RECORD: Griggs, Earl Leslie. 1934. [Darwin on Carlyle in] A scholar goes visiting. Quarterly Review: A Journal of University Perspectives, Vols. 40-41, p. 411.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed and edited by John van Wyhe 11.2015. RN1

NOTE: Darwin's words are here given in bold for clarity.


[page] 411

The Wedgwoods, who are closely related to the Darwins through marriages during several generations, from Erasmus Darwin on, introduced me to Major Leonard Darwin (Charles Darwin's youngest and only surviving son), an old man of eighty, and his wife. The Darwins sent us an invitation to come down to their country place in Sussex for a few days, and regaled us with old-fashioned English hospitality. As our visit drew to an end Mrs. Darwin asked us to pay them an extended visit, even suggesting that we bring our research work with us so that we might escape London and enjoy the "country air." It was springtime, and to the Darwins it seemed a shame for us to be tied to London and the British Museum.

Major Darwin, who retired from the English Army at fifty, turned first to a study of the Single Tax, and later to the science of Eugenics. His little book, What Is Eugenics? has been published in six countries. When What Is Eugenics? appeared in the French translation, it was advertised quite inappropriately, Major Darwin observed, but certainly in typical French fashion, as "La Vie Sexuelle." Major Darwin is a fascinating man, full of memories of the past (he remembers the visits of Carlyle to Charles Darwin, when the latter awaited none too anxiously "the crotchety old grouch")...


Earl Leslie Griggs (1899-1975), an American professor of English who edited The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, amongst other works.

Leonard Darwin (1850-1943), Darwin's eighth child. See his: 1929. Memories of Down House. The Nineteenth Century 106:118-123. Text

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish historian, philosopher and writer. In his Autobiography, Darwin recollected Carlyle:

The last man whom I will mention is Carlyle, seen by me several times at my brother's house and two or three times at my own house. His talk was very racy and interesting, just like his writings, but he sometimes went on too long on the same subject. I remember a funny dinner at my brother's, where, amongst a few others, were Babbage and Lyell, both of whom liked to talk. Carlyle, however, silenced every one by haranguing during the whole dinner on the advantages of silence. After dinner, Babbage, in his grimmest manner, thanked Carlyle for his very interesting Lecture on Silence.

Carlyle sneered at almost every one. One day in my house he called Grote's History "a fetid quagmire, with nothing spiritual about it." I always thought, until his Reminiscences appeared, that his sneers were partly jokes, but this now seems rather doubtful. His expression was that of a depressed, almost despondent, yet benevolent man; and it is notorious how heartily he laughed. I believe that his benevolence was real, though stained by not a little jealousy. No one can doubt about his extraordinary power of drawing vivid pictures of things and men—far more vivid, as it appears to me, than any drawn by Macaulay. Whether his pictures of men were true ones is another question.

He has been all-powerful in impressing some grand moral truths on the minds of men. On the other hand, his views about slavery were revolting. In his eyes might was right. His mind seemed to me a very narrow one; even if all branches of science, which he despised, are excluded. It is astonishing to me that Kingsley should have spoken of him as a man well fitted to advance science. He laughed to scorn the idea that a mathematician, such as Whewell, could judge, as I maintained he could, of Goethe's views on light. He thought it a most ridiculous thing that any one should care whether a glacier moved a little quicker or a little slower, or moved at all. As far as I could judge, I never met a man with a mind so ill adapted for scientific research.


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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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