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Chapter 12

SKETCH OF DR. ERASMUS DARWIN'S LIFE.


Proceeding now to the second of the three founders of the theory of evolution, I find, from a memoir by Dr. Dowson, that Dr. Erasmus Darwin was born at Elston, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, on the 12th of December, 1731, being the seventh child and fourth son of Robert Darwin, "a private gentleman, who had a taste for literature and science, which he endeavoured to impart to his sons. Erasmus received his early education at Chesterfield School, and later on was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he obtained a scholarship of about 16l. a year, and distinguished himself by his poetical exercises, which he composed with uncommon facility. He took the degree of M.B. there in 1755, and afterwards prepared himself for the practice of medicine by attendance on the lectures of Dr. Hunter in London, and a course of studies in Edinburgh.

"He first settled as a physician at Nottingham; but meeting with no success there, he removed in the autumn of 1756, his twenty-fifth year, to Lichfield, where he was more fortunate; for a few weeks after his arrival, to use the words of Miss Seward, 'he brilliantly opened his career of fame.' A young gentleman of family and fortune lay sick of a dangerous fever. A physician who had for many years possessed the confidence of Lichfield and the neighbourhood attended, but at length pronounced the case hopeless, and took his leave. Dr. Darwin was then called in, and by 'a reverse and entirely novel kind of treatment' the patient recovered."[137]

Of Dr. Darwin's personal appearance Miss Seward says:--

"He was somewhat above the middle size; his form athletic, and inclined to corpulence; his limbs were too heavy for exact proportion; the traces of a severe smallpox disfigured features and a countenance which, when they were not animated by social pleasure, were rather saturnine than sprightly; a stoop in the shoulders, and the then professional appendage--a large full-bottomed wig--gave at that early period of life an appearance of nearly twice the years he bore. Florid health and the earnest of good humour, a funny smile on entering a room and on first accosting his friends, rendered in his youth that exterior agreeable, to which beauty and symmetry had not been propitious.

"He stammered extremely, but whatever he said, whether gravely or in jest, was always well worth waiting for, though the inevitable impression it made might not be always pleasant to individual self-love. Conscious of great native elevation above the general standard of intellect, he became early in life sore upon opposition, whether in argument or conduct, and always resented it by sarcasm of very keen edge. Nor was he less impatient of the sallies of egotism and vanity, even when they were in so slight a degree that strict politeness would rather tolerate than ridicule them. Dr. Darwin seldom failed to present their caricature in jocose but wounding irony. If these ingredients of colloquial despotism were discernible in unworn existence, they increased as it advanced, fed by an ever growing reputation within and without the pale of medicine."[138]

I imagine that this portrait is somewhat too harshly drawn. Dr. Darwin's taste for English wines is the worst trait which I have been able to discover in his character. On this head Miss Seward tells us that "he despised the prejudice which deems foreign wines more wholesome than the wines of the country. 'If you must drink wine,' said he, 'let it be home-made.'" "It is well known," she continues, "that Dr. Darwin's influence and example have sobered the county of Derby; that intemperance in fermented fluid of every species is almost unknown among its gentlemen,"[139] which, if he limited them to cowslip wine, is hardly to be wondered at.

Dr. Dowson, quoting Miss Edgeworth, says that Dr. Darwin attributed almost all the diseases of the upper classes to the too great use of fermented liquors. "This opinion he supported in his writings with the force of his eloquence and reason; and still more in conversation by all those powers of wit, satire, and peculiar humour, which never appeared fully to the public in his works, but which gained him strong ascendancy in private society.... When he heard that my father was bilious, he suspected that this must be the consequence of his having, since his residence in Ireland, and in compliance with the fashion of the country, indulged too freely in drinking. His letter, I remember, concluded with, 'Farewell, my dear friend; God keep you from whisky--if He can.'"[140]

On the other hand, Dr. Darwin seems to have been a very large eater. "Acid fruits with sugar, and all sorts of creams and butter were his luxuries; but he always ate plentifully of animal food. This liberal alimentary regimen he prescribed to people of every age where unvitiated appetite rendered them capable of following it; even to infants."

