RECORD: D. K. 1885. Shrewsbury and Darwin. New York Times (4 January): 4.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by John van Wyhe 12.2015. RN1

NOTE: This account is clearly not very reliable or accurate, but it has hitherto been overlooked and is of some interest.


[page] 4

[…]

Just on the further side of this road rises a high wall, above which appear the clustering trees of a large garden, and through their interlaced boughs peep like the half-buried tower of the Sleeping Beauty's Palace the front of a tall red brick mansion. "Do you see that house?" says my obliging host, the manager of the hospital. "Look well at it, for there's nothing in the whole town that we Shrewsbury folks are more proud of. That's the birthplace of Charles Darwin."

Such a townsman might indeed be coveted by any community. After long and bitter opposition, the great prophet of scientific research has won all the honor that he deserved, not only among his own countrymen,—but throughout the civilized world. When I first went to St. Petersburg, years ago, his portrait was to be seen at every turn along the Nevski Prospect. In the islands of the Faroe group, far away amid the lonely northern seas, I found his works figuring prominently in a Danish translation among the few books which existed there, just as I saw them in Greek and Italian a few years later in the streets of Constantinople. And when we were in Siam a year ago I noticed on the library table of Phya Bhaskarawongse, one of the principal nobles at the Siamese Court, Darwin's "Origin of Species" in the original English, laid face downward, as if he had just been reading it.

"Did you know him yourself?" ask I. "No; I only wish I had; but you know he was a good deal away in his later years, traveling about here and there. It didn't seem to agree with him though, poor fellow, for he generally came back in worse health than when he started. I'll tell you, though, of one man who will be able to give you a plenty of information about Darwin, and will like nothing better than to have a chance of talking about him. There's one of our old men here who used to know him when he was a boy, and I’ll just take you to him at once."

So saying, he marches me up to a small door midway along the terrace above mentioned, and, lifting the latch, walks right in. The little room inside is thoroughly clean and well kept, and its bright fireglow looks very snug after the raw outer air. A big clock ticks methodically in the further corner, three or four neat prints hang upon the walls, and beside the fire sits a fresh-faced, cheery old man, with a loaf and a tiny brown teapot on the table in front of him.

"Good evening, Mr. A.," says my conductor, shaking hands with him heartily. "Here's a gentleman from America come to see you, who has been a great traveler, and he would like to hear all you can tell him about Mr. Charles Darwin." "Eh, Master Charles? Ah, he was a fine lad, he was. See, that's his grandfather up yonder"—and he points to a likeness of Erasmus Darwin, in whose massive, strongly marked features there is a kind of foreshadowing of his famous son. "What sort of a boy to look at was Master Charles?" inquire I. "Eh, he was a fine lad—a fine lad," repeats the veteran, his wrinkled face lighting up with a glow of honest admiration as he speaks of his favorite hero. "Tall and lusty he was as you could wish to see, and sharp-eyed as any hawk, and such a spirit as he had, too! Why, it seemed as if he didn't know what being tired meant. Every chance he got he was off to the fields, proddin' and pokin' about with a big hooked stick that he used to carry, pickin' up new h'msects and such like." "He was always fond of that kind of work, then?" "Aye, he was that. I made him a sort of a book once, I remember, with a wooden cover, like, and thin sheets o' cork for the pages, and he used to pin into it all the things that he picked up in his walks, till at last he had quite a collection of 'em. When he grew up to be a man, of course, I didn't see so much of him, but I'm always glad to have known him, for he was a man to be proud of."

D. K.


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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

File last updated 15 January, 2016