Darwin by Adrian Desmond, James R. Moore

By Adrian Desmond, James R. Moore

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Example text

No sooner had he died in 1802 than he was attacked for doubting the Bible. A story was even started that he had called for Jesus on his deathbed. ’ He sent the biography in proof to his daughter Henrietta. She had long hovered at his elbow, an able critic, fussy about the family reputation – the in-house editor to touch up his lack-lustre prose. She was her mother’s watchdog, eight years married but still wedded to Emma’s welfare. They saw eye-to-eye on most things, and Henrietta had a nose for trouble.

With five bays adorning the two-and-a-half storeys, and ample lower wings, it emphasized the young doctor’s stature. He was a man of substance, in every way: tall, six feet two inches, with a steadily increasing girth. Their first child was a girl, Marianne; two more daughters followed, Caroline in 1800 and Susan in 1803, the year after Erasmus’s peaceful death. Then came their first son. 15 They named the baby after him and his late grandfather – Erasmus. The second generation Wedgwoods were – like the Darwins – aspiring gentry.

The girls laughed while the Doctor was away, always aware of the sea-change that was in store. ’24 Overawed, the Darwin boys formed a close alliance. In September 1818, Charles joined thirteen-year-old Eras as a boarder at Shrewsbury School: a minor public school, across the river, opposite the castle ruins. The buildings were centuries old, dating back to Edward VI, with facilities to match – dark, damp dormitories and frigid baths. The brothers endured the hardships, knowing that home comforts were only a sprint away.

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