Dr. Dowson writes:--

"I have mentioned already that he had in his carriage a receptacle for paper and pencils, with which he wrote as he travelled, and in one corner a pile of books; but he had also a receptacle for a knife, fork, and spoon, and in the other corner a hamper, containing fruit and sweetmeats, cream and sugar. He provided also for his horses by having a large pail lashed to his carriage for watering them, as well as hay and oats to be eaten on the road. Mrs. Schimmelpenninck says that when he came on a professional visit to her father's house they had, as was the custom whenever he came, 'a luncheon-table set out with hothouse fruits and West India sweetmeats, clotted cream, stilton cheese, &c. While the conversation went on, the dishes in his vicinity were rapidly emptied, and what,' she adds, 'was my astonishment when, at the end of the three hours during which the meal had lasted, he expressed his joy at hearing the dressing bell, and hoped dinner would soon be announced.' This was not mere gluttony; he thought an abundance, or what most people would consider a superabundance of food, conducive to health. 'Eat or be eaten' is said to have been often his medical advice. He had especially a very high opinion of the nutritive value of sugar, and said 'that if ever our improved chemistry should discover the art of making sugar from fossil or aerial matter without the assistance of vegetation, food for animals would then become as plentiful as water, and mankind might live upon the earth as thick as blades of grass, with no restraint to their numbers but want of room.'--Botanic Garden, vol. i. p. 470."[141]

"Professional generosity," says Miss Seward, "distinguished Dr. Darwin's practice. Whilst resident in Lichfield he always cheerfully gave to the priest and lay vicars of its cathedral and their families his advice, but never took fees from any of them. Diligently also did he attend the health of the poor in that city, and afterwards at Derby, and supplied their necessities by food, and all sort of charitable assistance. In each of those towns his was the cheerful board of almost open-housed hospitality, without extravagance or parade; generosity, wit, and science were his household gods."[142]

Of his first marriage the following account is given:--

"In 1757 he married Miss Howard, of the Close of Lichfield, a blooming and lovely young lady of eighteen.... Mrs. Darwin's own mind, by nature so well endowed, strengthened and expanded in the friendship, conversation, and confidence of so beloved a preceptor. But alas! upon her too early youth, and too delicate constitution, the frequency of her maternal situation, during the first five years of her marriage, had probably a baneful effect. The potent skill and assiduous cares of him before whom disease daily vanished from the frame of others, could not expel it radically from that of her he loved. It was, however, kept at bay during thirteen years.

"Upon the distinguished happiness of those years she spoke with fervour to two intimate female friends in the last week of her existence, which closed at the latter end of the summer 1770. 'Do not weep for my impending fate,' said the dying angel with a smile of unaffected cheerfulness. 'In the short term of my life a great deal of happiness has been comprised. The maladies of my frame were peculiar; those of my head and stomach which no medicine could eradicate, were spasmodic and violent; and required stronger measures to render them supportable while they lasted than my constitution could sustain without injury. The periods of exemption from those pains were frequently of several days' duration, and in my intermissions I felt no indications of malady. Pain taught me the value of ease, and I enjoyed it with a glow of spirit, seldom, perhaps, felt by the habitually healthy. While Dr. Darwin combated and assuaged my disease from time to time, his indulgence to all my wishes, his active desire to see me amused and happy, proved incessant. His house, as you know, has ever been the resort of people of science and merit. If, from my husband's great and extensive practice, I had much less of his society than I wished, yet the conversation of his friends, and of my own, was ever ready to enliven the hours of his absence. As occasional malady made me doubly enjoy health, so did those frequent absences give a zest even to delight, when I could be indulged with his company. My three boys have ever been docile and affectionate. Children as they are, I could trust them with important secrets, so sacred do they hold every promise they make. They scorn deceit and falsehood of every kind, and have less selfishness than generally belongs to childhood. Married to any other man, I do not suppose I could have lived a third part of the years which I have passed with Dr. Darwin; he has prolonged my days, and he has blessed them.'

