RECORD: Litchfield, Henrietta. nd. 'Sketches for a biography'. CUL-DAR262.23.1 (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed from the manuscript by Kees Rookmaaker 11-12.2005; checked against the manuscript by Janet Browne 3.2006. RN1
NOTE: The pages are given in the order in which they appear in the document at present. Those with additions of A,B,C,D appear to be insertions which interupt the narrative which often continues on the next page. An included note remarks that page 7 is either missing or not numbered. The pages consist of: 1,2,2A,3,3A,3B,3C,3D,4,5,6,6A,-,8,8A,8B,8C,8D,9,10,10A,11,12,13,13A,13B, 14,14A,15,16,17,18,19,19A,20,21,22,23,24.
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Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library and William Huxley Darwin.
My first remembrances of my Father are of the delights of his playing with us. He was passionately attached to his own children, although he was not an indiscriminate child lover. But to all of us he was the most delightful playfellow & the most perfect sympathiser. He had different games which I remember as being peculiarly enchanting - no doubt because of the charm & the spirit he put into it. One was called doing Taglioni, i.e. a sort of opera dancing on his knees, also being (& drummed on) (laid out on his knees) accompanied with a large voice for the big drums & a little voice for the little drums. But the oddest enjoyment was lying on the floor & having a mysterious quaking sensation produced by his gently shaking us with his foot. How he ever found out it wd be agreeable to children I can't think, but it was. Another of his games was to tickle our knees & to chant to a monotonous tune. "If you be a fair ladye as I do hope you be, then you will not laugh at the tickling of yr knee." This & the Otaheitan tune that the Otaheitan women sang to them are the only two tunes I ever heard my Father hum. Indeed he could never recognize a tune hummed at all, & used to say that he believed we only pretended to recognize it for it was impossible we really could make anything out from such senseless sounds.
There were other games for us when very small of crows that flew about & crocodiles wh. were "very naughty beasts" & worms that crawled in & worms that crawled out.
He had one story about an old woman with nine little pigs wh. he used to tell us & when Frank was the reeping favourite he
invented one other of a more elaborate kind.
He used also to amuse himself & us by making an impression of a seal on our hands & by making the expressions of pain for us as if he was being hurt he got us to bear a severe pressure. An old picture book of animals, wh. we called the monkey book is very much connected with him & he had a particular little story which must never be varied belonging to most of the picture.
When I was a very little thing I used to be very fond of doing his hair & wd comb & brush it in the most elaborate way, the great object being to cover the bald top wh was indeed always an impossibility. I also used to go in every morning to help him finish his dressing - the duties being to choose out which coloured pocket handkerchief he shd have & which scent put on it, & the danger & fun being that if I got too near him whilst he was shaving he used to dab me with the lather.
It is a proof of how good a playfellow he was, of the kind of terms we were on together that Leonard when he was abt four years old tried to bribe him to come out & play with him during working hours by offering him six pence. Working hours were, we all knew, almost absolutely sacred, but that anyone shd refuse six pence appeared I suppose to be an impossibility.
It is impossible adequately to describe how delightful a relation his was to his children both as children & after were grown up.
He must have been most patient & delightful as a nurse. I remember the sort of haven of peace & comfort it seemed to be tucked up on the sofa looking at the old geological map when I was unwell. And this must have been in working hours for I always remember his sitting in his horsehair chair by the corner of the fire. Another mark of his unbounded patience was the way in which we used to maraud in when we had an absolute need of sticking plaister, string, pins, scissors stamps foot rule or hammer. These, & all such like necessaries, were always to be found in the study & it was the only place where this was a certainty. We used to feel it wrong to go in in working time but still when the necessity was great we did so, & I remember his patient look as he said once "Don't you think you could not come in again. I have been interrupted very often." I remember that we used to dread going in for sticking plaister. He hated the sight of blood & our hurting ourselves so acutely. I quite well remember lurking about the passage till he was safe away & then sneaking in to get it.
I think in early days we used generally to take his midday walk with him, for I remember after Malvern our standing outside his douche hearing the rush of water & his groans from the shock & cold, & stamping of feet & then when he was up & dressed we were allowed to pull the string & see the remains of the water come down. He then used to set off at a run & we with him. He used to read aloud to us when we were ill & at one time read aloud some of Walter Scotts novels after tea. I have a particularly delightful memory of Guy Mannering. When we were ill, nothing could exceed the tenderness of his devotion & for a sick child he would give up his work even.
Two delightful festivals we used to look forward to
one was mushroom hunting & the other was orchis hunting. He always had a kind of sacred feeling about orchises long before his book about them & I remember his finding the first Birds nest orchis in Hanggrove wood. I think he taught us all to have this peculiar feeling. [see pages 3A & 3B on Holidays]
Life seems to me as I look back upon it to have been very regular in these early days & except occasional visits from relations I do not think anybody came to the house. After lessons we were always free to go where we would & that was chiefly in the drawing room, & about the garden, so that we were very much with both my Father & Mother. We used to think it most delightful when he told us any stories about the Beagle or about early Shrewsbury days, little bits about his school life, & boyish tastes. Collecting as he has said was one of his earliest tastes, minerals I think first of all & I remember his telling us of a practical joke of Uncle Harry's. How he gave him a most beautiful pure white substance & told him it was (?) [Saccharisia] from the mine of the Blue Basin. My Father carefully put it away labelled with his other minerals & did not find out his blunder for some time. I think he was six when this happened. He was fond of romancing when he was little & not truthful either. *Note: He has told in his autobiography how he romanced about the fruit wh. he pretended some one had stolen & had really gathered himself. [end of note]. One crime that he used to commit was lying on the top of the kitchen garden wall & fishing for peaches with a flower pot suspended by a hooked stick. He put it just underneath a ripe peach [CONTINUED ON PAGE 4]
Even in these early days I am sure we realised the difference there was in having him on a holiday. A difference that we all felt so strongly in later days. The pressure of his work kept him only just able to get through his work & when he was released from this he entered into daily life with a youthfulness of enjoyment wh. made us feel we saw more of him in a week of holiday than a month at home. I have a distinct impression of the walks at Ramsgate with him. We went there for Annie's health, when I was I suppose about six. We were part of the time with nurse & governess & perhaps this made it more delightful when he & my Mother came - but the two things I remember are making doll's shoes out of seaweed & the impression of having had most particularly delicious walks with my Father.
