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Chapter 1

A German Editor having written to me for an account of the
development of my mind and character with some sketch of my
autobiography, I have thought that the attempt would amuse me,
and might possibly interest my children or their children. I
know that it would have interested me greatly to have read even
so short and dull a sketch of the mind of my grandfather, written
by himself, and what he thought and did, and how he worked. I
have attempted to write the following account of myself, as if I
were a dead man in another world looking back at my own life.
Nor have I found this difficult, for life is nearly over with me.
I have taken no pains about my style of writing.

I was born at Shrewsbury on February 12th, 1809, and my earliest
recollection goes back only to when I was a few months over four
years old, when we went to near Abergele for sea-bathing, and I
recollect some events and places there with some little
distinctness.

My mother died in July 1817, when I was a little over eight years
old, and it is odd that I can remember hardly anything about her
except her death-bed, her black velvet gown, and her curiously
constructed work-table. In the spring of this same year I was
sent to a day-school in Shrewsbury, where I stayed a year. I
have been told that I was much slower in learning than my younger
sister Catherine, and I believe that I was in many ways a naughty
boy.

By the time I went to this day-school (Kept by Rev. G. Case,
minister of the Unitarian Chapel in the High Street. Mrs. Darwin
was a Unitarian and attended Mr. Case's chapel, and my father as
a little boy went there with his elder sisters. But both he and
his brother were christened and intended to belong to the Church
of England; and after his early boyhood he seems usually to have
gone to church and not to Mr. Case's. It appears ("St. James'
Gazette", Dec. 15, 1883) that a mural tablet has been erected to
his memory in the chapel, which is now known as the 'Free
Christian Church.') my taste for natural history, and more
especially for collecting, was well developed. I tried to make
out the names of plants (Rev. W.A. Leighton, who was a
schoolfellow of my father's at Mr. Case's school, remembers his
bringing a flower to school and saying that his mother had taught
him how by looking at the inside of the blossom the name of the
plant could be discovered. Mr. Leighton goes on, "This greatly
roused my attention and curiosity, and I enquired of him
repeatedly how this could be done?"--but his lesson was naturally
enough not transmissible.--F.D.), and collected all sorts of
things, shells, seals, franks, coins, and minerals. The passion
for collecting which leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a
virtuoso, or a miser, was very strong in me, and was clearly
innate, as none of my sisters or brother ever had this taste.

One little event during this year has fixed itself very firmly in
my mind, and I hope that it has done so from my conscience having
been afterwards sorely troubled by it; it is curious as showing
that apparently I was interested at this early age in the
variability of plants! I told another little boy (I believe it
was Leighton, who afterwards became a well-known lichenologist
and botanist), that I could produce variously coloured
polyanthuses and primroses by watering them with certain coloured
fluids, which was of course a monstrous fable, and had never been
tried by me. I may here also confess that as a little boy I was
much given to inventing deliberate falsehoods, and this was
always done for the sake of causing excitement. For instance, I
once gathered much valuable fruit from my father's trees and hid
it in the shrubbery, and then ran in breathless haste to spread
the news that I had discovered a hoard of stolen fruit.

I must have been a very simple little fellow when I first went to
the school. A boy of the name of Garnett took me into a cake
shop one day, and bought some cakes for which he did not pay, as
the shopman trusted him. When we came out I asked him why he did
not pay for them, and he instantly answered, "Why, do you not
know that my uncle left a great sum of money to the town on
condition that every tradesman should give whatever was wanted
without payment to any one who wore his old hat and moved [it] in
a particular manner?" and he then showed me how it was moved. He
then went into another shop where he was trusted, and asked for
some small article, moving his hat in the proper manner, and of
course obtained it without payment. When we came out he said,
"Now if you like to go by yourself into that cake-shop (how well
I remember its exact position) I will lend you my hat, and you
can get whatever you like if you move the hat on your head
properly." I gladly accepted the generous offer, and went in and
asked for some cakes, moved the old hat and was walking out of
the shop, when the shopman made a rush at me, so I dropped the
cakes and ran for dear life, and was astonished by being greeted
with shouts of laughter by my false friend Garnett.

