RECORD: 'Natura'. 1893. [A visit to Downe]. Wanderings in the Kent and Surrey Lanes. Norwood News (24 June): 5.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 12.2019. RN1

NOTE: The old butler is Joseph Parslow (1812-1898). In 1865, Darwin wrote a memorandum promising an annuity to him. See CUL-DAR210.10.26.

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It is about ten miles from Norwood to Down. The way is very pleasant, abounding, as it does, in every variety of tree and wayside flower, and the air also is full of the chirp and song of birds. They are so very busy and intent in carrying the worm and slug to the huge open mouths of the little ones, who are awaiting it with a greedy desire in their wonderful nest home.

The village of Down has a world-wide reputation, for amidst its quiet country beauty did the great and patient Darwin do his life's work, which systematised and made possible to the human understanding an orderly creation.

The little village station of Orpington on the direct South Eastern Railway - its nearest station - has seen alight probably more great thinkers than any other station in England -save London - for at different times have come there not only the great thinkers of this country, but the thinkers and leaders from all parts of the civilised world to pay their respects and homage to the kindly, good and great man, who they one and all acknowledged as their leader.

The still powerful Roman Catholic Church has very wisely encouraged pilgrimages to the places where its great leaders have fought their fight and lived their lives. These spots have been rightly hallowed, for there has human nature triumphed over its weakness, and held up a noble and helpful example for the coming generations. There, on the very spot itself, can the assembled multitudes ponder over the noble heroism once displayed, and resolve yet again to be a little less piteously weak and a little more like the strong nature they are told about.

And so we, who realize the great blessings that science, knowledge and wisdom are conferring on the human race, will pay a visit to Down, and there, amidst the quiet and beautiful country, think of the characteristics that made this Darwin such a leader, and resolve yet once more to make patient and persistent effort to approach nearer in character anal method of work to this scientific pioneer.

Through severe bodily discomfort, day by day, with no turning aside, over long years did Darwin observe and record his facts, and from these facts did he deduce that nature was ruled by orderly law. He was always humble, and anxious to listen earnestly to others, and ready frankly to acknowledge when his facts were insufficient to justify a reasonable generalisation.

The supreme and absorbing passion of his life was his search for more knowledge, clearer light, and he brought to his task that indispensable gift, a humble and receptive mind freed from taint of prejudice.

He never said he was certain unless an indisputable number of facts justified his certainty. He knew that at the very best he could only hope to catch a feather or two of truth that might float down through the darkness into his patient and waiting hands. He realised that man was on the crest of an advancing wave, with the vast unexplored and fathomless ocean stretching far, far beyond his limited sight. He was always courteous. kind and helpful to his friends. beloved by his own family, and mindful of old and tried servants.

Many stories of this kindness are the free talk of Down, and an old butler who has been pensioned off by the family and lives in the village, is always glad to give plenty of information to anyone who may seek it.


Keeping round Holwood Park, the sign-post again points the road, and a mile or so of down and up bill brings us to Down. A few cottages and small houses, two public houses, a small village store, and a butcher's and shoe-maker's shop. The village church, the country churchyard, looking uncared for, with its ugly stone sign posts of the dead, leaning in every direction, and a few sad looking and poisonous yew trees planted amidst its graves. A lime tree growing in the middle of the high road, with  seat all round it. Its blossoms smelling specially sweet (as all smelling flowers have done this wonderful year), and the low hum of numberless bees busy in taking its honey. Anyone will gladly point the road to the house that Charles Darwin lived in for so many years, and will probably say at the same time, that "Mrs. Darwin and her family are good, kind people, and Down would sadly miss them.


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

File last updated 1 May, 2022