Some holidays that we took were very depressing. It seemed that taking off the stimulus of work let him sink down into a quite peculiar state of misery. This was when he had been much overdone before. We had a wretched time at Caerdeon & a very uncomfortable time at Haredene just before I was married. But the later holidays were all most happy bits of life to remember, especially our two visits to the Lakes. He used to say often that attending so much to one subject had dried up his soul & how if he had to begin life over again, he wd never have let the taste for poetry die out as it had done. This was true as regards poetry. Music he was afraid of listening to for it set him thinking too intensely & exhausted him, but with regard to scenery his taste & delight were as fresh & vivid
as any boys could be. When he came in from any fresh walk at Coniston he could hardly express his enjoyment & he was always so eager that my Mother shd get to it. It was only half a pleasure unless she could share it.
We had a peculiarly delightful expedition to Grassmere. A perfect day & his state of vivid enjoyment & flow of spirits is a picture in my mind I like to think of. He could hardly sit still in the carriage for turning round & getting up to admire the view from each fresh point, and coming home even he was full of the beauty of the bit by Rydal Water. But he wouldn't allow that Grassmere at all equalled his beloved Coniston. He reread most of the Excursion during this visit after an interval of I suppose thirty or more years. I think it was a disappointment. He found parts of it preachy & it did not give him much pleasure. Parts of it he had admired extremely & his old Wordsworth- a funny Swiss edit in one volume - is marked with his notes as to what to skip & what he cared for.
It was at Coniston he met Mr Ruskin (not for the first time he having been once before in his company at Mr Norton's when they were staying at Keston Rectory). This was not very long after Ruskin had quoted in one of his Fors Clavigera a supposed note of Carlyle's speaking very bitterly of my Father & his doctrines. This note Carlyle had declared to be a forgery, but Ruskin had I believe
never put any notice of this in Fors. We all thought we could trace a slight embarrassment in his manner during his first call. His manner to my Father was rather elaborately courteous & by some odd blunder he knighted him in his imagination & constantly said "Sir Charles". It was not very long after Ruskin's great illness & my Father noticed the flush that came over his face when he began to talk abt the clouds & the bad influence that was now at work in the heavens. My Father turned the conversation with his usual tact. It was very charming to see his manner to Ruskin & how these two - so different by nature & with such opposite interests - could find so much in common to discuss. It is needless to say that my Father owed Ruskin no grudge for any of the hard things he might have said of him & listened to him with his usual courteous deference.
Ruskin had changed in feeling to Richard - why we do not know. But my Father knew this & took special pains to tell Ruskin when we were not present how true a follower R. was, & how he Father wd not like to stand in the shoes of any man who spoke disrespectfully of Ruskin "in Litchfield's presence." It was so like him to remember to say this. Ruskin sent over some photographs, I forget why. Amongst these there was a Holbein
of Erasmus I believe. I remember my Father's saying to Ruskin that he supposed it was very bad taste but he admired it the most of any of the photographs sent, and his being pleased at Ruskin's saying that he considered him perfectly right. I do not think my Father got any pleasure out of Ruskin's Turners. He said "they are beyond me". I believe he was struck by a little Bewick of some bird I think, in watercolour.
Another very plesant [sic] holiday was to the Hermitage, the Harry Wedgwoods to see the Camp at Chobham. My Father had an interest in soldiers & liked the show part of it. But he was also intensely interested in it as giving some idea of war & wd talk of it with pleasure to the end of his life. There was particular moment when we were between two charging bodies of cavalry & had to run for their lives he often used to laugh over.
& tipped it off & brought it safely to the top. I shd fancy from what I have heard that there were far too many rules at Shrewsbury & that he was thus almost trained in disobedience. I shd also think he was not trusted, & was kept to his character a naughty boy.
He used to play chess with Aunt Catherine, but they quarrelled so dreadfully over this that I believe they were forbidden to play any longer by the higher powers. She was the favourite & the good & clever one. One piece of dullness brought him into discredit, & that was that he could not learn his way in the prayer book till very late & I think she used to help him. I remember his telling us that he could always coax away Aunt Caroline's dogs & he thus used to make her jealous. He has mentioned somewhere the story of the surly stable dog, Pincher who he used to call in a particular way & how after the 5 years absence in the Beagle he went into the yard & gave the accustomed call & the dog rushed out with just the same eagerness but no extra delight at seeing him again as if they had been out yesterday. I can't remember his having ever mentioned having any pets of his own & I never remember his speaking with any affection of any horse. I believe horses were kept for his sisters but not for him, & it is possible he wd not have been allowed to keep a dog, tho' they were.