I can say in my own favour that I was as a boy humane, but I owed
this entirely to the instruction and example of my sisters. I
doubt indeed whether humanity is a natural or innate quality. I
was very fond of collecting eggs, but I never took more than a
single egg out of a bird's nest, except on one single occasion,
when I took all, not for their value, but from a sort of bravado.

I had a strong taste for angling, and would sit for any number of
hours on the bank of a river or pond watching the float; when at
Maer (The house of his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood.) I was told that I
could kill the worms with salt and water, and from that day I
never spitted a living worm, though at the expense probably of
some loss of success.

Once as a very little boy whilst at the day school, or before
that time, I acted cruelly, for I beat a puppy, I believe, simply
from enjoying the sense of power; but the beating could not have
been severe, for the puppy did not howl, of which I feel sure, as
the spot was near the house. This act lay heavily on my
conscience, as is shown by my remembering the exact spot where
the crime was committed. It probably lay all the heavier from my
love of dogs being then, and for a long time afterwards, a
passion. Dogs seemed to know this, for I was an adept in robbing
their love from their masters.

I remember clearly only one other incident during this year
whilst at Mr. Case's daily school,--namely, the burial of a
dragoon soldier; and it is surprising how clearly I can still see
the horse with the man's empty boots and carbine suspended to the
saddle, and the firing over the grave. This scene deeply stirred
whatever poetic fancy there was in me.

In the summer of 1818 I went to Dr. Butler's great school in
Shrewsbury, and remained there for seven years still Midsummer
1825, when I was sixteen years old. I boarded at this school, so
that I had the great advantage of living the life of a true
schoolboy; but as the distance was hardly more than a mile to my
home, I very often ran there in the longer intervals between the
callings over and before locking up at night. This, I think, was
in many ways advantageous to me by keeping up home affections and
interests. I remember in the early part of my school life that I
often had to run very quickly to be in time, and from being a
fleet runner was generally successful; but when in doubt I prayed
earnestly to God to help me, and I well remember that I
attributed my success to the prayers and not to my quick running,
and marvelled how generally I was aided.

I have heard my father and elder sister say that I had, as a very
young boy, a strong taste for long solitary walks; but what I
thought about I know not. I often became quite absorbed, and
once, whilst returning to school on the summit of the old
fortifications round Shrewsbury, which had been converted into a
public foot-path with no parapet on one side, I walked off and
fell to the ground, but the height was only seven or eight feet.
Nevertheless the number of thoughts which passed through my mind
during this very short, but sudden and wholly unexpected fall,
was astonishing, and seem hardly compatible with what
physiologists have, I believe, proved about each thought
requiring quite an appreciable amount of time.

Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind than
Dr. Butler's school, as it was strictly classical, nothing else
being taught, except a little ancient geography and history. The
school as a means of education to me was simply a blank. During
my whole life I have been singularly incapable of mastering any
language. Especial attention was paid to verse-making, and this
I could never do well. I had many friends, and got together a
good collection of old verses, which by patching together,
sometimes aided by other boys, I could work into any subject.
Much attention was paid to learning by heart the lessons of the
previous day; this I could effect with great facility, learning
forty or fifty lines of Virgil or Homer, whilst I was in morning
chapel; but this exercise was utterly useless, for every verse
was forgotten in forty-eight hours. I was not idle, and with the
exception of versification, generally worked conscientiously at
my classics, not using cribs. The sole pleasure I ever received
from such studies, was from some of the odes of Horace, which I
admired greatly.

