RECORD: Anon. 1927. [Recollection of Darwin by gardener Bailey.] A glimpse of Darwin. Gardener's story of his life at Downe. Londonderry Sentinel (8 September): 8.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by John van Wyhe 12.2019. RN1

NOTE: This recollection and the one attributed to Henry Wheeler are curiously both attributed to a former under gardener at Down House who married the daughter of the head gardener and both are described as living in Lee S.E. Perhaps the journalists changed or mixed up the name of the gardener.


[page] 8

A GLIMPSE OF DARWIN.

GARDENER'S STORY OF HIS LIFE AT DOWNE.

A special representative of the "Morning Post," writing on Tuesday, says:—

I talked yesterday with a man who spoke, not once, but habitually, with Charles Darwin. He is Mr. Bailey, of Lee, S.E., the scientist's under gardener, whose wife is the daughter of the head gardener, now dead. The head gardener; used to help Darwin in his experiments with plants.

It was a curious, rather awesome, experience, to sit with someone in whose mind the scientist obviously existed, not as an almost legendary figure, the destroyer of the "heaven" and "hell" of our grandparents, but as a kindly and harmless, though eccentric, old gentleman, whose wife would say to him, "There's plenty of time, Charles," when he grew impatient, as he was inclined to do, and who used to ride through the lanes on his pony, dressed like a gipsy and "looking in the hedges for things that weren't there."

They showed me a photograph of Downe House, Downe, near Bromley, Kent, and together we pored over it.

"A splendid picture," they said, and pointed. "Here, just beyond the mulberry tree, was the enclosure where the earthworms were kept. And here's the study.

"Every morning, summer and winter, he used to come out of that door at seven in the morning, and walk up to the wood and round the 'sand walk.' If it had been snowing during the night the snow plough was sent round before him."

Mrs. Bailey rose and fumbled in the coloured tin tea-caddy which stood on the mantelpiece beneath the portraits of Darwin, Mrs. Darwin, and Queen Victoria. At last she extracted from it a tiny tortoise-shell magnifying glass.

"This belonged to Mr. Darwin," she explained. "He used to hold it like this, right up against the flowers, and look into their petals."

Her husband then took up the tale. "Mr. Darwin was a wonderful man to work for, he said. "His servants stayed with him for years, and they all had pensions. He was a secluded sort of man, though, and he couldn't bear to go away for his holiday, but Mrs. Darwin made him go.

"He couldn't stand seeing animals suffer. He hated to see a cat after a mouse. And he was always very kind to the people in the village."

It is not, perhaps, altogether surprising that Mr. and Mrs. Bailey are the staunchest, of Fundamentalists. They are still a little bit mystified by Darwin's fame. They speak with genuine affection of his goodness, but his work has disappointed them.

"You see." said Mrs. Bailey, "Mr. Darwin forgot about God." It was obvious that they had never wholly understood why their master, of all people, should have been a Darwinian. But they refuse to be disillusioned in him, for all that.


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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 28 December, 2019