Late in life he became passionately attached to my dog Polly whom he adopted after I married. She went all his walks with him & lived all morning in his study & in the afternoon in his bedroom. His manner to her was wonderfully tender.
Of the stories he used to tell us about school life one he has told himself in his autobiography & he has also mentioned how
strong his feeling of friendship was for other boys.
I never heard him speak with any affection of any master at Shrewsbury, nor with pleasure abt any of the set games. He was not good in cricket, but I do not know abt any other games.
I remember his telling us about the bolstering matches, with a watch set to warn if the doctor appeared. Also about the mysterious way of putting out the gas all over the house. Some boy accidentally discovered that if you kicked a bit of the wooden panelling you put it all out. I suppose it turned it off but that I don't know. This used to be constantly one of the great amusement of the boys & the mystification & annoyance of the masters. At last the doctor brought a gas expert & as they were in the schoolroom out went the gas, & the doctor & his expert were in pitch darkness and he used to describe the excited tone of the doctor "There, it has happened again." My Father did not know whether the trick was ever discovered, but at any rate the position of stop cock was altered & this trick became impossible.
Uncle Ras told me that he could recall then the smell of the bedroom he slept in & the miserable feeling of the want of air in the morning. The sleeping arrangements must have been horrible. One particular room was called the "dungeary" & used to hold 40 (?) boys. It was lighted & aired by one window
at the end & approached by a door leading from another bedroom.
I think there were no washing arrangements in the bedroom & the only extra washing was of feet once a week.
My Father used that say that Euclid was the only thing he learnt at school which gave him any pleasure. He used to learn his latin (or greek) lesson guess how many times at chapel (trs Query during the psalms?) & could say it perfectly that day but forgot it completely the next day.
He had one of the finest collections of old verses in the school & all his latin verse-making was by patch work. He left it by will when he left school to his best friend.
Late in his school life he was very sensitive as to his appearance. as to his feet especially, which were large & with bunions . He used to think himself so painfully ugly that he walked through the back streets of Shrewsbury habitually. I have a dim fancy Aunt Caroline had told him he was ugly.
The only other bits about school life he told us about I think he has mentioned in his auto(biography) - how he used to run home between callings over & pray all the time when he was late that he might be in time. <deleted: Late in his schoollife he got to be very sensitive abt his appearance & used to go by the back streets because he thought he was so ugly. I remember he said he had one of the finest collections of verses in the school wh. he left to his friends. Also that he was very quick in learning by heart but forgot it all as soon as it was repeated. He used to learn 40 or 60 query lines during chapel.>
He cared much for the historical plays of Shakspere when he was a boy, especially Macbeth wh. he knew nearly by heart. Some of the boys were to act it & he took immense interest in this tho' he was not going to act. He used also to admire Byron, Wordsworth, who was the poet he afterwards cared for most of all, I think he did not read till Cambridge. Milton he had with him on his voyage & it used when the one book he took with him when he could only afford to take one on his expeditions. Shelley & Coleridge he admired but I don't think he ever read or cared for Keats. Of ancient poets I never heard him speak with pleasure of any but Horace. Indeed he cd. not have read any greek poets except in translations.
He told us that after his year at Edinburgh during wh. he gave up greek altogether, he found on beginning again he had forgotten even the alphabet & had to learn that again.
<deleted: I remember his describing> his taste for shooting whilst he was still a school boy. He went prowling about with a gun on half holidays after small birds, but once he saw a pheasant get up & shot almost without knowing what he was doing & he described vividly his agony of fear when somebody called out to him & he flung away his pheasant & ran for dear life as he felt it, not knowing what might not be done to him. <deleted: I remember dimly a story that felt very exciting then of his shooting a pheasant & flinging it away & running for his life from somebody who saw him.> He was also a good shot with a stone & killed many birds in that way. Late on in life, when he was at Malvern in , he saw a ? shrike, &, out of idleness, never thinking he wd hit it, took a shy at it with a stone & what was his horror to find he had killed it. He was so much ashamed he never mentioned this to anyone for years & it was long after when I first heard it.
Other stories we used to like to hear were about Woodhouse, wh. he described always with the flavour of intense past enjoyment, about "pretty Fanny Owen" what a queer amusing happy go lucky household it was. She insisted on firing off his gun one day & tho' it made her shoulder black & blue with its kick she made no sign - it was in Stony field he told me this. Two other stories were of old Mr Owen. He suspected that there were all sorts of late goings on in the household (at one time they had a mad butler who used to go outside the house & fire a gun off in the middle of the night, why no one ever knew.) One night when he suspected something he saw somehow, I forget whether from his bedroom window, that a woman was sitting outside the drawing room window. So he called up his son and told him he wanted him to catch the person whoever she might be. As soon as ever the window was opened off ran the woman & young Owen soon perceived it was one of the maidservants & out of good nature resolved not to catch her so he told her to run for her life & came back after a time to his Father saying he hadn't got up with her - & got well abused for not being able to catch a woman. Another story was that Mr Owen resolved to trap these people who walked abt so late at night, so
He built a gt pile of crockery in the stairs just where everybody going in the dark must knock it down. Then in the middle of the night thinking he heard somebody, he got up to see & managed to upset his own erection, crashing the crockery all down the stairs. When he came back to bed & told Mrs Owen what had happened she laughed so much that he got in such rage she thought he'd have kicked her out of bed as she told her children next day. Woodhouse was evidently the very opposite of Shrewsbury & he was no doubt a gt favourite there.
