RECORD: [Price, John.] nd. [Recollections of Darwin.] CUL-DAR112.B101-B117 (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker 9.2007, checked, corrected and edited by John van Wyhe 11.2007. RN1
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Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.
Page 1 of No 1
In continuation of previous Nos marked as No A, No B &c, if wanted.
These fragments of real life,1 if published, will be read with all the more interest, from the fact that my early career was much mixed up with the Darwins, Erasmus & Charles. Had I in those days foreseen the celebrity of the latter, what careful notes I should have made of little circumstances wh. would now have been read with avidity, as throwing light upon the early career of that prince of Naturforschers! A habit of making notes in those valuable "Alphanet Ledgers" wh. prevent facts from getting astray by forming a simultaneous index, can not be acquired too early. My first distinct recollection of "Charlie Darwin" is that of a "little fellow" at Shrewsbury school where I, as one of the "Big fellows" looked down upon him in every sense
1 Written by Darwin's school, and university friend John Price (1803-1887), scholar, schoolteacher and naturalist. He attended Shrewsbury School 1818-1822 and St John's College, Cambridge.
No 1 P.2
sense. I could point out the very spot, in [Jandwines] school upstairs,where he brought me a shell of Purpura lapillus and said "Price, what's this?" I believe I translated the Welsh name Gwickiad y cron into Dog periwinkle, which satisfied the little man for the time, and caused him thenceforward to look up to the Old Price (as I was even then called) as an oracle to be consulted, though "non nisi dextro tempore." How had this feeling of veneration quite subsided when, as "men" at Cambridge, we were walking up the chalk path to Cherry Hinton Quarries. Here again I think I cd find the very place where he halted with a characteristic & expressive stamp, exclaiming "Price Price, what wd I give to be such a naturalist as you" !! This rhapsody will be more amusing, if I add that I believe it was evoked by the simple fact of my knowing Yarrow & other common plants equally well in winter.
Laugh with me & at me the more, Gentle reader, when I confess to thee that latterly, tho' not quite in dotage, I have been cherishing pride over these & some other signs of hero worship on the part of this ardent young friend, till I was brot to my senses at last by the sad obituary reminding me that he was full 6 years my Junior, a fact which stood out in alto relieve when he consulted me in re. P. Lapillus, but in after life became more & more obliterated, in virtue of the stern law of proportion; for, clearly enough, 10: 16 and 50: 56 are not equal ratios, tho the last kept at the same distance ahead, till his lamented departure at 73 found me already 79. I record this statistical correction, because I think it may teach a lesson.
This thought having carried me, perforce, past all stations to the very terminus, I must look back, saddened by recalling the circumstance that dispelled my self important dream. Of Charles at school I remember little or nothing more. (The small boy was beneath the notice of the Preposter, who before he left was second to Kennedy's first) Erasmus, being nearer my own age was more noticeable, tho, being delicate & over grown, he was never very high in the school. We were on such friendly terms that I sometimes borrowed his shoes, the only ones I cd get into, tho' I was a head shorter than "Bones" as we called him because he took medicine to strengthen his skeleton. Why he was called John Darwin or Strol must go down the stream of time with other school mysteries. He was universally beloved as a gentle kindhearted creature
with talent far beyond his physical powers.
At Cambridge I hailed my reunion with the 2 Brothers on terms of close intimacy. They, with their cousins W. Darwin Fox and Hensleigh Wedgewood, formed a delectable quartett, and Graham who was their Tutor (afterwards Master, of Christs' College, & Bp of Chester) displayed, in the society of his pupils & their friends, that charming severity of manners by which he was always distinguished to the last.
Here again Erasmus was my principal chum. He it was who chose for me a set of instruments and a slab of cork for dissecting of which one scalpel and the scissors still survive! For subjects, we were nearly limited to frogs from the neighbouring ditches, which we conscientously killed previous to experimenting
and as conscientously fricasseed à la mode de Paris, when we had learnt all other lessons from them, including the pulsations of the isolated heart and those spasmodic twitches of the legs which I believe Mrs Galvani first showed her husband as she skewered them for dinner. I remember once, when certain Waternewts eluded our grasp, selecting the quietest cows to pluck "sine frauda" from their whisking tails hairs long enough for nooses, which proved as great a success as the best horse-hair "hingles" that ever Old Hack set for Snipes in Quoy Fen. The examination of these creatures was also strictly postmortem.
*Vivisection, a painful necessity to medical progress, would, in more students, have been unpard
*Note, next page
No. 1 p. 7
onable; and I have ever since, in studying as an amateur even those low forms of life where pain may be impossible from inadequate structure, preferred taking the safe side & waiting for the chance of dead subjects.
The anatomy of the sea mouse, wh. I found in profusion at Hythe during an Easter tour, provided us with interesting & instructive work. The felt-like dorsal tissue being my sore puzzle to this day. In all these researches, dear old Raz was a hearty coöperator, but never
* Vivisection. It is to be regretted that even a few respectable medical names (22, I believe, out of the 22 000 registered, and not one of the highest authorities) should lend themselves, by signing a petition to an agitation at once ignorant, rash and libellous towards their honourable profession.
as far as I can remember, his "little Brother" who had, I am pretty sure, that innate aversion to cutting up which has disqualified many for a profession to which they were otherwise inclined. As for Erasmus, who had every mental qualification, his father told me that he must not attempt, with his delicate frame, a career like his own, involving, if succesful, a severe strain upon body & mind. For all that, he pursued the study of human anatomy con amore, attending I think three courses under "*Bone Clarke, which I certainly did (tho' two sufficed for passing M.B.) by the particular wish of my Father.