When I left the school I was for my age neither high nor low in
it; and I believe that I was considered by all my masters and by
my father as a very ordinary boy, rather below the common
standard in intellect. To my deep mortification my father once
said to me, "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-
catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your
family." But my father, who was the kindest man I ever knew and
whose memory I love with all my heart, must have been angry and
somewhat unjust when he used such words.

Looking back as well as I can at my character during my school
life, the only qualities which at this period promised well for
the future, were, that I had strong and diversified tastes, much
zeal for whatever interested me, and a keen pleasure in
understanding any complex subject or thing. I was taught Euclid
by a private tutor, and I distinctly remember the intense
satisfaction which the clear geometrical proofs gave me. I
remember, with equal distinctness, the delight which my uncle
gave me (the father of Francis Galton) by explaining the
principle of the vernier of a barometer. with respect to
diversified tastes, independently of science, I was fond of
reading various books, and I used to sit for hours reading the
historical plays of Shakespeare, generally in an old window in
the thick walls of the school. I read also other poetry, such as
Thomson's 'Seasons,' and the recently published poems of Byron
and Scott. I mention this because later in life I wholly lost,
to my great regret, all pleasure from poetry of any kind,
including Shakespeare. In connection with pleasure from poetry,
I may add that in 1822 a vivid delight in scenery was first
awakened in my mind, during a riding tour on the borders of
Wales, and this has lasted longer than any other aesthetic
pleasure.

Early in my school days a boy had a copy of the 'Wonders of the
World,' which I often read, and disputed with other boys about
the veracity of some of the statements; and I believe that this
book first gave me a wish to travel in remote countries, which
was ultimately fulfilled by the voyage of the "Beagle". In the
latter part of my school life I became passionately fond of
shooting; I do not believe that any one could have shown more
zeal for the most holy cause than I did for shooting birds. How
well I remember killing my first snipe, and my excitement was so
great that I had much difficulty in reloading my gun from the
trembling of my hands. This taste long continued, and I became a
very good shot. When at Cambridge I used to practise throwing up
my gun to my shoulder before a looking-glass to see that I threw
it up straight. Another and better plan was to get a friend to
wave about a lighted candle, and then to fire at it with a cap on
the nipple, and if the aim was accurate the little puff of air
would blow out the candle. The explosion of the cap caused a
sharp crack, and I was told that the tutor of the college
remarked, "What an extraordinary thing it is, Mr. Darwin seems to
spend hours in cracking a horse-whip in his room, for I often
hear the crack when I pass under his windows."

I had many friends amongst the schoolboys, whom I loved dearly,
and I think that my disposition was then very affectionate.

With respect to science, I continued collecting minerals with
much zeal, but quite unscientifically--all that I cared about was
a new-NAMED mineral, and I hardly attempted to classify them. I
must have observed insects with some little care, for when ten
years old (1819) I went for three weeks to Plas Edwards on the
sea-coast in Wales, I was very much interested and surprised at
seeing a large black and scarlet Hemipterous insect, many moths
(Zygaena), and a Cicindela which are not found in Shropshire. I
almost made up my mind to begin collecting all the insects which
I could find dead, for on consulting my sister I concluded that
it was not right to kill insects for the sake of making a
collection. From reading White's 'Selborne,' I took much
pleasure in watching the habits of birds, and even made notes on
the subject. In my simplicity I remember wondering why every
gentleman did not become an ornithologist.

Towards the close of my school life, my brother worked hard at
chemistry, and made a fair laboratory with proper apparatus in
the tool-house in the garden, and I was allowed to aid him as a
servant in most of his experiments. He made all the gases and
many compounds, and I read with great care several books on
chemistry, such as Henry and Parkes' 'Chemical Catechism.' The
subject interested me greatly, and we often used to go on working
till rather late at night. This was the best part of my
education at school, for it showed me practically the meaning of
experimental science. The fact that we worked at chemistry
somehow got known at school, and as it was an unprecedented fact,
I was nicknamed "Gas." I was also once publicly rebuked by the
head-master, Dr. Butler, for thus wasting my time on such useless
subjects; and he called me very unjustly a "poco curante," and as
I did not understand what he meant, it seemed to me a fearful
reproach.