The other place he always talked of with intense enjoyment was Maer, not only from the people but the charm of the place with its wild ground. He used to go there to shoot, & suffered agonies when any of the Maer men were intending to shoot for then he knew that he could not be off as he liked before day break. I remember his telling us how he used to practice before a pier glass by the house lifting his gun up in order to get it straight & sharp to his shoulder. He never used to carry his gun at full cock. I can recall his look when he was dwelling on old Maer times, Aunt Charlotte's singing, sitting out on the steps talking, the smell of the woods. So that these two places Woodhouse & Maer used to have a sacred sort of feeling to us, as if they had been more delightful than any other places ever more.
He told us very little of the Cambridge time & still less of the Edinburgh. I dimly think he used to tell us how he was hooted for taking a walk on Sunday in Edinburgh.
It was whilst he was at Edinburgh that his Father began to train him for a doctor, as I think he has fully described in his autobiography. He evidently was interested in the work & if it had not been for his horror at operations I have no doubt he wd have spent his energies as a successful doctor. His Father told him he thought he would succeed that there was something in him which wd win people's confidence. The practice he had was being a sort of clinical clerk to certain poor patients in Frankwell, & occasionally being present during interviews of his Father with patients who did not object to a boy being present.
He always spoke with horror of the few - I think only two - operations he witnessed at Edinburgh. I have seen him shudder (after an interval of 40 years or more) at the memory of one long & severe operation on a little boy. This was a little street child & he cursed & swore & screamed all the time. My Father used to say that no one who did not remember the old time could appreciate the blessing of chloroform.
His Father used also to tell him stories abt. his patients and practice. One story was of a relation of (?) Lord Clive [no, Ed.] who came to consult him. He was mad & his mania was accusing himself of all kinds of crimes. He began
as usual accusing himself of every crime under heaven but at last when he mentioned some particularly revolting crime, Dr Darwin was sure that he really had committed this one. When he had an interview with Ld Clive, he mentioned that he was aware he had done so & so - Ld C. said "Good Heavens, Dr D, we thought no one knew this - how did you discover it?" but Dr D. was quite unable to say how he felt convinced that this madman had really committed that one among his whole list of crimes. He had a great power over mad people. One lady he was firmly convinced he kept out of restraint for years. Whenever she showed signs of becoming troublesome or violent it was only necessary to threaten to send for Dr D. to reduce her to submission. My Father saw her trembling with fright when he was in the house for fear his Father shd be coming too. He asked his Father what he did to frighten her, but I think only got a mystical answer.
A piece of advice Dr D. gave my Father was never to take away all hope from the nurses. In his early practice he told some lady that there was no hope for her husband. She came to him afterwards & said to him, "never take away all hope, Dr D, you don't know what you did to me in telling me my husband must die, as I had hope I could
continue nursing - but in taking away hope you took away all my strength." Another counsel was that if a lady was overcome by what she had to tell & was wasting his time by crying, the best plan was to entreat them to cry & not to try & check it & this almost always succeeded in stopping them.
People used often to come to him who were not ill, just to tell their miseries. He wd perceive what it was & after after [sic] asking them a few questions for form's sake wd say I think you have something on yr mind wh. is troubling you & that wd lead to the outpouring. He had a poor opinion of the happiness of marriages. He said that people often lived happily together for thirty years & then became miserable, whether because the children whilst young had been the bond he did not know.
He told him also that it was a sign of not being intensely occupied abt any subject to dream about it. If a widow said she dreamt abt her husband he was never afraid of the shock & grief doing her any harm however much she might seem to feel it, but if on the contrary she said she never even dreamt of him, he wd at once be anxious abt her state though she might seem no more shattered than the first one.
My Father had a boundless & most touching reverence for his own Father. He would have wished to judge everything else in the world dispassionately but about anything his Father had said it was almost a blind & implicit faith. I remember his saying on one occasion he shd hope his sons would never believe anything because he said it unless they were convinced of the truth for themselves wh. struck me at the time as such a curious contrast.
We staid at Shrewsbury for a couple of nights on our way
to Caerdeon. In the morning we all drove up to the poor old Mount & had the misfortune to find the then tenant, an underbred clergyman at home. He never left us alone for one moment & I admired my Father's gentleness & forbearance in the way he answered all his prosy impertinent questions as to the changes made since the old time. Afterwards he said as we were driving away with a pathetic look of regret, "If I could have been left alone in that greenhouse for five minutes I know I should have been able to see my Father in his wheelchair as vividly as if he had been there before me." I did so wish we had known & could have carried off the clergyman for a bit.
He said once with the most tender respect "I think my Father was a little unjust to me when I was young, but afterwards I am thankful to think I became a prime favourite with him." When I put down the words I can remember the expression of his face, with a kind of inward look as if he was reviewing the whole relation & it left a deep sense of peace & gratitude.
I was five when my grandfather died & I have a vision of having seen Father stretched out on the sofa, & of going & sitting on the top of the stairs & crying out of sympathy & awe, for I did not know him personally.
I never heard him mention boating or joining in any games at Cambridge. He used to ride a good deal & I think hunt whilst there. He was a bold & good rider. Owing to his love of riding & sport he got into a fast set at Cambridge & was rather extravagant & left it in debt. I remember as a small child one of us asking him if he had ever been tipsy & his answering, "Yes, to his sorrow & shame once at Cambridge at a supper party." He has often said that the only bit of real good he got in Cambridge was getting up the Evidences of Xtianity. I have often heard him speak with enthusiasm of the pleasure mastering this one book gave him & what good training he thought it for the mind.
