Finding the real Darwin: the Shows

What was Darwin like in real life?  That’s it!  I have just had the epiphany that my motive is to find the real Darwin, something past what current culture would want us think.  The real deal!

I was reading in “The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,” Volume 1, 1897, and I ran across something rather trifling on page 304:  “At our Shows, two breeds are exhibited.”  He was talking about breeds of domestic geese but that is not the topic in which I am interested at the moment.

Give me the the snapshot!  Roll the cameras!  The sights, the sounds, the fanfare, the community!  It all makes sense…..In his books he talks about the “Hon.” person who was a breeder and the “Rev.” who purchased “this many” birds from…….  These people were his “peeps!”  These were the ones surrounding him at the Exhibitions/the Shows, his compatriots.

I can hear the loud echo of a cacophony of voices.  Breeders and farmers negotiating trades and sales and deals.  I can see a large black kettle, suspended and boiling, and the acrid smoke emanating from the embers.  A mug of ale from a wooden keg!  Laughter.  Kids running by…..and in glimpse, I view the wide-eyed bearded Charles Darwin rapidly glancing here and there and not seeing enough.  The musk of animal “patties” and flies being swatted……being bumped by a passer-by, tipping his hat to the lady with the dress (decisively elevated to avoid the hay and straw) which seems inappropriate for the setting.

The Reverend:  “Charles, Charles, (waving him over) let me show you what I have today!”  This is my tenth cross within this breed and look at the “sport” resulting….mighty fine isn’t she!”

Charles Darwin is like a kid in a candy shop with five dollars and everything is on sale.  This is him and this is his world, in my mind.

His own children, trailing along with him, not touching as they move. Discipline.   He is explaining what the “Hon.” breeder has done in hushed tones.  He is not sure it is what it seems, so he is very guarded in his voice volume with his children.

Pleasantly exhausted and somewhat disheveled, he goes home to his wife Emma.  As the lazy door creaks shut behind him and his children rush by, she exclaims:  “Charles, what did you learn today?”  He begins his verbal diary of the day with childlike eyes and an irrepressible grin.  Her gaze is riveted on him as she walks, carrying on her activities with diligence.

This is my fictional imagination of “a day with Charles.”




Darwin, Charles.  The variation of animals and plants under domestication, Volume I.  New York:  D. Appleton and Company, 1897.



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