearly forty years he never knew one day of the health of
ordinary men, and that thus his life was one long struggle against the
weariness and strain of sickness." And yet he accomplished all his
"In his relationship towards my mother, his tender and sympathetic
nature was shown in its most beautiful aspect. In her presence he found
his happiness, and through her his life--which might have been
overshadowed by gloom--became one of content and quiet gladness."
He was the idol of his children, who used "to bribe him with sixpence to
come and play in working hours." "We all knew the sacredness of working
time," says Mr. Darwin's daughter, "but that any one should resist
sixpence seemed an impossibility.... Another mark of his unbounded
patience was the way in which we were suffered to make raids into the
study when we had an absolute need of sticking-plaster, string, pins,
scissors, stamps, foot-rule, or hammer. These and other such
necessaries were always to be found in the study, and it was the only
place where this was a certainty. We used to feel it wrong to go in
during work-time; still, when the necessity was great we did so. I
remember his patient look when he said once, 'Don't you think you could
not come in again; I have been interrupted very often?'... He cared for
all our pursuits and interests, and lived our lives with us in a way
that very few fathers do."
His son says: "The way he brought us up is shown by a little story about
my brother Leonard, which my father was fond of telling. He came into
the drawing-room, and found Leonard dancing about on the sofa, which was
forbidden, for the sake of the springs, and said, 'Oh, Lenny, Lenny,
that's against all rules!' and received for answer, 'Then, I think you'd
better go out of the room.' I do not believe he ever spoke an angry word
to any of his children in his life; but I am certain that it never
entered our heads to disobey him.... How often, when a man, I have
wished, when my father was behind my chair, that he would pass his hand
over my hair, as he used to do when I was a boy. He allowed his grown-up
children to laugh with and at him, and was, generally speaking, on terms
of perfect equality with us."
He was very fond of flowers, and also of dogs. When he had been absent
from home, on his return his white fox-terrier, Polly, "would get wild
with excitement, panting, squeaking, rushing round the room, and
jumping on and off the chairs; and he used to stoop down, pressing her
face to his, letting her lick him, and speaking to her with a peculiarly
tender, caressing voice."
He was very tender-hearted. A friend who often visited at Down told me
that Mrs. Darwin one day urged her husband to punish the little dog for
some wrong-doing. He took the animal tenderly in his arms and carried
her out-of-doors, patting her gently on the head. "Why, Charles,"
remonstrated the wife, "she did not feel it." He replied, "I could do no
"The remembrance of screams or other sounds heard in Brazil," says
Francis Darwin, "when he was powerless to interfere with what he
believed to be the torture of a slave, haunted him for years, especially
at night. In smaller matters, when he could interfere, he did so
vigorously. He returned one day from his walk pale and faint from having
seen a horse ill-used, and from the agitation of violently remonstrating
with the man. On another occasion he saw a horse-breaker teaching his
son to ride. The little boy was frightened, and the man was rough. My
father stopped, and, jumping out of the carri