This & beetle catching are the only bits of Cambridge life which he does not consider pure waste. I shd certainly differ from him as to this estimate. I do not think he cd have spent these three years in any more fruitful way. He was bound to sow his wild oats (if they were such) in the way of sport & he evidently profited in all sides from the stimulating & widening influence of Cambridge. Both on the side of friendship, experience of life & taste for music, poetry & pictures. He has fully said himself all that he considers he owes to the friendship of Prof Henslow
He has often spoken with pleasure of the Fitzw pictures though I cannot remember his mentioning any picture specially but the Titian Venus. He collected prints & kept a strong impression of the beauty of some, particularly Raphael's (? The arts sending off Messengers from an Arch).
His strong pleasure in music he used to say was primarily learnt from his friends
some of whom were very musical (but I remember his giving a proof that it was real, not sham although acquired - that he almost every day would go alone to Kings on a weekday for the pleasure of the music. He also often used to have the Choristers to sing in his own rooms. His musical friends used to hold what they called examinations in music of him & another man & where he always broke down was in recognising God save the Queen when it was played either a little faster or varied in time, although I believe he generally beat this other man. In later life he never recognized what the pieces of music were on hearing them again, but he was extremely constant in his taste, always liking the same pieces, wh. were familiar yet in a sense fresh to him. He made a little list of all the pieces wh. Mother played & which he liked, with a few words to show what impression it made upon him, but it is lost. Beeth. & Handel always the favourites. He was very sensitive to differences of playing & enjoyed Mrs Vernon Lushington's playing intensely and in June 81 was roused to enthusiasm by Richter's who came down to Down for an afternoon. It was truly intense enjoyment to him. I have seen him, too, almost moved to tears by some things of Effie's [Lady Farrer's] singing, e.g. the song of Sullivan's to Jean Ingelow's words "Will he come" & I think also the Paesiello of the mad girl.1 He spoke with intense pleasure of the choruses of the Messiah & we used to wish he could hear it again.
1 Arthur Sullivan set lyrics to "Will he come" written by Adelaide A. Proctor, first published in London by Boosey & Co. in 1865. Other songs by Sullivan were on texts by Jean Ingelow. (Kees Rookmaaker, 2006.)
I believe it was before going to Cambridge that he read Law's Sermons (all which made a deep impression on him. Though he was perfectly orthodox till well on in the Beagle time & would have felt it very wrong to be considered anything but a Xtian I should not imagine from anything I have heard him say or from his knowledge of the Bible that he was a fervent Christian in the sense in which the Bible & Christ are the rule & guide of life. He has told, I think, how he said to the Officers on the Beagle that something must be wrong because the bible said so & how this was received with shouts of laughter, tho' they wd all have considered themselves as believers. (See my notes made at the time with exact words & further what he told me then about his religious opinions.)
Most of the few things I can remember well enough to tell of the Voyage time I have put down on separate slips of paper. There must have been many more - one anecdote I remember was of the officers & my Father going out riding near ? Buenos Ayres. The horses there are trained to stop dead out of a gallop at the slightest touch of the very severe bit, &, if the first horse stops, so do all the others. As they were riding home near the town, the first man happened accidentally to touch his bit & thus to stop his horse - he shot over its head, then all the other horses stopped in turn & each officer shot over his horses head & as they got up all began to wrangle & abuse each other. Only my Father stuck on to the gt. surprise of the gauchos. They (the gauchos) had no notion of humanity to animals. When my Father wanted not to urge his horse, the owner explained he did not care if it was killed, & cd. not be made to see why my Father refused to spur it on. To his great surprise a horse was ridden to death in his company. I think he had not been riding it the last stage, but it was galloping along with them as a spare horse. It was rather fat, & sweated much though it showed no particular signs of distress, but on getting in to the end of their stage, just rolled over & died.
After he came home & of all the early years of his married life I cannot remember hearing him tell anything. He used to laugh over the ugliness of their house in Gower St & the furniture in the drawing room which he saw combined all the colours of a macaw in hideous discord. They seem to have gone very little into society & not to have enjoyed London in the ordinary way. I do not think my Father had either wit or humour to any marked extent. Though he was an admirable talker, so fresh & full of interest & sympathy & so ready to tell anything he knew that the dullest used to brighten under his influence. There was something wonderfully exhilarating in his company - it was like the difference of sun upon a landscape when he was present. He was so vivid & had such joyousness of nature & his laugh was delightful to hear. Then his courtesy & tact & ready sympathy made him a perfect listener & tho' he talked a great deal when he was well, no one could ever have felt overborne by him in the slightest degree. He always felt talking peculiarly fatiguing, and the more animated & interested he was, the worse the after effects were. This was a great misfortune. He hated to be obliged to be churlish & society wd have been a great pleasure to him. I have sometimes heard him regret this loss. But I think generally that work & books & his own family were all he wanted. Indeed the exhaustion & suffering caused by talking made him quite dread seeing his friends.
He told stories very well, with such simple
enjoyment in what he was telling & his stories always showed the marks of his keen & accurate observation.
I remember now how delightful he made himself at the watercure establishment at Moor Park where I also was as a girl, & to the most humble & neglected as well as to the pleasant ones. A certain poor dismal Miss Sharpe, after he was gone, said to me with such effusion that she never had known anybody so delightful, so agreeable in her lifetime. xx (see back) & 13A & B.