"Thus died this superior woman, in the bloom of life, sincerely regretted by all who knew how to value her excellence, and passionately regretted by the selected few whom she honoured with her personal and confidential friendship."[143]

I find Miss Seward's pages so fascinating, that I am in danger of following her even in those parts of her work which have no bearing on Dr. Darwin. I must, however, pass over her account of Mr. Edgeworth and of his friend Mr. Day, the author of 'Sandford and Merton,' "which, by wise parents, is put into every youthful hand," but the description of Mr. Day's portrait cannot be omitted.

"In the course of the year 1770, Mr. Day stood for a full-length picture to Mr. Wright, of Derby. A strong likeness and a dignified portrait were the result. Drawn in the open air, the surrounding sky is tempestuous, lurid, dark. He stands leaning his left arm against a column inscribed to Hambden (sic). Mr. Day looks upwards, as enthusiastically meditating on the contents of a book held in his dropped right hand. The open leaf is the oration of that virtuous patriot in the senate, against the grant of ship money, demanded by King Charles I. A flash of lightning plays in Mr. Day's hair, and illuminates the contents of the volume. The poetic fancy and what were then the politics of the original, appear in the choice of subject and attitude. Dr. Darwin sat to Mr. Wright about the same period. That was a simply contemplative portrait, of the most perfect resemblance."[144]


"In the year 1768, Dr. Darwin met with an accident of irretrievable injury to the human frame. His propensity to mechanics had unfortunately led him to construct a very singular carriage. It was a platform with a seat fixed upon a very high pair of wheels, and supported in the front upon the back of the horse, by means of a kind of proboscis which, forming an arch, reached over the hind-quarters of the horse, and passed through a ring, placed on an upright piece of iron, which worked in a socket fixed in the saddle. The horse could thus move from one side of the road to the other, quartering, as it is called, at the will of the driver, whose constant attention was necessarily employed to regulate a piece of machinery contrived, but not well contrived, for that purpose."

I cannot help the reader to understand the foregoing description. "From this whimsical carriage, however, the doctor was several times thrown, and the last time he used it had the misfortune, from a similar accident, to break the patella of his right knee, which caused, as it must always cause, an incurable weakness in the fractured part, and a lameness not very discernible, indeed, when walking on even ground."[145]

Miss Seward presently tells a story which reads as though it might have been told by Plutarch of some Greek or Roman sage. Much as we must approve of Dr. Darwin's habitual sobriety, we shall most of us be agreed that a few more such stories would have been cheaply purchased by a corresponding number of lapses on the doctor's part.

Miss Seward writes:--

"Since these memoirs commenced, an odd anecdote of Dr. Darwin's early residence at Lichfield, was narrated to a friend of the author by a gentleman, who was of the party in which it happened. Mr. Sneyd, then of Bishton, and a few more gentlemen of Staffordshire, prevailed upon the doctor to join them in an expedition by water from Burton to Nottingham, and on to Newark. They had cold provisions on board, and plenty of wine. It was midsummer; the day ardent and sultry. The noon-tide meal had been made, and the glass had gone gaily round. It was one of those few instances in which the medical votary of the Naiads transgressed his general and strict sobriety," in which, in fact, he may be said to have--remembered himself.

"If not absolutely intoxicated, his spirits were in a high state of vinous exhilaration. On the boat approaching Nottingham, within the distance of a few fields, he surprised his companions by stepping, without any previous notice, from the boat into the middle of the river, and swimming to shore. They saw him get upon the bank, and walk coolly over the meadows towards the town: they called to him in vain, but he did not once turn his head.

"Anxious lest he should take a dangerous cold by remaining in his wet clothes, and uncertain whether or not he intended to desert the party, they rowed instantly to the town at which they had not designed to have touched, and went in search of their river-god.

"In passing through the market-place they saw him standing upon a tub, encircled by a crowd of people, and resisting the entreaties of an apothecary of the place, one of his old acquaintances, who was importuning him to his house, and to accept other raiments till his own could be dried.

"The party on pressing through the crowd were surprised to hear him speaking without any degree of his usual stammer:--'Have I not told you, my friend, that I had drank a considerable quantity of wine before I committed myself to the river. You know my general sobriety, and as a professional man you ought to know that the unusual existence of internal stimulus would, in its effects upon the system, counteract the external cold and moisture.'"

