RECORD: Brace, Charles Loring. 1872. [Recollections and letter of Darwin]. In Brace, Emma ed. 1894. The Life of Charles Loring Brace. New York: Scribner's, pp. 319-22; 376-7.
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by John van Wyhe 10.2010. RN3
NOTE: Part of this recollection is reprinted in Thomas Glick, What about Darwin? Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University press 2010.
To a Friend.
Down, Bromley, Kent, July 12, 1872.
My dear J — I am at Mr. Darwin's with Mrs. Brace for the night. It is a country to delight R.'s heart. Green, thick hedges, narrow, shaded lanes,
glimpses of parks and oak-openings, old mossy villages, quaint churches, pretty spires rising over the tree-tops, birds singing (the lark rose just now, singing), the air full of fragrance, all quiet and repose. The house an old one, added to and covered with lime, green all around, a trim garden with bright flowers, a lawn, and a long green meadow with trees, and a kitchen-garden full of fruit and vegetables, and the flower-houses where Mr. D. has made his experiments. In driving here this afternoon, we passed through a lane over a mile long, with hedges higher than a man, and the banks covered with scarlet poppy, and so narrow that two wagons could hardly pass one another, and all arched with trees. It passed through the estate of Sir John Lubbock, who is a neighbor of Darwin's. As we came in, Darwin himself was standing in his drawing-room and met us most cordially, taking both my hands. Mrs. D., too, most kind and hearty. I had a little stroll in the garden before we dressed for dinner. He has there a (Cal) Sequoia thirty feet high, I think some twenty years old, though none remembers exactly the date of its planting. (Figs grow nicely in his garden.) We calculated that this tree will get its growth when England is a republic!
Darwin was as simple and jovial as a boy, at dinner, sitting up on a cushion in a high chair, very erect, to guard his weakness. Among other things, he said "his rule in governing his children was to give them lump-sugar!" He rallied us on our vigorous movements, and professed to be dazzled at the rapidity of our operations. He says he never moves,
and though he can only work an hour or two every day, by always doing that, and having no break, he accomplishes what he does. He left us for half an hour after dinner for rest, and then returned to his throne in the parlor.
We had a lively talk on the instincts of dogs (several persons being there) and on "cross-breeding," and he became animated explaining his experiments in regard to it. ... I was telling him that the California primitive skulls were of a remarkably good type. He gave one of his lighting-up smiles, which seemed to come way out from under his shaggy eyebrows. "Yes," he said, "it is very unpleasant of these facts; they won't fit in as they ought to!" ... He told us, with such glee, of a letter he had just got from a clergyman, saying that "he was delighted to see, from a recent photograph, that no man in England was more like the monkey he came from!" and of another from an American clergyman beginning with, "You d---m scoundrel!" and sprinkled with oaths and texts. ... These things amuse him; but not a word did he say of his own success or fame. He breakfasts at half past seven, but sat by us later, as we ate, and joked and cut for us, and was as kind as could be. I never met a more simple, happy man—as merry and keen as Dr. [Asa] Gray, whom he loves much. Both he and Lyell think Dr. G. the soundest scientific brain in America. ... "How unequally is vitality distributed," he said, as he heard what we did every day. ... His parting was as of an old and dear friend. I hope this picture of the best brain in Europe will not weary you.
Mr. Brace, on his return to London, sent to Mr. Darwin "The Dangerous Classes of New York," and received in acknowledgment the following letter: —
From Charles Darwin.
Down, Beckenham, Kent, July 20, 1872.
My dear Mr. Brace : I am much obliged for your extremely kind note. I cannot speak positively about the Sequoia, but my impression is that Heer found it in the lignite beds of Devonshire.
Since you were here, my wife has read aloud to me more than half of your work, and it has interested us both in the highest degree, and we shall read every word of the remainder. The facts seem to me very well told, and the inferences very striking. But after all, this is but a weak part of the impression left on our minds by what we have read; for we are both filled with earnest admiration at the heroic labors of yourself and others. With hearty respects, and our very kind remembrances to Mrs. Brace, etc.
In April he writes to Dr. Gray of the death of
"I feel so much with you at the death of Darwin. It must come very near to you. The world will feel it — the loss of the greatest intellect of this century. I am so glad that your kindness enabled L. and me to know him personally, and to feel the wonderful sweetness and vivacity of his nature. He has made much of life, and I think was a conscious and true servant of the Master. How near is the 'better land' coming to me, as the leaders and friends here go hence! And how one longs to finish the task and do it thoroughly!"
Charles Loring Brace (1826-1890) was an American clergyman and reformer.
Return to homepage
Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
File last updated 2 July, 2012