RECORD: Anon. 1894. [Recollections of Darwin and John Lubbock]. Darwin's workshop. Bromley and West Kent Telegraph (17 March): 3.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2022. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. The final anecdote is clearly based on John Lubbock's recollection: "One of his friends once asked Mr. Darwin's gardener about his master's health, and how he had been lately. "Oh!", he said, "my poor master has been very sadly. I often wish he had something to do. He moons about in the garden, and I have seen him stand doing nothing before a flower for ten minutes at a time. If he only had something to do I really believe he would be better." 1908. The Darwin-Wallace celebration held on Thursday, 1st July, 1908 by the Linnean society of London, pp. 57-8. (In Darwin Online as A281)

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A "Man of Kent," writing to a London contemporary on "Darwin's Workshop," says:— "As the traveller leaves Down, driving from the opposite side of the village to Darwin's, he asks his driver, "What are those tall heaps of green rubbish around the trees?" "Oh they are Lubbock's ant hills; don't 'e 'ave a game with 'em? 'E makes a few of 'em tight as belongs to two lots, then 'e lets in a school as belongs to one of the lots only. Blest if these don't seize all the drunken ants that don't belong to their school, and chuck 'em into the water and drowns 'em. But then, just as a lot of bobbies might do, they picks up their own drunken chums and dries 'em and brings 'em round and never hurts 'em. I many time wondered what he did with the 'eaps myself, but people as I drive round 'ere tells me its all in Lubbock's books now. And about his antics with the wasps and bees too. Lots o' people comes down to see this place and Darwin's in summer. He was a good sort, always 'is 'and in 'is pocket for our clubs and the like, and Miss Darwin too, a kindly lady, every cottager in Down knew her."

On the neighbouring Commons of Hayes and Keston, Darwin seemed to find all he wanted. At Keston is the source of the Ravensbourne—probably a Scandinavian reminiscence of the Raven—leading them to needed water. In a swamp close by, the Sundew, our chief British fly-catching and fly-eating plant flourishes in a thick bed of Sphagnum moss. Some years ago I sent a root of this Sundew to Berlin, where I was told it flourished, and was much cherished by the many Darwinists, as being of and from the very spot where Darwin worked out his studies of this singular family of plants. Not only flies and ants but bees and wasps are made to tell the world the story of their life and instincts from this favoured village of Down. Sir John and Charles Darwin were neighbours, kindred naturalists, scientists, and intimate friends. In his old-fashioned but doubtless comfortable house there, Darwin spent many years quietly of his valuable scientific life.

The very earth for miles round is redolent of historical and scientific associations of the Roman and Scandinavian invaders and conquerors, as of more recent statesmen, thinkers, and philanthropists. Here is still green the oak, "overlooking the vale of Keston," on whose massive roots Wilberforce sat when he first told William Pitt his determination to move in Parliament for the abolition of slavery in 1780. There was a great Roman station here within the grounds of and below Holwood Park—where the late Earl of Derby so recently passed away—with historical mounds and remains innumerable. The trees grow, especially beeches and oaks, to magnificent proportions, and can be sat under and enjoyed—for footpaths in plenty pass among them. Nowhere near London do I know a couple of miles square containing so much to charm and reward the cultivated traveller anxious to kill not two but many "birds with one stone," and in one day. Here, then, on the very site of Darwin's labours, in his very workshop, by Lubbock's ant hills, Sir John Millais's oaks, and Wilberforce's tree; in the Garden of England, Kent—here is the appropriate spot where to raise his monument.

Here, too, he is remembered for kindness to his poorer neighbours. No doubt it was the wife of one of such, who, when 'charing' at his house, watched him in one of his long 'brown studies,' suggested to his family that 'it was a pity he had not got something to do, for if he had he would have better health.' Where a man worked, and, so to speak, left his shavings and tools about, will, I submit, be always of the deepest interest to those worshippers who know enough to appreciate, at least, if they cannot imitate. This spot, too, so close to London, so easy of access, is practically on the highway of narions who will probably desire to see as well as to read more about this great thinker."

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

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