Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

TABLE OF RELATIONSHIP.

ROBERT DARWIN of Elston.

b. 1682, d. 1754.

William Alvey. b. 1726, d. 1783.

Robert Waring. ERASMUS, m. (1) Mary Howard ; m. (2) Eliz. Chandos-Pole. b. 1724, d. 1816. b. 1731, d. 1802. b. 1740, d. 1770. b. 1747, d. 1832.

TABLE OF RELATIONSHIP.

[blocks in formation]

Francis Reginald Edward Galton. Darwin. Darwin,

* High Elm's."

Charlotte, m.

Sarah, m. William Francis Rhodes, Edward Noel. Darwin Fox. now Francis Darwin of Creskeld and Elston.

CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN. b. Feb. 12, 1809, d. Apr. 19, 1882.

Erasmus the love of exercise and of field-sports, so character

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 : * " 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. 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 grandson.

* · Life of Erasmus Darwin,' p. 65.

Ibid., pp. 77, 79, &c.

ERASMUS DARWIN.

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

lows :

“ 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 Æsculapian 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.* at that University on Feb. 26, 1785. “His father" (Erasmus) “brought t him to Shrewsbury before he was twenty-one years old (1787), and left him £20, 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, and this was the sole pecuniary aid I 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.”

* I owe this information to the kindness of Professor Rauwenhoff, Di. rector of the Archives at Leyden. He quotes from the catalogue of doctors that “Robertus Waring Darwin, Anglo-britannus," defended (Feb. 26, 1785) in the Senate a Dissertation on the coloured images seen after looking at a bright object, and “Medicinæ 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.

+ Life of Erasmus Darwin,' p. 85.
I See Errata.

DR. R. W. DARWIN.

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.* 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 seat.

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

**A Group of Englishmen,' by Miss Meteyard, 1871.

« VorigeDoorgaan »