RECORD: Darwin, George. nd. [Recollections of Charles Darwin]. CUL-DAR112.B24-B29 (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed from the manuscript by Kees Rookmaaker 12.2005. RN2
NOTE: Written in blue pencil. Addenda to [Recollections of George Darwin.] CUL-DAR112.B9-B23
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Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.
We used to have a billiard table, where Frank's room afterwards was, & during my school days I was passionately fond of billiards. My father used now & then have a game with me. During the holidays, when several of us were at home, we generally went to the billiard room in the evening, & used frequently to play pool with penny lives (I won as much as 10/- in one Christmas vacation, tho' I generally went in with two lives to the others three) & my father used very often at one time to join in. I think we often kept up billiards until a late hour after he had gone to bed.
Later on the billiard table was almost disused & altho' after its removal from Frank's room it was actually set up in his last study in 1876, I do not think there were a dozen games played on it, before it was pulled down in order to permit the conversion of the room into his study.
Some rather strange visitors used to make their appearance at Down from time to time. One day about 6 o'clk my father was upstairs resting as usual, when there was a ring at the door. The servant came presently to report that a strange rough looking fellow wanted to speak to him. He asked me to go down to see what he wanted. I found the sort of man one sees in the Western States of America, with a slouch hat, flannel shirt with no collar or waistcoat. He had come he said from British Columbia or California (I forget which) & was in England to see about perfecting a flying machine which he had invented, and thought he wouldn't go back until he had seen Mr Darwin. He said he had a ranch out there & had previously been farming in Colorado, or thereabouts; he had been at one time gold mining in California & in New Zealand. I couldn't make out that he was particularly interested in natural history, altho' he seemed to have watched animals in the far West. I went up to report this to my father, & he came down & had some talk with him. He offered him some refreshment, as he had walked from Beckenham seven miles but as far as I can remember he would not take anything. After some five minutes more he left.
This man must at some time have written to my father & have received an answer. We heard that such a man had been seen at the Aeronautical Society, but nothing more came of it for a long time. About a year or more after a letter came from Canada saying that a man had been found in great distress in Montreal & that the whole of his property seemed to consist of a few cents and a letter from Mr. Darwin. Other details showed that he was our visitor. What happened to him subsequently was never heard.
On one occasion my father fell a prey to the interviewer in a manner which was rather amusing at the time.
M. Barbier, the translator of his books into French was in London & begged to be allowed to bring with him Edmond About and Francesque Sarcey. It was the summer in which the Company of the Théâtre Française were playing at the Gaiety Theatre (? 1878 or 9), and Sarcey was a newspaper critic employed by the Dix Neuvieme Siecle to give an account of new performances. This we did not know at the time & still less that Sarcey was an "interviewer". About could not come, but Barbier & Sarcey arrived towards one o'clock. Barbier spoke English well & Sarcey not at all. We were a large party staying in the house of whom I remember that Laura Forster was one. As my father could not speak french he only talked with Barbier, & we engaged Sarcey. About science he obviously cared little & knew less. During luncheon he was very amusing, chattering away with stories of french actors & actresses. When we went back to the drawing-room afterwards he was in full swing, and as I had asked him about M.me Pasca was in the middle of his story about her — how she
a woman of good position & having married, discovered a fortnight afterwards that her husband was a forcat — separated from him & went on to the stage. My father was at the time in full talk with Barbier & having something to show him proposed going into his study; in order to show some attention to Sarcey, he asked through Barbier if Sarcey whether he would care to go too. Sarcey agreed of course at once & interrupted his story with "Pardon mesdames, je reviens dans un instant." I followed my father & Barbier into the study with Sarcey. The conversation with Barbier was of course unintelligible to him, & after looking about him for perhaps quarter of a minute, we returned to the drawing room, where he instantly resumed the thread of his story. About quarter past two they both took their departure, the visit having been very amusing, but we little knew that we were all being photographed as it were by the fat vulgar little frenchman.
About ten days afterwards two numbers of the Dix-Neuvieme Siecle were sent to us in which Sarcey described with true french inaccuracy his visit to Down.
"Nous descendimes a la station de Down, pour aller en voiture a Beckenham" — having got out at Orpington & driven to Down. Then there was a pretty fair description of us all; — Bernard being "un petit cherubin a joues roses qu'on ne voit qu'en Angleterre" & we were complemented by "tout le monde parlait francais couramment." The humbug of the article was in his affected respect for my father, whom he scarcely looked at, being so occupied with his own chatter. He relates that after the dejeuner, M. darwin invited his friend & himself to visit his study, where &c. &c., & adds "Croyez moi, je tremblais comme un ecolier qui allait faire son premier examen." Then on the study, "C'etait une vaste piece penchee de grands flots de soleil" — being in fact a room with N.E. aspect into which the sun never enters after 7 or 8 in the morning in summer. On the whole the article was not disagreeable, but it seems scandalously unfair that a man should be invited down as a private guest & then talk of everyone; — the affected admiration was perhaps not more than to be expected.
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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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