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Monday, 18 November 2013

Darwin, Carlyle and Buckle

Another bit of recreational reading has been Darwin's Autobiography. It is a really delightful piece of writing which in its simplicity succeeds in being, matter of fact, witty and charming. 

As a young man Darwin had been quite sociable and was well connected with the leading scientific and literary figures of the day. He is not averse to telling the odd catty story about some of them.  Here are a couple of  my favourites:

"His [Carlyle's] talk was very racy and interesting, just like his writing, 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 everyone 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."

"Buckle was a great talker, and I listened to him without saying hardly a word; nor indeed could I have done so, for he left no gaps. When Effie [his wife's niece] began to sing, I jumped up and said that I must listen to her. This, I suppose, offended him, for after I had moved away, he turned round to a friend, and said (as was overheard by my brother), 'Well Mr. Darwin's books are much better than his conversation.' What he really meant, was that I did not properly appreciate his conversation."

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