When I was about five he first went to the Watercure establishment under Dr Gully at Malvern. The habits he formed there really lasted his whole life, though in later years they were somewhat modified. But he kept up the very early morning walk for years. It used to be almost in the dark in winter & he had a story of how he had surprised old Duke poaching out by the big woods & was offered the pheasant he had just seen shot as a bribe to make him say nothing. He used to walk very stealthily & quietly amongst the woods or where there was any animal life to watch. One day in the big woods he surprised a fox asleep, it got up & looked at him much astonished & then trotted off. Another day in the sandwalk a whole family of young squirrels (two or three I think) took him for a tree & ran up & down him. He felt them running halfway up his back. The old mother sat by in a tree making the danger signal & in an agony at the folly of her children. He had a sharp eye for birds nests & often used to find them without looking for them. He used to walk out several times a day. I should say 4 or 5.
He used to tell a story of what happened to him at Moor Park. There was a very large ants' nest close to the Sandy road which led from Waverley Abbey through Moor Park. He took to observing these ants on his walks & was very much astonished at one habit. He observed that they carried out the empty cocoon cases, not only out of the nest where they wd have been in the way, but he met them a long way off still carrying their light little burden which would have been blown away by the first puff of wind if they had put it down anywhere. He resolved to watch one from the nest to the end of its journey to see what became of the cocoon case & an old labourer passing by at the moment, he asked him if he would put down his basket & watch with him. So my Father taking off his coat, they each chose an ant & squatted down at the side of the road looking intently down each at his ant. After they had been thus engaged for some little time, they heard wheels coming. My Father said to his old labourer, "now whatever happens don't you look up for a moment." But, very unfairly, he himself, just after the carriage had passed, looked up for one instant, to see the carriage going at foots pace & a whole carriage-full of smart ladies & gentlemen standing up in their carriage staring in blank amazement at the apparently insane & oddly matched couple squatting on the ground & gazing intently at nothing. My Father used to burst into peals of laughter when he came to this bit & pictured to himself their hopeless bewilderment & I always feel now as if I had seen the scene, partly perhaps from knowing the bit of road. The end of the ants was that after carrying their cocoon cases a long distance, sometimes passing up a tree, they dropped them & he could only suppose it was a mistaken instinct carried on from the exceeding preciousness of the cocoons.
Another story was, as well as I can tell it, as follows.
"I received a letter from some man asking me whether I was aware of the extraordinary fact that the beans were growing at the wrong side of the pod this summer. I did not know what this meant even. However the best plan was to ask my old gardener Brooks whether he had heard that the beans were growing on the wrong side of the pod this summer. I got the answer, 'No, sir it can't be this summer. They only grow on the wrong side of the pod in Leap year.' I then asked him what he meant by growing on the wrong side of the pod. Could he show me on a bean? But it turned out he had not the least notion what it meant, though he firmly believed it happened every leap-year. I then wrote back to my correspondent telling him that I found there was a belief that this happened in leapyear, but I could not make out what was meant & I shd be glad if he would tell me what he had observed.
After a little time I got a very humble letter from him begging my pardon for having troubled me. When he wrote to me he had believed the fact on report, wh. he had from so many people he thought it must be true & since then, though he had asked all sorts of people who believed in it, he never found one who even knew what they meant by the words, 'the beans growing the wrong side of the pod.' " My Father used often to tell this as an instance of peoples credulity & want of the commonest observation.
I remember another little anecdote as I think it illustrates his power of winning over people who had least in common with him & he used enjoy telling it.
He was on way from Leeds home, having been to Illkly [sic] watercure estabt somewhere about 60- ? (His second visit) In the carriage with him there was a man who looked like a clergyman or dissenting parson. He was engaged with very serious & learned looking books. However my Father was determined he would thaw him. He began by offering him some gingerbread to the mans great surprise, & after he had accepted it (?) to startle him still more my Father broke ground by asking him whether he ever read novels. The other answered him very courteously & simply that he found life so full of serious interests he had not time for novels. And then they began to talk & this man, who turned out to be a well known preacher of one of the dissenting sects, told him a great deal that was curious about his life. He was a kind of travelling preacher & went wherever he was ordered. I fancy he was going from Leeds to Birm.m. He spoke quite freely & fully. I remember he was intensely astonished at my Fathers never having heard of Angel James. I do not think there was any reciprocal confidence.
The first walk was out in the roads, but the second at 12 o'clk was in the sandwalk. There he used to mark his turns, having a stated number to take first 4 or 5 flints which he used to kick from one heap to another, moving one each turn & later by a score in the sand with his stick. A sound that I can hear now with perfect distinctness is the click of his iron shod stick against the flints which jutted up on the straight side of the sandwalk, coming irregularly as he walked briskly on, often apparently lost in thought & taking no heed of anything about him.
I cannot remember whether he had breakfast with us when we were children. Afterwards he always had it earlier & alone. We all had early dinner together & often in winter in the schoolroom to save an extra fire. They had their tea in the study & it was the most longed for treat to be sick and to have tea with them with the dear old blue teacups & the cloth laid on the Pembroke mahogany table which is still in his study.
Their life was wonderfully simple in those old days. They kept one horse, who used to help in the haytime & a phaeton & tax cart their only vehicles & this was driven by the gardener. The furniture was very economical. I can see now the patched look of a certain green-flowered carpet in the drawing room skillfully contrived by my Mother.
They went out to dinner very very seldom & still seldomer had a dinner party at home. But in my childhood I can remember this as a great & solemn event. Later on I think this never happened until quite late days again. He always felt having people to dinner such a much greater risk than their staying in the house for a few days.