"Then perceiving his companions near him, he nodded, smiled, and waived his hand, as enjoining them silence, thus, without hesitation, addressing the populace:--

"'Ye men of Nottingham, listen to me. You are ingenious and industrious mechanics. By your industry life's comforts are procured for yourselves and families. If you lose your health the power of being industrious will forsake you. That you know, but you may not know that to breathe fresh and changed air constantly, is not less necessary to preserve health than sobriety itself. Air becomes unwholesome in a few hours if the windows are shut. Open those of your sleeping rooms whenever you quit them to go to your workshops. Keep the windows of your workshops open whenever the weather is not insupportably cold. I have no interest in giving you this advice; remember what I, your countryman and a physician, tell you. If you would not bring infection and disease upon yourselves, and to your wives and little ones, change the air you breathe, change it many times a day, by opening your windows.'

"So saying, he stepped down from the tub, and, returning with his party to their boat, they pursued their voyage."[146]

Could any missionary be more perfectly sober and sensible, or more alive to the immorality of trying to effect too sudden a modification in the organisms he was endeavouring to influence? If the men of Nottingham want a statue in their market-place, I would respectfully suggest that a subject is here afforded them.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

"Dr. Johnson was several times at Lichfield on visits to Mrs. Lucy Porter, his daughter-in-law, while Dr. Darwin was one of the inhabitants. They had one or two interviews, but never afterwards sought each other. Mutual and strong dislike subsisted between them. It is curious that in Johnson's various letters to Mrs. Thrale, now Mrs. Piozzi, published by that lady after his death, many of them dated from Lichfield, the name of Darwin cannot be found, nor, indeed, that of any of the ingenious and lettered people who lived there; while of its mere common-life characters there is frequent mention, with many hints of Lichfield's intellectual barrenness, while it could boast a Darwin and other men of classical learning, poetic talents, and liberal information."[147]

Here there follows a pleasant sketch of the principal Lichfield notabilities, which I am compelled to omit.

"These were the men," exclaims Miss Seward, "whose intellectual existence passed unnoticed by Dr. Johnson in his depreciating estimate of Lichfield talents. But Johnson liked only worshippers. Archdeacon Vyse, Mr. Seward, and Mr. Robinson paid all the respect and attention to Dr. Johnson, on these his visits to their town, due to his great abilities, his high reputation, and to whatever was estimable in his mixed character; but they were not in the herd that 'paged his heels,' and sunk in servile silence under the force of his dogmas, when their hearts and their judgments bore contrary testimony.

"Certainly, however, it was an arduous hazard to the feelings of the company to oppose in the slightest degree Dr. Johnson's opinions. His stentor lungs; that combination of wit, humour, and eloquence, which 'could make the worse appear the better reason,' that sarcastic contempt of his antagonist, never suppressed or even softened by the due restraints of good breeding, were sufficient to close the lips in his presence, of men who could have met him in fair argument, on any ground, literary or political, moral or characteristic.

"Where Dr. Johnson was, Dr. Darwin had no chance of being heard, though at least his equal in genius, his superior in science; nor, indeed, from his impeded utterance, in the company of any overbearing declaimer; and he was too intellectually great to be an humble listener to Johnson. Therefore he shunned him on having experienced what manner of man he was. The surly dictator felt the mortification, and revenged it by affecting to avow his disdain of powers too distinguished to be objects of genuine scorn.

"Dr. Darwin, in his turn, was not much more just to Dr. Johnson's genius. He uniformly spoke of him in terms which, had they been deserved, would have justified Churchill's 'immane Pomposo' as an appellation of scorn; since if his person was huge, and his manners pompous and violent, so were his talents vast and powerful, in a degree from which only prejudice and resentment could withhold respect.

"Though Dr. Darwin's hesitation in speaking precluded his flow of colloquial eloquence, it did not impede, or at all lessen, the force of that conciser quality, wit. Of satiric wit he possessed a very peculiar species. It was neither the dead-doing broadside of Dr. Johnson's satire, nor the aurora borealis of Gray ... whose arch yet coy and quiet fastidiousness of taste and feeling, as recorded by Mason, glanced bright and cold through his conversation, while it seemed difficult to define its nature; and while its effects were rather perceived than felt, exciting surprise more than mirth, and never awakening the pained sense of being the object of its ridicule. That unique in humorous verse, the Long Story, is a complete and beautiful specimen of Gray's singular vein.

