A Reminiscence of Mr. Darwin
James D Hague
Exploration, Health, Geology, Natural History, Observation, Descent, Periodicals, Amusement, Politics, Reading, Botany
Gives an account of two meetings with Charles R Darwin, one in 1871, at the home of Erasmus A Darwin in central London, and the other in 1878, at Down House in Kent. Records that before his first visit, Mary E H Lyell warned that 'although I might find Mr. Darwin looking well and strong, I should remember his really delicate health, and not stay long', and that when he talked with Darwin about his health, the great naturalist 'spoke of the opinion of some of his friends that its present rather feeble state might be attributed to long-continued seasickness on his voyages years ago'. Also recounts how Darwin expressed his regret that he was imperfectly qualified for observation whilst onboard hms Beagle, and reflected 'If I could only go now, with my head sixty years old and my body twenty-five, I could do something'. (759) In a discussion about the reception of The Descent of Man, Darwin was told about a dissenting response in the press, and responded '"Ah, has Punch taken me up?" [...] inquiring further as to the point of the joke, which [...] seemed to amuse him very much. "I shall get it to-morrow", he said: "I keep all those things. Have you seen me in the Hornet?"'. Reflects that the 'humorists have done much to make Mr. Darwin's features familiar to the public, in pictures not so likely to inspire respect [...] but probably no man has enjoyed their fun more than he'. (760) Recalls that during the visit to Down House in 1878, the 'dinner-table talk was for the greater part light, cheerful, personal; to some extent political, suggested by current events in England and the United States; and touching upon social reforms', which was hardly surprising considering that a fellow guest was the American liberal Thomas W Higginson (761). Informs American readers that Darwin held that 'the Americans are the most delightful people that I know' (760), and 'spoke, too, with particular interest of Mark Twain, from whose writings he had evidently derived much entertainment' (763).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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