After the watercure he was ordered riding & did for a very short time but soon gave it up He began riding again after I was grown up when Doctor Bence Jones recommended it & we had the luck to find the quietest & easiest cob in the world, Tommy. He used to ride every day at 12 o'clk. Tolerably often I used to go with him & that has left delightful memories in my mind. This riding was very good for him. He used to say it prevented him thinking much more effectually than walking.
That having to attend to the horse gave him occupation eno' to keep him from really hard thinking. Also I am sure the change of scene was good for spirits & health. He liked the friendly recognition he met with, & I remember his wondering over & remarking with pleasure how many people whom he did not know used to nod to him in a friendly way. There was always a great deal of curtseying & grinning of the children in the village. I think he sometimes used to give them pennies but it was more the charm of his manner. Tommy's only fault was stumbling & after having had several near escapes, he fell heavily with him on Keston common as they were cantering over the bit of grass by the side of the Mill. The horse came down so violently that he cut his head but not his knees. My Father, who had a firm seat, unfortunately stuck to him instinctively & Tommy rolled right over upon his thigh & back. I cannot remember whether he was unconscious at all but certainly confused. Some people in a cart who were coming by helped him on his horse, not perceiving how much he was hurt, & he managed to ride home in great pain & in a dazy state (Mother says not). I remember his ghastly look as he came into the hall much later than he usually returned saying he had had a fall but was not much hurt. No bones were broken or other serious injuries but there was a great deal of injury to the muscles & he used to say he was sure there must have been a pint of extravasated blood under the skin. He was attended by Sir James Paget & made a quick recovery, tho' I cannot remember how many weeks he was laid up. This must have been in the year 69 (?).
It was riding on Tommy accompanied by Polly that he had the extraordinary event happen to him of being chased by a fox.
He was riding in Sir John Lubbock's woods. Polly was hunting about in the bushes when suddenly she dashed out pursued by a fox & took refuge with him. Then the fox halted & Polly took courage to go at her & there were repeated charges first of Polly & then of the old she fox at Polly. No doubt the former had cubs close by.
My Father rode Tommy for about a year after his accident & then it was decided to be too unsafe. After several trials of horses he took a great big grey mare of Horaces, Peggy, but his riding her did not last long. They had an accident in passing a cart which upset her nerves & his, & he gave up riding. This was certainly a great pity, I think he wd have been well eno' to have gone on riding many years longer on such a horse as Tommy.
I had a long illness from about the time I was 13 till 18. For a long time, years it seems to me, he used to play a couple of games of backgammon with me every afternoon. He played them with the gtest spirit & I remember at one time we used not only to keep a record of all the games but we wrote down all the doublets, as I felt sure he got more than me, he winning on the average.
His patience & sympathy were boundless during my weary illness. I felt his sympathy sometimes to be too keen when I was most miserable. At Hartfield, where we went at about the middle of my worst bout, he went to Moor
Park for about a fortnight, as soon as we had safely made our move. I can recall now how I could hardly bear to have him in the room, the expression of tender sympathy & emotion in his face was too agitating coming fresh upon me after his little absence.
He cared for all our pursuits & interests & lived our lives with us in a way that very few Fathers do. But I am sure that we none of us felt that this excessive intimacy & familiarity interfered in the least with our respect or obedience. Whatever he said was absolute truth for us. He always put his whole mind into answering any of our questions. One trifling instance makes me feel how he cared for what we cared for. He had no special taste for cats tho' he admired the pretty ways of a kitten. But yet he knew & remembered the individuality of my many cats & would talk about the habits & characters of the more remarkable ones years after they had died.
Another characteristic of his treatment of his children was his respect for their liberty & for their personality. Even as quite a girl I remember rejoicing in this sense of freedom. Our Father & Mother wd not even wish to know what we were doing or thinking unless we wished to tell. He always made us feel that we were each one of us creatures whose opinions & thoughts were valuable to him. So that whatever there was best in us came out in the sunshine of his presence. I do not think his exaggerated sense of our good qualities, intellectual or moral, made us conceited as might perhaps
have been expected, but rather more humble & grateful to him. The reason being no doubt that the influence of his character - of his sincerity & greatness of nature - had a much deeper & more lasting effect than any small exaltation which his praises & admiration may have caused to our vanity. It was delightful to feel how he rejoiced with us in all our pleasures small or great.
One of his looks I like best to recall was the way he used to stand & watch Dubsy when he was passing & say "Little Duck" - with such a glow of admiring love on his face. He wasn't strong enough to play much with Bernard after he was quite a baby. When he was a baby he used to have him on his knee and B. wd solemnly push in one by one the lenses in a little pocket magnifying glass my Father always carried about. But he used to delight in watching him & in hearing any of his sayings. I remember his speaking with such pleasure of the pretty picture wh. he had watched out of his bedroom window of Dubsy, as quite a little thing of two or three, with a red woolen shawl of mine wrapped closely round his head framing his little face & held tight round his body by his little folded arms, & he dancing backwards up the walk in front of me chattering & laughing all the time. I don't think he ever told Bernard any of our dear old stories. It was a great pleasure to him watching Bernard at luncheon, they always sitting opposite to each other. My Mother has once or twice regretted not having had Bernard down to meals sooner just for my Father's sake. He used particularly to enjoy watching Bernards devotion to his own Father & used to remark
how his eyes never left his Father's face during luncheon.
