Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 14.djvu/80

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Darwin
Darwin
74

objected so strongly that he felt obliged to decline, and wrote to this effect on 30 Aug. 1831. On the following day he went to Maer, the house of Josiah Wedgwood, and here he found in his uncle a strong supporter of the view that he ought on no account to refuse the offer. He therefore wrote home, urging Josiah Wedgwood's arguments against Dr. Darwin's objections, one of which was that the voyage would prove injurious to his character as a clergyman. Finally Dr. Darwin was persuaded to yield his consent, and Charles posted off to Cambridge, sending, on his arrival late at night, a note to Henslow full of his hopes that 'the place is not given away.' Then followed a busy time in London, filled up by arrangements with his new chief. Captain FitzRoy, and with the admiralty, and by multitudinous shoppings. Finally all was settled, and the Beagle sailed on 27 Dec. 1831 on her memorable voyage. The Beagle was a 10-gun brig of 236 tons, and was commanded by Captain (afterwards Admiral) FitzRoy. Darwin went as naturalist without salary, at the invitation of the captain, who gave him a share of his cabin. He was on the ship's books for victuals, and was to have the disposal of his collections. The object of the voyage was to extend the survey of South America, begun under Captain King in 1826, and 'to carry a chain of chronometrical measurements round the world.'

Though the vessel was small, she was at the time considered to be well fitted for the expedition, and Darwin's letters from Devonport, whence the expedition sailed, are full of enthusiasm over the 'mahogany fittings,' the unprecedented stock of chronometers, &c. His own comer for work was the narrow space at the end of the chart-room, which was so small that when his hammock was hung, one of the drawers in which he kept his clothes had to be removed to make room for the 'foot clews.' To work efficiently in this cramped space required method and tidiness, and Darwin has said that the absolute necessity of such habits was to him a valued piece of training. In a somewhat analogous way ho afterwards experienced the paramount importance of method when the hours for work are short and broken. His own outfit was sufficiently meagre both as to knowledge and appliances. He seems at first, and indeed for some time after the voyage had begun to have considered himself merely in the light of a collector rather than an original worker. But from any point of view his appliances were curiously deficient; for instance, he had no compound microscope, and in this point he followed the best advice he could get, namely, that of Robert Brown. In his letters written during the voyape, phrases such as 'the exquisite glorious delight' of tropical scenery, 'a hurricane of delight and astonish ment,' show that the fulfilment of his Cambridge dreams brought with it no disappointment. Later come the ' delight ' and 'more than enjoyment' in his days of work at South American geology, after which he 'could literally hardly deep at nights.' Later again comes the delight in home letters, or in home dreams of autumn robins singing in the Shrewsbury garden, and the longing to return home becomes ever stronger, with a corresponding loathing and abhorrence of the sea 'and all ships wnich sail on it.' The voyage ended at last, and on Oct. 1836 he found himself at home, after an absence of 'five years and two days.'

It is impossible to overrate the influence of the voyage on Darwin's career: it was both his education and his opportunity. He left England untried and almost uneducated for science, he returned a successful collector, a practised and brilliant geologist, and with a wide general knowledge of zoology gained at first hand in many parts of the world, And above all he came back full of the thoughts on evolution impressed on him by South American fossils, by Galapagos birds, and bv the general knowledge of the complex interdependence of all living things gained in his wanderings. And thus it was that within a year of his return he could begin his first note-book on evolution — the first stone, in fact, of the 'Origin of Species.'

The intention of entering the church, although it was never formally given up, had by this time died a natural death. This was not due to heterodoxy, for it was only gpradually that Darwin attained to the condition of agnosticism of his later years. It was, however, sufficiently evident that he had dis- covered his career, and that he could not find a better profession than science, to which he 'joyfully determined to devote himself.'

After a short visit at home, he went to London to arrange for the disposal of his collections ; then in December (1836) he moved to Cambridge, where he was occupied with his collections, in writing his journal, and in preparing some geological papers. Early in 1837 he was back in London lodgings, where he remained for two years, until his marriage. On 29 Jan. 1839 he married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, the daughter of his uncle, Josiah Wedgwood, and the granddaughter of the founder of the Etruria works. After their marriage they lived at 12 Upper Gower Street, and here they remained until 1842, when the move to Down was made. Haying disposed of the most important part