Monday, August 20, 2012

Charles Darwin ponders pros and cons of marriage; shrinks from being a "neuter bee"

Charles Darwin as a young man, probably subseq... Darwin as a young man, probably subsequent to the Galápagos visit.Available online at the Darwin Correspondence Project are these (and more) jottings the pioneering naturalist made to himself about whether or not he should tie the knot.
Marry
Children – (if it Please God) – Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, – object to be beloved & played with. – better than a dog anyhow.– Home, & someone to take care of house – Charms of music & female chit-chat. – These things good for one's health. – but terrible loss of time. – My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. – No, no won't do. – Imagine living all one's day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. – Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps – Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro' St.
Not Marry
Freedom to go where one liked – choice of Society & little of it. – Conversation of clever men at clubs – Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. – to have the expense & anxiety of children – perhaps quarelling – Loss of time. – cannot read in the Evenings – fatness & idleness – Anxiety & responsibility – less money for books &c – if many children forced to gain one's bread. – (But then it is very bad for ones health[19] to work too much). Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool –

The upshot was that he took the plunge and deemed himself the better for it. He and his wife, née Emma Wedgewood, had 10 children and a long and happy life together. Want to explore his life, work, and times further? We have six books on Darwin just waiting for you to dip into them.

9 comments:

  1. Wonder how old he was when he wrote down his internal debate ?

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    1. It wasn't too much before he proposed to his wife. He was about 30, as was she.

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  2. Wow Charles Darwin was very against marriage back in the 1800's. I don't think it has to be the way he has described it although it kind of is in some respects. Marriage would just be all around better if people didn't rush into it in my opinion. It's good that he did eventually marry. Although I'm sure one of the greatest scientists in the world could have gone without.

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    1. I thought the "better than a dog" comment would provoke some backlash!

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  3. I actually thought the "better than a dog" comment was kind of hilarious. And "it's bad for one's health to work too much" -- Can't say I disagree with that!

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    1. I agree, it's pretty hilarious!! I've never done a pro/con list for something so intense and emotionally driven. Only a scientist:)

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    2. Actually, this list is pretty emotional (I don't wannabe a neuter bee! is not a scientific reason.) I suspect he was already in love with Emma, and only felt compelled to "justify" the feeling to his super-ego scientist by feigning a logical approach. The cynicism of "conversation with clever men at clubs" is nearly palpable.

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  4. LESS MONEY FOR BOOKS? Well. that's the end of that discussion.

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