"Darwinian wit is not more easy to be defined; instances will best convey an idea of its character to those who never conversed with its possessor.

"Dr. Darwin was conversing with a brother botanist concerning the plant kalmia, then a just imported stranger in our greenhouses and gardens. A lady who was present, concluding he had seen it, which in fact he had not, asked the doctor what were the colours of the plant. He replied, 'Madam, the kalmia has precisely the colours of a seraph's wing.' So fancifully did he express his want of consciousness concerning the appearance of a flower, whose name and rareness were all he knew of the matter.

"Dr. Darwin had a large company at tea. His servant announced a stranger, lady and gentleman. The female was a conspicuous figure, ruddy, corpulent, and tall. She held by the arm a little, meek-looking, pale, effeminate man, who, from his close adherence to the side of the lady, seemed to consider himself as under her protection.

"'Dr. Darwin, I seek you not as a physician, but as a Belle Esprit. I make this husband of mine,' and she looked down with a side glance upon the animal, 'treat me every summer with a tour through one of the British counties, to explore whatever it contains worth the attention of ingenious people. On arriving at the several inns in our route I always search out the man of the vicinity most distinguished for his genius and taste, and introduce myself, that he may direct as the objects of our examination, whatever is curious in nature, art, or science. Lichfield will be our headquarters during several days. Come, doctor, whither must we go; what must we investigate to-morrow, and the next day, and the next? Here are my tablets and pencil.'

"'You arrive, madam, at a fortunate juncture. To-morrow you will have an opportunity of surveying an annual exhibition perfectly worthy your attention. To-morrow, madam, you will go to Tutbury bull-running.'

"The satiric laugh with which he stammered out the last word more keenly pointed this sly, yet broad rebuke to the vanity and arrogance of her speech. She had been up amongst the boughs, and little expected they would break under her so suddenly, and with so little mercy. Her large features swelled, and her eyes flashed with anger--'I was recommended to a man of genius, and I find him insolent and ill-bred.' Then, gathering up her meek and alarmed husband, whom she had loosed when she first spoke, under the shadow of her broad arm and shoulder, she strutted out of the room.

"After the departure of this curious couple, his guests told their host he had been very unmerciful. 'I chose,' replied he, 'to avenge the cause of the little man, whose nothingness was so ostentatiously displayed by his lady-wife. Her vanity has had a smart emetic. If it abates the symptoms, she will have reason to thank her physician who administered without hope of a fee.'"[148]

"In the spring of 1778 the children of Colonel and Mrs. Pole of Radburn, in Derbyshire, had been injured by a dangerous quantity of the cicuta, injudiciously administered to them in the hooping-cough by a physician of the neighbourhood. Mrs. Pole brought them to the house of Dr. Darwin in Lichfield, remaining with them there a few weeks, till by his art the poison was expelled from their constitutions and their health restored.

"Mrs. Pole was then in the full bloom of her youth and beauty. Agreeable features; the glow of health; a fine form, tall and graceful; playful sprightliness of manner; a benevolent heart, and maternal affection, in all its unwearied cares and touching tenderness, contributed to inspire Dr. Darwin's admiration, and to secure his esteem."[149]

"In the autumn of this year" (1778) "Mrs. Pole of Radburn was taken ill; her disorder a violent fever. Dr. Darwin was called in, and never perhaps since the death of Mrs. Darwin, prescribed with such deep anxiety. Not being requested to continue in the house during the ensuing night, which he apprehended might prove critical, he passed the remaining hours till day-dawn beneath a tree opposite her apartment, watching the passing and repassing lights in the chamber. During the period in which a life so passionately valued was in danger, he paraphrased Petrarch's celebrated sonnet, narrating a dream whose prophecy was accomplished by the death of Laura. It took place the night on which the vision arose amid his slumber. Dr. Darwin extended the thought of that sonnet into the following elegy:--

"Dread dream, that, hovering in the midnight air, Clasp'd with thy dusky wing my aching head, While to imagination's startled ear Toll'd the slow bell, for bright Eliza dead.

