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- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume I - 6/99 -
afterwards. I recollect my mother's gown and scarcely anything of her appearance, except one or two walks with her. I have no distinct remembrance of any conversation, and those only of a very trivial nature. I remember her saying "if she did ask me to do something," which I said she had, "it was solely for my good."
Catherine remembers my mother crying, when she heard of my grandmother's death. Also when at Parkfield how Aunt Sarah and Aunt Kitty used to receive her. Susan, like me, only remembers affairs personal. It is sufficiently odd this [difference] in subjects remembered. Catherine says she does not remember the impression made upon her by external things, as scenery, but for things which she reads she has an excellent memory, i.e., for ideas. Now her sympathy being ideal, it is part of her character, and shows how easily her kind of memory was stamped, a vivid thought is repeated, a vivid impression forgotten.
I remember obscurely the illumination after the battle of Waterloo, and the Militia exercising about that period, in the field opposite our house.
At 8 1/2 years old I went to Mr. Case's School. (Chapter I/3. A day- school at Shrewsbury kept by Rev. G. Case, minister of the Unitarian Chapel ("Life and Letters," Volume I., page 27 et seq.)) I remember how very much I was afraid of meeting the dogs in Barker Street, and how at school I could not get up my courage to fight. I was very timid by nature. I remember I took great delight at school in fishing for newts in the quarry pool. I had thus young formed a strong taste for collecting, chiefly seals, franks, etc., but also pebbles and minerals--one which was given me by some boy decided this taste. I believe shortly after this, or before, I had smattered in botany, and certainly when at Mr. Case's School I was very fond of gardening, and invented some great falsehoods about being able to colour crocuses as I liked. (Chapter I./4. The story is given in the "Life and Letters," I., page 28, the details being slightly different.) At this time I felt very strong friendship for some boys. It was soon after I began collecting stones, i.e., when 9 or 10, that I distinctly recollect the desire I had of being able to know something about every pebble in front of the hall door--it was my earliest and only geological aspiration at that time. I was in those days a very great story-teller--for the pure pleasure of exciting attention and surprise. I stole fruit and hid it for these same motives, and injured trees by barking them for similar ends. I scarcely ever went out walking without saying I had seen a pheasant or some strange bird (natural history taste); these lies, when not detected, I presume, excited my attention, as I recollect them vividly, not connected with shame, though some I do, but as something which by having produced a great effect on my mind, gave pleasure like a tragedy. I recollect when I was at Mr. Case's inventing a whole fabric to show how fond I was of speaking the TRUTH! My invention is still so vivid in my mind, that I could almost fancy it was true, did not memory of former shame tell me it was false. I have no particularly happy or unhappy recollections of this time or earlier periods of my life. I remember well a walk I took with a boy named Ford across some fields to a farmhouse on the Church Stretton road. I do not remember any mental pursuits excepting those of collecting stones, etc., gardening, and about this time often going with my father in his carriage, telling him of my lessons, and seeing game and other wild birds, which was a great delight to me. I was born a naturalist.
When I was 9 1/2 years old (July 1818) I went with Erasmus to see Liverpool: it has left no impressions on my mind, except most trifling ones--fear of the coach upsetting, a good dinner, and an extremely vague memory of ships.
In Midsummer of this year I went to Dr. Butler's School. (Chapter I./5. Darwin entered Dr. Butler's school in Shrewsbury in the summer of 1818, and remained there till 1825 ("Life and Letters," I., page 30).) I well recollect the first going there, which oddly enough I cannot of going to Mr. Case's, the first school of all. I remember the year 1818 well, not from having first gone to a public school, but from writing those figures in my school book, accompanied with obscure thoughts, now fulfilled, whether I should recollect in future life that year.
In September (1818) I was ill with the scarlet fever. I well remember the wretched feeling of being delirious.
1819, July (10 1/2 years old).
Went to the sea at Plas Edwards and stayed there three weeks, which now appears to me like three months. (Chapter I./6. Plas Edwards, at Towyn, on the Welsh coast.) I remember a certain shady green road (where I saw a snake) and a waterfall, with a degree of pleasure, which must be connected with the pleasure from scenery, though not directly recognised as such. The sandy plain before the house has left a strong impression, which is obscurely connected with an indistinct remembrance of curious insects, probably a Cimex mottled with red, and Zygaena, the burnet-moth. I was at that time very passionate (when I swore like a trooper) and quarrelsome. The former passion has I think nearly wholly but slowly died away. When journeying there by stage coach I remember a recruiting officer (I think I should know his face to this day) at tea time, asking the maid-servant for toasted bread and butter. I was convulsed with laughter and thought it the quaintest and wittiest speech that ever passed from the mouth of man. Such is wit at 10 1/2 years old. The memory now flashes across me of the pleasure I had in the evening on a blowy day walking along the beach by myself and seeing the gulls and cormorants wending their way home in a wild and irregular course. Such poetic pleasures, felt so keenly in after years, I should not have expected so early in life.
Went a riding tour (on old Dobbin) with Erasmus to Pistyll Rhiadr (Chapter I./7. Pistyll Rhiadr proceeds from Llyn Pen Rhiadr down the Llyfnant to the Dovey.); of this I recollect little, an indistinct picture of the fall, but I well remember my astonishment on hearing that fishes could jump up it.
