A glimpse into the private home life of the Darwins
"A sensitive, intelligent portrait of Emma Darwin and her life at the centre of Victorian science."--Emma Darwin, author ofA Secret Alchemy
"Succeeds brilliantly in discovering the poignant story of Emma Darwin and describing the extraordinary household over which she presided."--Keith Thompson, author ofThe Young Charles Darwin
"Emma Darwin emerges in this well-researched and thoughtful biography as a figure of calm strength, whose very nature and story help make possible Charles Darwin's revolutionary work. The Darwin marriage emerges as a remarkable portrait of 'symmetrical and unconditional love.'"--Kay Young, University of California, Santa Barbara
In 1808, Josiah Wedgwood II, owner and general manager of the famous pottery and china manufactory that bore his name, welcomed an eighth child into his large, vibrant family. This daughter, Emma, had a relatively happy childhood and grew up intelligent, educated, and religious. A talented sportswoman and an accomplished pianist, she married her cousin Charles Darwin at the age of thirty, bore ten children in their forty-three years together, and patiently nursed her famous husband through mysterious and chronic illnesses.
Informed by her strong Christian faith as well as her quick, inquiring mind, Emma learned to coexist with her husband's radical scientific theories, though she worried about the fate of Charles's soul. Although the high spirits of her youth were somewhat dampened by the cares of life, she managed family and household affairs--including the difficult circumstances surrounding the death of three children--with courage, gravity, and a sense of humor.
In this charming volume, the wife, companion, and confidante of the father of evolution comes into full focus. Drawing upon Emma’s personal correspondence as well as the abundant literature about her husband, authors James Loy and Kent Loy reveal the fascinating story of an exceptional woman who remained true to herself despite hardship and who, in the process, humanized her work-obsessed husband and held her family together.
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James D. Loy is professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island. Kent M. Loy is a freelance writer.From Publishers Weekly:
After Charles Darwin's world-changing HMS Beagle voyage, he found a loyal protector and editor when in 1839 he married Emma Wedgwood (1808–1896) as he sought to document his naturalist and revolutionary scientific ideas. The authors (James is an anthropologist at the University of Rhode Island; Kent is a freelance writer) give us the family's life from the viewpoint of the "lively and outspoken" Emma, as derived from two volumes of her letters and daily notations. The events they describe include the family's campaigns against slavery and vivisection. Darwin became increasingly agnostic while Emma was religious (their passel of children were spiritually indifferent), but they lived in mutual respect and upper-class comfort through much of the Victorian era. In spite of Emma's concentration on her children and extended family, she passionately followed politics and global concerns such as the American Civil War and Irish unrest. The authors' casual diagnosis of physical and mental ailments mildly mars an otherwise excellent portrait of the English elite during the age of British scientific discovery. 22 b&w illus.
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