"Stretched on her sable bier, the grave beside, A snow-white shroud her breathless bosom bound, O'er her wan brow the mimic lace was tied, And loves and virtues hung their garlands round.

"From those cold lips did softest accents flow? Round that pale mouth did sweetest dimples play? On this dull cheek the rose of beauty blow, And those dim eyes diffuse celestial day?

"Did this cold hand, unasking Want relieve, Or wake the lyre to every rapturous sound? How sad for other's woe this breast would heave! How light this heart for other's transport bound!

"Beats not the bell again?--Heavens, do I wake? Why heave my sighs, why gush my tears anew? Unreal forms my trembling doubts mistake, And frantic sorrow fears the vision true.

"Dreams to Eliza bend thy airy flight, Go, tell my charmer all my tender fears, How love's fond woes alarm the silent night, And steep my pillow in unpitied tears."

Unwilling as I am to extend this memoir, I must give Miss Seward's criticism on the foregoing.

"The second verse of this charming elegy affords an instance of Dr. Darwin's too exclusive devotion to distinct picture in poetry; that it sometimes betrayed him into bringing objects so precisely to the eye as to lose in such precision their power of striking forcibly on the heart. The pathos in the second verse is much injured by the words 'mimic lace,' which allude to the perforated borders on the shroud. The expression is too minute for the solemnity of the subject. Certainly it cannot be natural for a shocked and agitated mind to observe, or to describe with such petty accuracy. Besides, the allusion is not sufficiently obvious. The reader pauses to consider what the poet means by 'mimic lace.' Such pauses deaden sensation and break the course of attention. A friend of the doctor's pleaded greatly that the line might run thus:--

"On her wan brow the shadowy crape was tied;"

but the alteration was rejected. Inattention to the rules of grammar in the first verse was also pointed out to him at the same time. The dream is addressed:

"Dread dream, that clasped my aching head,"

but nothing is said to it, and therefore the sense is left unfinished, while the elegy proceeds to give a picture of the lifeless beauty. The same friend suggested a change which would have remedied the defect. Thus:--

"Dread was the dream that in the midnight air Clasped with its dusky wing my aching head, While to" &c., &c.

"Hence not only the grammatic error would have been done away, but the grating sound produced by the near alliteration of the harsh dr in 'dread dream' removed, by placing those words at a greater distance from each other.

"This alteration was, for the same reason, rejected. The doctor would not spare the word hovering, which he said strengthened the picture; but surely the image ought not to be elaborately precise, by which a dream is transformed into an animal with black wings."[150]

Then Mrs. Pole got well, and the doctor wrote more verses and Miss Seward more criticism. It was not for nothing that Dr. Johnson came down to Lichfield.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

In 1780 Colonel Pole died, and his widow, still young, handsome, witty, and--for those days--rich, was in no want of suitors.

"Colonel Pole," says Miss Seward, "had numbered twice the years of his fair wife. His temper was said to have been peevish and suspicious; yet not beneath those circumstances had her kind and cheerful attentions to him grown cold or remiss. He left her a jointure of 600l. per annum, a son to inherit his estate, and two female children amply portioned.

"Mrs. Pole, it has already been remarked, had much vivacity and sportive humour, with very engaging frankness of temper and manners. Early in her widowhood she was rallied in a large company upon Dr. Darwin's passion for her, and was asked what she would do with her captive philosopher. 'He is not very fond of churches, I believe,' said she, 'and even if he would go there for my sake, I shall scarcely follow him. He is too old for me.' 'Nay, Madam,' was the answer, 'what are fifteen years on the right side?' She replied, with an arch smile, 'I have had so much of that right side.'

"This confession was thought inauspicious for the doctor's hopes, but it did not prove so. The triumph of intellect was complete."[151]

Mrs. Pole had taken a strong dislike to Lichfield, and had made it a condition of her marriage that Dr. Darwin should not reside there after he had married her. In 1781, therefore, immediately after his marriage, he removed to Derby, and continued to live there till a fortnight before his death.