As I was doing no good at school, my father wisely took me away
at a rather earlier age than usual, and sent me (Oct. 1825) to
Edinburgh University with my brother, where I stayed for two
years or sessions. My brother was completing his medical
studies, though I do not believe he ever really intended to
practise, and I was sent there to commence them. But soon after
this period I became convinced from various small circumstances
that my father would leave me property enough to subsist on with
some comfort, though I never imagined that I should be so rich a
man as I am; but my belief was sufficient to check any strenuous
efforts to learn medicine.

The instruction at Edinburgh was altogether by lectures, and
these were intolerably dull, with the exception of those on
chemistry by Hope; but to my mind there are no advantages and
many disadvantages in lectures compared with reading. Dr.
Duncan's lectures on Materia Medica at 8 o'clock on a winter's
morning are something fearful to remember. Dr.-- made his
lectures on human anatomy as dull as he was himself, and the
subject disgusted me. It has proved one of the greatest evils in
my life that I was not urged to practise dissection, for I should
soon have got over my disgust; and the practice would have been
invaluable for all my future work. This has been an irremediable
evil, as well as my incapacity to draw. I also attended
regularly the clinical wards in the hospital. Some of the cases
distressed me a good deal, and I still have vivid pictures before
me of some of them; but I was not so foolish as to allow this to
lessen my attendance. I cannot understand why this part of my
medical course did not interest me in a greater degree; for
during the summer before coming to Edinburgh I began attending
some of the poor people, chiefly children and women in
Shrewsbury: I wrote down as full an account as I could of the
case with all the symptoms, and read them aloud to my father, who
suggested further inquiries and advised me what medicines to
give, which I made up myself. At one time I had at least a dozen
patients, and I felt a keen interest in the work. My father, who
was by far the best judge of character whom I ever knew, declared
that I should make a successful physician,--meaning by this one
who would get many patients. He maintained that the chief
element of success was exciting confidence; but what he saw in me
which convinced him that I should create confidence I know not.
I also attended on two occasions the operating theatre in the
hospital at Edinburgh, and saw two very bad operations, one on a
child, but I rushed away before they were completed. Nor did I
ever attend again, for hardly any inducement would have been
strong enough to make me do so; this being long before the
blessed days of chloroform. The two cases fairly haunted me for
many a long year.

My brother stayed only one year at the University, so that during
the second year I was left to my own resources; and this was an
advantage, for I became well acquainted with several young men
fond of natural science. One of these was Ainsworth, who
afterwards published his travels in Assyria; he was a Wernerian
geologist, and knew a little about many subjects. Dr. Coldstream
was a very different young man, prim, formal, highly religious,
and most kind-hearted; he afterwards published some good
zoological articles. A third young man was Hardie, who would, I
think, have made a good botanist, but died early in India.
Lastly, Dr. Grant, my senior by several years, but how I became
acquainted with him I cannot remember; he published some first-
rate zoological papers, but after coming to London as Professor
in University College, he did nothing more in science, a fact
which has always been inexplicable to me. I knew him well; he
was dry and formal in manner, with much enthusiasm beneath this
outer crust. He one day, when we were walking together, burst
forth in high admiration of Lamarck and his views on evolution.
I listened in silent astonishment, and as far as I can judge
without any effect on my mind. I had previously read the
'Zoonomia' of my grandfather, in which similar views are
maintained, but without producing any effect on me. Nevertheless
it is probable that the hearing rather early in life such views
maintained and praised may have favoured my upholding them under
a different form in my 'Origin of Species.' At this time I
admired greatly the 'Zoonomia;' but on reading it a second time
after an interval of ten or fifteen years, I was much
disappointed; the proportion of speculation being so large to the
facts given.

