Now I much desire that you should attend me, if you will promise, whatever I may say, always to declare that I am not going to die.' My father acquiesced on the understanding that his words should in fact have no meaning.

"My father possessed an extraordinary memory, especially for dates, so that he knew, when he was very old, the day of the birth, marriage, and death of a multitude of persons in Shropshire; and he once told me that this power annoyed him; for if he once heard a date, he could not forget it; and thus the deaths of many friends were often recalled to his mind. Owing to his strong memory he knew an extraordinary number of curious stories, which he liked to tell, as he was a great talker. He was generally in high spirits, and laughed and joked with every one--often with his servants--with the utmost freedom; yet he had the art of making every one obey him to the letter. Many persons were much afraid of him. I remember my father telling us one day, with a laugh, that several persons had asked him whether Miss --, a grand old lady in Shropshire, had called on him, so that at last he enquired why they asked him; and he was told that Miss --, whom my father had somehow mortally offended, was telling everybody that she would call and tell 'that fat old doctor very plainly what she thought of him.' She had already called, but her courage had failed, and no one could have been more courteous and friendly. As a boy, I went to stay at the house of --, whose wife was insane; and the poor creature, as soon as she saw me, was in the most abject state of terror that I ever saw, weeping bitterly and asking me over and over again, 'Is your father coming?' but was soon pacified. On my return home, I asked my father why she was so frightened, and he answered he was very glad to hear it, as he had frightened her on purpose, feeling sure that she would be kept in safety and much happier without any restraint, if her husband could influence her, whenever she became at all violent, by proposing to send for Dr. Darwin; and these words succeeded perfectly during the rest of her long life.

"My father was very sensitive, so that many small events annoyed him or pained him much. I once asked him, when he was old and could not walk, why he did not drive out for exercise; and he answered, 'Every road out of Shrewsbury is associated in my mind with some painful event.' Yet he was generally in high spirits. He was easily made very angry, but his kindness was unbounded. He was widely and deeply loved.

"He was a cautious and good man of business, so that he hardly ever lost money by an investment, and left to his children a very large property. I remember a story showing how easily utterly false beliefs originate and spread. Mr. E --, a squire of one of the oldest families in Shropshire, and head partner in a bank, committed suicide. My father was sent for as a matter of form, and found him dead. I may mention, by the way, to show how matters were managed in those old days, that because Mr. E -- was a rather great man, and universally respected, no inquest was held over his body. My father, in returning home, thought it proper to call at the bank (where he had an account) to tell the managing partners of the event, as it was not improbable that it would cause a run on the bank. Well, the story was spread far and wide, that my father went into the bank, drew out all his money, left the bank, came back again, and said, 'I may just tell you that Mr. E -- has killed himself,' and then departed. It seems that it was then a common belief that money withdrawn from a bank was not safe until the person had passed out through the door of the bank. My father did not hear this story till some little time afterwards, when the managing partner said that he had departed from his invariable rule of never allowing any one to see the account of another man, by having shown the ledger with my father's account to several persons, as this proved that my father had not drawn out a penny on that day.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I Page 11

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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