Here he wrote 'The Botanic Garden' and a great part of the 'Zoonomia.' Those who wish for a detailed analysis of 'The Botanic Garden' can hardly do better than turn to Miss Seward's pages. Opening them at random, I find the following:--

"The mention of Brindley, the father of commercial canals, has propriety as well as happiness. Similitude for their course to the sinuous track of a serpent, produces a fine picture of a gliding animal of that species, and it is succeeded by these supremely happy lines:--

"'So with strong arms immortal Brindley leads His long canals, and parts the velvet meads; Winding in lucid lines, the watery mass Mines the firm rock, or loads the deep morass;'[152] &c. &c. &c.


"The mechanism of the pump is next described with curious ingenuity. Common as is the machine, it is not unworthy a place in this splendid composition, as being, after the sinking of wells, the earliest of those inventions, which in situations of exterior aridness gave ready accession to water. This familiar object is illustrated by a picture of Maternal Beauty administering sustenance to her infant."[153]

Here we will leave the poetical part of the 'Botanic Garden.' The notes, however, to which are "still," as Dr. Dowson says, "instructive and amusing," and contain matter which, at the time they were written, was for the most part new.

Of the 'Zoonomia' there is no occasion to speak here, as a sufficient number of extracts from those parts that concern us as bearing upon evolution will be given presently.

On the 18th of April, 1802, Dr. Darwin had written "one page of a very sprightly letter to Mr. Edgeworth, describing the Priory and his purposed alterations there, when the fatal signal was given. He rang the bell and ordered the servant to send Mrs. Darwin to him. She came immediately, with his daughter, Miss Emma Darwin. They saw him shivering and pale. He desired them to send to Derby for his surgeon, Mr. Hadley. They did so, but all was over before he could arrive.

"It was reported at Lichfield that, perceiving himself growing rapidly worse, he said to Mrs. Darwin, 'My dear, you must bleed me instantly.' 'Alas! I dare not, lest--' 'Emma, will you? There is no time to be lost.' 'Yes, my dear father, if you will direct me.' At that moment he sank into his chair and expired."[154]

Dr. Dowson gives the letter to Mr. Edgeworth, which is as follows:--


"Dear Edgeworth,

"I am glad to find that you still amuse yourself with mechanism, in spite of the troubles of Ireland.

"The use of turning aside or downwards the claw of a table, I don't see; as it must then be reared against a wall, for it will not stand alone. If the use be for carriage, the feet may shut up, like the usual brass feet of a reflecting telescope.

"We have all been now removed from Derby about a fortnight, to the Priory, and all of us like our change of situation. We have a pleasant house, a good garden, ponds full of fish, and a pleasing valley, somewhat like Shenstone's--deep, umbrageous, and with a talkative stream running down it. Our house is near the top of the valley, well screened by hills from the east and north, and open to the south, where at four miles distance we see Derby tower.

"Four or more strong springs rise near the house, and have formed the valley which, like that of Petrarch, may be called Val Chiusa, as it begins, or is shut at the situation of the house. I hope you like the description, and hope farther that yourself and any part of your family will sometimes do us the pleasure of a visit.

"Pray tell the authoress" (Miss Maria Edgeworth) "that the water-nymphs of our valley will be happy to assist her next novel.

"My bookseller, Mr. Johnson, will not begin to print the 'Temple of Nature' till the price of paper is fixed by Parliament. I suppose the present duty is paid...."


At these words Dr. Darwin's pen stopped. What followed was written on the opposite side of the paper by another hand.


FOOTNOTES:

[137] 'Sketch, &c., of Erasmus Darwin,' pp. 3, 4.

[138] Miss Seward's 'Memoirs of Dr. Darwin,' p. 3.

[139] Ibid.

[140] Dr. Dowson's 'Sketch of Dr. Erasmus Darwin,' p. 50.

[141] Dr. Dowson's 'Sketch of Dr. Darwin,' p. 53.

[142] Miss Seward's 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 6.

[143] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 14.

[144] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 21.

[145] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 62.

[146] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 68.

[147] Miss Seward's 'Memoirs,' p. 69.

[148] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 84.

[149] Ibid., p. 105.

[150] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 120.

[151] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 149.

[152] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 249.

[153] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 250.

[154] 'Memoirs,' &c., p. 426.


Samuel Butler

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