(Chapter I./8. The autobiographical fragment here comes to an end. The next letters give some account of Darwin as an Edinburgh student. He has described ("Life and Letters," I., pages 35-45) his failure to be interested in the official teaching of the University, his horror at the operating theatre, and his gradually increasing dislike of medical study, which finally determined his leaving Edinburgh, and entering Cambridge with a view to taking Orders.)
LETTER 1. TO R.W. DARWIN. Sunday Morning [Edinburgh, October, 1825].
My dear Father
As I suppose Erasmus (Erasmus Darwin) has given all the particulars of the journey, I will say no more about it, except that altogether it has cost me 7 pounds. We got into our lodgings yesterday evening, which are very comfortable and near the College. Our Landlady, by name Mrs. Mackay, is a nice clean old body--exceedingly civil and attentive. She lives in "11, Lothian Street, Edinburgh" (1/1. In a letter printed in the "Edinburgh Evening Despatch" of May 22nd, 1888, the writer suggested that a tablet should be placed on the house, 11, Lothian Street. This suggestion was carried out in 1888 by Mr. Ralph Richardson (Clerk of the Commissary Court, Edinburgh), who obtained permission from the proprietors to affix a tablet to the house, setting forth that Charles Darwin resided there as an Edinburgh University student. We are indebted to Mr. W.K. Dickson for obtaining for us this information, and to Mr. Ralph Richardson for kindly supplying us with particulars. See Mr. Richardson's Inaugural Address, "Trans. Edinb. Geol. Soc." 1894-95; also "Memorable Edinburgh Houses," by Wilmot Harrison, 1898.), and only four flights of steps from the ground- floor, which is very moderate to some other lodgings that we were nearly taking. The terms are 1 pound 6 shillings for two very nice and LIGHT bedrooms and a sitting-room; by the way, light bedrooms are very scarce articles in Edinburgh, since most of them are little holes in which there is neither air nor light. We called on Dr. Hanley the first morning, whom I think we never should have found, had it not been for a good-natured Dr. of Divinity who took us into his library and showed us a map, and gave us directions how to find him. Indeed, all the Scotchmen are so civil and attentive, that it is enough to make an Englishman ashamed of himself. I should think Dr. Butler or any other fat English Divine would take two utter strangers into his library and show them the way! When at last we found the Doctor, and having made all the proper speeches on both sides, we all three set out and walked all about the town, which we admire excessively; indeed Bridge Street is the most extraordinary thing I ever saw, and when we first looked over the sides, we could hardly believe our eyes, when instead of a fine river, we saw a stream of people. We spend all our mornings in promenading about the town, which we know pretty well, and in the evenings we go to the play to hear Miss Stephens (Probably Catherine Stephens), which is quite delightful; she is very popular here, being encored to such a degree, that she can hardly get on with the play. On Monday we are going to Der F (I do not know how to spell the rest of the word). (1/2. "Der F" is doubtless "Der Freischutz," which appeared in 1820, and of which a selection was given in London, under Weber's direction, in 1825. The last of Weber's compositions, "From Chindara's warbling fount," was written for Miss Stephens, who sang it to his accompaniment "the last time his fingers touched the key-board." (See "Dict. of Music," "Stephens" and "Weber.")) Before we got into our lodgings, we were staying at the Star Hotel in Princes St., where to my surprise I met with an old schoolfellow, whom I like very much; he is just come back from a walking tour in Switzerland and is now going to study for his [degree?] The introductory lectures begin next Wednesday, and we were matriculated for them on Saturday; we pay 10s., and write our names in a book, and the ceremony is finished; but the Library is not free to us till we get a ticket from a Professor. We just have been to Church and heard a sermon of only 20 minutes. I expected, from Sir Walter Scott's account, a soul-cutting discourse of 2 hours and a half.
I remain your affectionate son, C. DARWIN.
LETTER 2. TO CAROLINE DARWIN. January 6th, 1826. Edinburgh.
Many thanks for your very entertaining letter, which was a great relief after hearing a long stupid lecture from Duncan on Materia Medica, but as you know nothing either of the Lectures or Lecturers, I will give you a short account of them. Dr. Duncan is so very learned that his wisdom has left no room for his sense, and he lectures, as I have already said, on the Materia Medica, which cannot be translated into any word expressive enough of its stupidity. These few last mornings, however, he has shown signs of improvement, and I hope he will "go on as well as can be expected." His lectures begin at eight in the morning. Dr. Hope begins at ten o'clock, and I like both him and his lectures VERY much (after which Erasmus goes to "Mr. Sizars on Anatomy," who is a charming Lecturer). At 12 the Hospital, after which I attend Monro on Anatomy. I dislike him and his lectures so much, that I cannot speak with decency about them. Thrice a week we have what is called Clinical lectures, which means lectures on the sick people in the Hospital--these I like very much. I said this account should be short, but I am afraid it has been too long, like the lectures themselves.
I will be a good boy and tell something about Johnson again (not but what I am very much surprised that Papa should so forget himself as call me, a Collegian in the University of Edinburgh, a boy). He has changed his lodgings for the third time; he has got very cheap ones, but I am afraid it will not answer, for they must make up by cheating. I hope you like
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