My Mother corrected the proofs of the Origin, but after the first edition, I think I corrected all his books till I married. (19A) The work was very interesting in itself, but it was inexpressibly exhilarating to work for him. He was always so ready to be convinced that any suggested alteration was an improvement, & so full of gratitude for the trouble taken & admiration for my critical faculty such as it is. It is a delightful memory to me to look back upon that work. I used to write my suggestions & corrections on slips of paper, sometimes explaining why the alterations were made & sometimes not. I don't think he ever used to forget to tell me what improvement he thought I had made, & he used almost to excuse himself if he did not agree with any correction. I think I felt the singular modesty & graciousness of his nature through thus working for him in a way I never otherwise sh.d have done.
As years went on my Father gave up the management of the house & garden almost entirely into my Mother's hand. He had the power of making himself obeyed & all the servants felt that his orders were absolute.
He had rather a difficulty in giving a scolding not to go too far & get into a passion. But he had a store He disliked having to find fault, as he sometimes said more than he meant & got really angry. This did not happen [continued on page 20]
He did not write with ease, & was apt to invert his sentences both in writing & speaking, putting the qualifying clause before you knew what it was to qualify. He corrected a great deal, & was eager to get it as well as he could. He was particular about stops & disliked free use of commas.
His style I think is a wonderful [reflexion] of his nature, so entirely free of any sort of false pretences or ornamentation, such perfect lucidity & directness, so that tho' in some sense I suppose it could not be called a good style it has a peculiar charm of its own & plenty of individuality, & character without any mannerism.
often but he had a store of indignation ready on occasion, & could make himself felt with power when he was moved.
When first they came to Down, he set up a Friendly Club. For this he must have been Treasurer nearly 40 years. He took a great deal of pains about it, seeing to the accounts etc. and he used to be proud & pleased at its prosperous state. Every WhitMonday it paraded with its band & used to have a little speech from him on the lawn when he explained its financial state. He was often unwell eno' to make this a great exertion, but he always made his little speech tell with a few jokes wh never fell flat. I am sure long ago everyone in Down would have trusted him, but latterly a distrustful suspicious spirit grew up (fostered by a publican with no particular character) which gave him a great deal of pain. They actually believed that he wished the club to be kept on for the sake of the small balance at his bankers, about £100 I believe it was. He felt their ingratitude & narrow distrust much, & I have often been so sorry he had this pain.
I remember his saying something of what a poor prospect it was for the country that these men, the best of the working classes, shd have no more knowledge of life & of their own interests than they showed in the management of this little society.
Besides this he was Treasurer of the Coal Club. For many years used to send Parslow in once a fortnight to Bromley to take in money to the Savings Bank, & ? he himself was one of its managers & had to go in periodically For some years he acted as magistrate. He thought when first he went on that no doubt he shd be all for moderating the harsher views
of the other magistrates but quite the contrary the very first time he sat on the Bench some sentence was passed which he thought far too lenient. I have the impression that he thought his fellow magistrates were upon the whole inclined to err in that direction, but that they were generally very fair & took a gt deal of trouble. He was sworn in ? at Canterbury on the 8th day of some month & after swearing all kinds of oaths he had to write on "this eighth day" over & over again & always spelt it eightth, as he remembered with disgust afterwards. [passage from margin; different handwriting] along w[ith] a country Sqr. a gt man who slurred over the words & whenever this happened the clerk gravely reproved my f. saying speak up or some such words. He was weak in spelling originally & only learnt to spell correctly after much practice. I remember hearing that he always spelt abroad "abroard" all through his Journal.
His hatred of oppression or cruelty were very strong as anyone who had ever heard him speak of slavery could testify. His warm sympathy & keen affections made him able to realise with great vividness what others were suffering & this appeared in his countenance which wd. shew sympathetically the deepest feeling. When we were
children this intense sympathy really added to our sufferings, though it added to our love for him to see how keenly he felt for us & with us in bodily pain or disappointment or grief of any kind.
Annie died in 5? (1851). We were at Malvern. Annie & I, Miss Thorley & Brodie. He came after she was dangerously ill. I suppose almost hopelessly ill. I remember his coming in & after Miss Thorley's saying something his flinging himself down on the sofa on his face & Miss Thorley sending me out of the room in a frightened way. He never spoke to us of her for years, hardly twice in my life, & I shd never have ventured to say her name to him.
His face was most expressive of any emotion. The look in his face of an agony of fear is photographed on my brain. When Horace was 3 or 4 he cut his forehead badly. Father & Mother & I were just coming home from the sandwalk. George was sent to run & fetch them across the field. My Father saw from his way of running something bad was the matter & he shouted to him to stop & speak as soon as he
came within speaking distance. George had ran so fast he could not shout & could hardly speak & so run on & thus there were a few moments agonised apprehension.
He had a strong family feeling, and a natural respect for rank & admiration for an old family. As many of his followers have shown this entirely fits in with the Evolution theory, but with him it was not the least theoretical but an almost instinctive feeling. He used to compare himself laughingly with Uncle Ras & say how shocking it was that he Uncle R really did feel a Duke to be no more than other man, & would abuse his disgraceful ignorance that he did not know what a coronet of strawberry leaves meant. He took the greatest delight in every fresh ancestor that Colonel Chester discovered for us - I am sure that to have carried the Darwin family half a dozen generations further back would have been a real & lasting gratification to him.
He took a considerable interest in politics but as it were with a top layer of his mind. One could not help remarking the difference in the amount of care & thought which he thought necessary to enable him to form an opinion about any of his own subjects compared to
his attitude where political questions were concerned.
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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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