Drs. Grant and Coldstream attended much to marine Zoology, and I
often accompanied the former to collect animals in the tidal
pools, which I dissected as well as I could. I also became
friends with some of the Newhaven fishermen, and sometimes
accompanied them when they trawled for oysters, and thus got many
specimens. But from not having had any regular practice in
dissection, and from possessing only a wretched microscope, my
attempts were very poor. Nevertheless I made one interesting
little discovery, and read, about the beginning of the year 1826,
a short paper on the subject before the Plinian Society. This
was that the so-called ova of Flustra had the power of
independent movement by means of cilia, and were in fact larvae.
In another short paper I showed that the little globular bodies
which had been supposed to be the young state of Fucus loreus
were the egg-cases of the wormlike Pontobdella muricata.

The Plinian Society was encouraged and, I believe, founded by
Professor Jameson: it consisted of students and met in an
underground room in the University for the sake of reading papers
on natural science and discussing them. I used regularly to
attend, and the meetings had a good effect on me in stimulating
my zeal and giving me new congenial acquaintances. One evening a
poor young man got up, and after stammering for a prodigious
length of time, blushing crimson, he at last slowly got out the
words, "Mr. President, I have forgotten what I was going to say."
The poor fellow looked quite overwhelmed, and all the members
were so surprised that no one could think of a word to say to
cover his confusion. The papers which were read to our little
society were not printed, so that I had not the satisfaction of
seeing my paper in print; but I believe Dr. Grant noticed my
small discovery in his excellent memoir on Flustra.

I was also a member of the Royal Medical Society, and attended
pretty regularly; but as the subjects were exclusively medical, I
did not much care about them. Much rubbish was talked there, but
there were some good speakers, of whom the best was the present
Sir J. Kay-Shuttleworth. Dr. Grant took me occasionally to the
meetings of the Wernerian Society, where various papers on
natural history were read, discussed, and afterwards published in
the 'Transactions.' I heard Audubon deliver there some
interesting discourses on the habits of N. American birds,
sneering somewhat unjustly at Waterton. By the way, a negro
lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Waterton, and gained
his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently: he
gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him,
for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.

Mr. Leonard Horner also took me once to a meeting of the Royal
Society of Edinburgh, where I saw Sir Walter Scott in the chair
as President, and he apologised to the meeting as not feeling
fitted for such a position. I looked at him and at the whole
scene with some awe and reverence, and I think it was owing to
this visit during my youth, and to my having attended the Royal
Medical Society, that I felt the honour of being elected a few
years ago an honorary member of both these Societies, more than
any other similar honour. If I had been told at that time that I
should one day have been thus honoured, I declare that I should
have thought it as ridiculous and improbable, as if I had been
told that I should be elected King of England.

During my second year at Edinburgh I attended --'s lectures on
Geology and Zoology, but they were incredibly dull. The sole
effect they produced on me was the determination never as long as
I lived to read a book on Geology, or in any way to study the
science. Yet I feel sure that I was prepared for a philosophical
treatment of the subject; for an old Mr. Cotton in Shropshire,
who knew a good deal about rocks, had pointed out to me two or
three years previously a well-known large erratic boulder in the
town of Shrewsbury, called the "bell-stone"; he told me that
there was no rock of the same kind nearer than Cumberland or
Scotland, and he solemnly assured me that the world would come to
an end before any one would be able to explain how this stone
came where it now lay. This produced a deep impression on me,
and I meditated over this wonderful stone. So that I felt the
keenest delight when I first read of the action of icebergs in
transporting boulders, and I gloried in the progress of Geology.
Equally striking is the fact that I, though now only sixty-seven
years old, heard the Professor, in a field lecture at Salisbury
Craigs, discoursing on a trapdyke, with amygdaloidal margins and
the strata indurated on each side, with volcanic rocks all around
us, say that it was a fissure filled with sediment from above,
adding with a sneer that there were men who maintained that it
had been injected from beneath in a molten condition. When I
think of this lecture, I do not wonder that I determined never to
attend to Geology.