* so we called the Professor of Anatomy; whilst Clarke the Mineralogist naturally became Stone Clarke, and the Doctor of Music Tone Clarke.
Father who wisely judged that every man should be acquainted with the structure of his own body.
These lectures were a great privilege, shared with Ld Calthop Elliot of Trinity, both middle aged, a very agreeable Cath Hall man, utterly lost sight of ever since, and very few others. Query Frampton? Our "subjects" procured in those days under difficulties, & at great expense (often smuggled) proved curiously instructive in pathology too. Of two very old bodies, one exhibited ossification of arteries and another biliary calculi to an extent barely compatible with such advanced life. In the 3d I think pulmonary distinction was the striking feature with proportionate waste of the frame. Carter we were not much troubled with adipose
tissue! It was a always "jour maigre" at these "feasts of reason." A refreshing episode amid these sad records of (probably hospital) suffering was my good luck in procuring (for 6d !) a splendid blue grey hound of the snowball breed designed as a handsome present for Squire – but just fresh "cut down" by the Ostler from a stagecoach where a carelss guard had suffered him to hang himself by jumping off unnoticed – but unlamented.
Enter page 10a here at the anatomy school
His arrival in a barrow was hailed at the Anatomy School with joy proportioned to the sorrow pending at his intended destination, & we proceeded reverse the ostlers operation by "cutting him up." And a more splendid display of glistening muscles, fasciae, and tendons can hardly be imagined than this perhaps most elegant of all quadrupeds presented when divested
To be inserted in page 10
The scene was a subject for The Graphic if "Our own Artist" had existed in those days. How many good things have been lost to history for want of that valuable, ingenious, & at times original functionary! I had but just left the Anatomy Class, & was hurrying by a short cut thro' the Coach inn Stabeleyard, when my eyes & ears were attracted by a ring of the horsy tribe, loudly bewailing something on the ground before them ("vulgi stante corona"). I soon joined the circle, & received the above explanation. After contributing my quota of heartfelt sympathy, I asked "What are you going to do with him?" "O, throw him on the midden, Sir." "No, said I, don't do that; I'll give you a 6d for bringing him after me." So in fact the Dog cost us nothing at all, the sole expense was the carriage!
of his beautiful slate-colored skin, smooth as a mouse, which for many years travelled with me as the honoured envelope of certain select "traps" and, but for the envious moths, wd. still be enjoying the same distinction as a valued old servant.
the weather being cold, we were enabled to "demonstrate" this most acceptable windfall in comfort for 3 weeks, the worthy Professor casting a friendly eye upon our labours from time to time, & smiling, as near a laugh as possible, when I showed him, after other feats of utilization, poor Galerts baldder, duly inflated & dried. Intending to make a skeleton some day, I buried all the bones in time under the centre gooseberry tree at my lodgings in Green Street, I think No. 25 or 15, but certainly
chez one Ned Sharpe. That tree wd probably by this time if pulled up bring with the entire ossemens fossiles, entangled in its roots, albeit somewhat decayed & therefore veritably "in situ". But enough of the poor dog, who perhaps did more good post mortem than if he had reached the Squire in safety; revenons à nos moutons. Erasmus Darwin left Cambridge for London, where his lodgings in Spring Gardens occasionally became my headquarters from whence we wd sally forth, in search of adventures such as the following. At that time our descent from Monkeys became a popular topic (I suppose thro' Lamarck's romancing) and we too, thinking it a good joke & no more, accepted the
No. 1 p. 13
situation with perfect good humour, bonhommie & even bonsingerie, & made a point of going to Cross's Menagerie to be introduced to these new relatives, as in duty bound. Now Cross had fautiously announced that a huge Man-drill called Peter "indulged in a pipe & a glass of grog daily at one oclock." This genial idea quite suited the vein of our morning call, and we took care to be punctual. There was "no deception", cousin Peter sipped his liquor & whiffed his backey just, (as the saying is), like any other Christian, to the huge satisfaction of old & young spectators, "vulgi stante (vemi) corona". When he was at leisure, I, enboldened
by his convivial air) at once offered him my hand, which he as readily accepted; but with a most ferocious grin of that blue & red ribbed face, and a jerk that nearly dislocated my shoulder & made me fairly stagger, this too cordial response taken the form of a prolonged tug instead of a momentary pluck, my poor arm wd have been past retrieving, & I have entered this among many merciful escapes. Raz & I looked blank at each other, he reddening with emotion, & I (I am pretty sure) deadly pale with undisguised horror. Peter's unionjack complexion admitted of no such variations, but his gratified air was as undisuised as my disappointment.
I wonder whether this encounter helped to harden me against the reception of Lamarck's doctrine (?). It certainly inspired no brotherly love for that particular monkey group the "Drills", which are, I still think, the most repulsive brutes in creation.
Another day, in passing thro' Bond St., we saw on the marble slab of one of those grand Fish-shops, the detached head of a large sturgeon, which we bought for 1/6 (very cheap indeed by weight) & carried off the ponderous prize to Spring Gardens. Here we ended the day with an exhaustive study of the inside & outside of this very curious subject, and, as at Cambridge, followed up our scientific repast with a broil & a cup of coffee about 2 am. This enables me to
No. 1 p. 16
testify that "Dish or no dish, there's a deal of fine confused feeding about a sturgeon's head" as well as a sheep's.
Query do Spring Gardens still exist? Assuredly their great neighbour Carlton House has done well in disappearing, after having provoked the Epigram: "Care calonna, che fate qua? No sapiamo, in verita." by an architect of that day.
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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