Darwin

Overview

"It is like confessing a murder." These are the words Charles Darwin uttered when he revealed to the world what he knew to be true: that humans are descended from headless hermaphrodite squids. How could a wealthy gentleman, a stickler for respectability, attack the foundations of his religion and Anglican society? Authors Adrian Desmond and James Moore, in what has been hailed as the definitive biography of Charles Darwin, not only explain the paradox of the man but bring us the full sweep of Victorian science, theology, and mores. The authors
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Overview

"It is like confessing a murder." These are the words Charles Darwin uttered when he revealed to the world what he knew to be true: that humans are descended from headless hermaphrodite squids. How could a wealthy gentleman, a stickler for respectability, attack the foundations of his religion and Anglican society? Authors Adrian Desmond and James Moore, in what has been hailed as the definitive biography of Charles Darwin, not only explain the paradox of the man but bring us the full sweep of Victorian science, theology, and mores. The authors unveil the battle over the mind and soul that raged around the student Darwin as well as his drunken high-life in prostitute-ridden Cambridge. They vividly re-create Darwin's five-year voyage on the Beagle and his struggle to develop his theory of evolution. Then, they follow Darwin through his decades of torment. Fully aware that his ideas could bring ruin and social ostracism to his beloved family, Darwin kept his thoughts secret for twenty years. Seeming to lead an ideal squire's life in rural Kent, he was actually a man "living in Hell," plagued by trembling, vomiting, and violent cramps and confronted by personal tragedy that left him grief-stricken for the rest of his life. But even more than Marx and Freud, this anguished man was to transform the way we see ourselves on this planet. Desmond and Moore's rich, comprehensive, and unparalleled portrait of his life contains a wealth of newly transcribed and unpublished letters, a thorough understanding of all available Darwin research, and ninety photographs, many never published before. Its lively and accessible style makes each chapter as gripping to read as a novel, yet the legitimacy and importance of this seminal work is never diminished--providing the whole story of how Darwin came to his world-changing conclusions and how, when the Origin of Species was finally published, its consequences were far more dramatic than Darwin's worst fears...and wildest dreams.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Invaluable for its day-to-day account of Charles Darwin's activities, this monumental biography keenly conveys the English naturalist's struggle to make evolution and natural selection acceptable by presenting them as the bedrock of Victorian middle-class values. Using a trove of previously untapped material, the authors illuminate Darwin as a freethinking agnostic fearful of being labeled an anarchist, a scientific titan trapped on a literary treadmill, a voyager on the Beagle appalled at ``low'' races of savages, and a paterfamilias who subordinated women but was completely dependent on his wife. Above all, British authors Desmond ( The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs ) and Moore, the editorial consultant to Cambridge University's Darwin Letters Project, plunge readers into the controversies of the era as parson-hating biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, socialist Alfred Russell Wallace, free-market capitalists and radical atheists bent Darwinism to their own purposes. Photos. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternates. (July)
Library Journal
In 44 chapters with copious notes and massive details, Darwin scholars Desmond and Moore give a rich portrait of the gentleman naturalist and scientific theorist from a sociocultural framework emphasizing Whig-Tory conflicts and Lyellian-Malthusian speculations. The authors reveal that Darwin was particularly influenced by the evolutionary ideas of zoologist Robert Grant; the implications of fossil Argentine megatheriums, speciated Galapagos mockingbirds, and the incredible varieties of barnacles; as well as experimentation with cultivated plants and animals. Despite a doting wife, loyal friends, and belated honors (though he was never knighted), Darwin's life was filled with illness, disappointment, and tragedy (especially the death of daughter Annie at age ten). This impressive volume makes clear that Darwin suffered from a lifelong schizoid struggle between his own materialist science and a late-Victorian theology. For a deeper examination of Darwin's sickness, read John Bowlby's Charles Darwin ( LJ 3/1/91) and Ralph Colp's To Be an Invalid ( LJ 6/1/77). Darwin's final written thoughts on religion are found in Nora Barlow's indispensable The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (1959). Essential reading for evolutionists, Desmond and Moore's monumental work is highly recommended for all academic libraries. BOMC, History Book Club, and Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections.-- H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Booknews
First published in Great Britain by Penguin Books Ltd. A bestseller and book club selection. Written by two authorities on Darwin, creationism, and the social context of Victorian evolution. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140131925
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK)
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgements
A Devil's Chaplain?
1809--1831
1 Catching a Falling Christian 5
2 The Northern Athens 21
3 Sea-Mats & Seditious Science 31
4 Anglican Orders 45
5 Paradise & Punishment 61
6 The Man Who Walks with Henslow 74
7 Every Man for Himself 84
1831-1836
8 My Final Exit 101
9 A Chaos of Delight 115
10 Troubled Spirits from Another World 132
11 Shaken Foundations 149
12 Colonial Life 163
13 Temples of Nature 182
1836-1842
14 A Peacock Admiring His Tail 195
15 Reforming Nature 212
16 Tearing Down the Barriers 229
17 Mental Rioting 240
18 Marriage & Malthusian Respectability 256
19 The Dreadful War 280
1842-1851
20 The Extreme Verge of the World 301
21 Murder 313
22 Illformed Little Monsters 339
23 Al Diabolo 351
24 My Water Doctor 363
25 Our Bitter & Cruel Loss 375
1851-1860
26 A Gentleman with Capital 391
27 Ugly Facts 405
28 Gunships & Grog Shops 417
29 Horrid Wretches Like Me 431
30 A Low & Lewd Nature 441
31 What Would a Chimpanzee Say? 451
32 Breaking Cover 467
1860-1871
33 More Kicks than Halfpence 485
34 From the Womb of the Ape 500
35 A Living Grave 519
36 Emerald Beauty 536
37 Sex, Politics, & the X 550
38 Disintegrating Speculations 566
1871-1882
39 Pause, Pause, Pause 589
40 A Wretched Bigot 607
41 Never an Atheist 622
42 Down among the Worms 638
43 The Final Experiment 652
44 An Agnostic in the Abbey 664
Abbreviations 679
Notes 682
Bibliography 740
Index 773
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