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LIFE OF DARWIN.
F ever a man's ancestors transmitted to him ability to succeed in a particular field, Charles Darwin's did. If ever early surroundings were calculated to call out inherited ability, Charles Darwin's were. If ever a man grew up when a ferment of thought was disturbing old convictions in the domain of knowledge for which he was adapted, Charles Darwin did. If ever a man was fitted by worldly position to undertake unbiassed and long-continued investigations, Charles Darwin was such a man. And he indisputably found realms waiting for a conqueror. Yet Darwin's achievements far transcend his advantages of ancestry, surroundings, previous suggestion, position. He stands magnificently conspicuous as a genius of rare simplicity of soul, of unwearied patience of observation, of striking fertility and ingenuity of method, of unflinching devotion to and belief in the efficacy of truth. He revolutionised not merely half-adozen sciences, but the whole current of thinking men's mental life.
The Darwins were originally a Lincolnshire family of some position, and being royalists suffered heavy losses
under the Commonwealth.
The third William Darwin
(born 1655), whose mother was a daughter of Erasmus Earle, serjeant-at-law, married the heiress of Robert: Waring, of Wilsford, Notts, who also inherited the manor of Elston, near Newark, in that county, which still remains in the family. Robert Darwin, second son of this William Darwin, succeeded to the Elston estate, and was described by Stukeley, the antiquary, as "a person of curiosity," an expression conveying high commendation. His eldest son, Robert Waring Darwin, studied botany closely, and published a "Principia Botanica," which reached a third edition; but his youngest son, Erasmus, born 1731, was destined to become the first really famous. man of the family.
Erasmus Darwin's personal characteristics, his medical talents, and his poetic writings were such as to overshadow, for his own generation, his scientific merit. We have not space here to describe his career and his works, which has been so well done by his grandson, and by Ernst Krause ("Erasmus Darwin," 1879). HoraceWalpole regarded his description of creation in "The Botanic Garden" (part i., canto 1, lines 103-114) as the most sublime passage in any language he knew: and. The Edinburgh Review (vol. ii., 1803, p. 501) says of his "Temple of Nature": "If his fame be destined in anything to outlive the fluctuating fashion of the day, it is on. his merit as a poet that it is likely to rest; and his reveries.
* This is the Erasmus Earle who forms the subject of " A Lawyer's Love Letters," in The National Review, February, 1887. Letters. of his are also printed in the Tenth Report of the Historical MSS. Commission.
in science have probably no other chance of being saved from oblivion but by having been 'married to immortal
The present age regards it as next to impossible to write science in poetry; although few have succeeded better in the attempt than Erasmus Darwin. It is singular that he should have partially anticipated his illustrious grandson's theories, but without supporting them by experimental proof or by deep scientific knowledge. Suffice it to say now, that Erasmus contemplated to a great extent the same domain of science as Charles Darwin, having also a mechanical turn; and was educated at Edinburgh and Cambridge. His observations on Providence in 1754, when only twenty-three, in commenting on his father's death, are very interesting to compare with his grandson's attitude: "That there exists a superior Ens Entium, which formed these wonderful creatures, is a mathematical demonstration. That He influences things by a particular providence is not so evident. The probability, according to my notion, is against it, since general laws seem sufficient for that end. . . . The light of Nature affords us not a single argument for a future state this is the only one, that it is possible with God, since He who made us out of nothing can surely re-create us; and that He will do this we humbly hope." He published an ode against atheism, with which he has strangely enough often been charged, beginning
"Dull atheist, could a giddy dance
and his moral standpoint is shown by the declaration that "the sacred maxims of the author of Christianity, 'Do as you would be done by,' and 'Love your neighbour as yourself,' include all our duties of benevolence and morality; and if sincerely obeyed by all nations, would a thousandfold multiply the present happiness of mankind" ("Temple of Nature," 1803, p. 124). His principal poetical writings were "The Botanic Garden," in two parts; Part I. containing "The Economy of Vegetation," first published in 1790; and Part II., "The Loves of the Plants," in 1788, before the first part had appeared. "The Temple of Nature, or the Origin of Society," was published after his death, in 1803. His chief prose works are "Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life," in two volumes, 1794-6, the second volume being exclusively medical; and "Phytologia, or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening," 1800. All these books are in quarto, with plates. His views on species are referred to on pages 66 and 67.
Robert Waring Darwin, third son of Erasmus by his first wife, Mary Howard, was born in 1766. As a boy he was brought much into association with the Wedgwoods of Stoke, Josiah Wedgwood being one of Erasmus Darwin's most intimate friends. In 1779 Robert, already destined to be a doctor, stayed at Etruria for some time, sharing with Wedgwood's children in Warltire's private chemical instruction; and Josiah Wedgwood wrote at this time: "The boys drink in knowledge like water, with great avidity." Before he was twenty Robert Darwin had taken his medical degree with distinction at Edinburgh, where he had the advantage of the lectures of