>From attending --'s lectures, I became acquainted with the
curator of the museum, Mr. Macgillivray, who afterwards published
a large and excellent book on the birds of Scotland. I had much
interesting natural-history talk with him, and he was very kind
to me. He gave me some rare shells, for I at that time collected
marine mollusca, but with no great zeal.

My summer vacations during these two years were wholly given up
to amusements, though I always had some book in hand, which I
read with interest. During the summer of 1826 I took a long
walking tour with two friends with knapsacks on our backs through
North wales. We walked thirty miles most days, including one day
the ascent of Snowdon. I also went with my sister a riding tour
in North Wales, a servant with saddle-bags carrying our clothes.
The autumns were devoted to shooting chiefly at Mr. Owen's, at
Woodhouse, and at my Uncle Jos's (Josiah Wedgwood, the son of the
founder of the Etruria Works.) at Maer. My zeal was so great
that I used to place my shooting-boots open by my bed-side when I
went to bed, so as not to lose half a minute in putting them on
in the morning; and on one occasion I reached a distant part of
the Maer estate, on the 20th of August for black-game shooting,
before I could see: I then toiled on with the game-keeper the
whole day through thick heath and young Scotch firs.

I kept an exact record of every bird which I shot throughout the
whole season. One day when shooting at Woodhouse with Captain
Owen, the eldest son, and Major Hill, his cousin, afterwards Lord
Berwick, both of whom I liked very much, I thought myself
shamefully used, for every time after I had fired and thought
that I had killed a bird, one of the two acted as if loading his
gun, and cried out, "You must not count that bird, for I fired at
the same time," and the gamekeeper, perceiving the joke, backed
them up. After some hours they told me the joke, but it was no
joke to me, for I had shot a large number of birds, but did not
know how many, and could not add them to my list, which I used to
do by making a knot in a piece of string tied to a button-hole.
This my wicked friends had perceived.

How I did enjoy shooting! But I think that I must have been
half-consciously ashamed of my zeal, for I tried to persuade
myself that shooting was almost an intellectual employment; it
required so much skill to judge where to find most game and to
hunt the dogs well.

One of my autumnal visits to Maer in 1827 was memorable from
meeting there Sir J. Mackintosh, who was the best converser I
ever listened to. I heard afterwards with a glow of pride that
he had said, "There is something in that young man that interests
me." This must have been chiefly due to his perceiving that I
listened with much interest to everything which he said, for I
was as ignorant as a pig about his subjects of history, politics,
and moral philosophy. To hear of praise from an eminent person,
though no doubt apt or certain to excite vanity, is, I think,
good for a young man, as it helps to keep him in the right
course.

My visits to Maer during these two or three succeeding years were
quite delightful, independently of the autumnal shooting. Life
there was perfectly free; the country was very pleasant for
walking or riding; and in the evening there was much very
agreeable conversation, not so personal as it generally is in
large family parties, together with music. In the summer the
whole family used often to sit on the steps of the old portico,
with the flower-garden in front, and with the steep wooded bank
opposite the house reflected in the lake, with here and there a
fish rising or a water-bird paddling about. Nothing has left a
more vivid picture on my mind than these evenings at Maer. I was
also attached to and greatly revered my Uncle Jos; he was silent
and reserved, so as to be a rather awful man; but he sometimes
talked openly with me. He was the very type of an upright man,
with the clearest judgment. I do not believe that any power on
earth could have made him swerve an inch from what he considered
the right course. I used to apply to him in my mind the well-
known ode of Horace, now forgotten by me, in which the words "nec
vultus tyranni, etc.," come in.
(Justum et tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava jubentium
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solida.)

Charles Darwin

Cambridge 1828-1831.

Voyage of the Beagle

From My Return to England

1839-1842

1842-1876

My Several Publications

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