It would have been dishonourable in my father to have used his professional knowledge for his private advantage. Nevertheless, the supposed act was greatly admired by some persons; and many years afterwards, a gentleman remarked, 'Ah, Doctor, what a splendid man of business you were in so cleverly getting all your money safe out of that bank!'
"My father's mind was not scientific, and he did not try to generalize his knowledge under general laws; yet he formed a theory for almost everything which occurred. I do not think I gained much from him intellectually; but his example ought to have been of much moral service to all his children. One of his golden rules (a hard one to follow) was, 'Never become the friend of any one whom you cannot respect.'"
Dr. Darwin had six children (Of these Mrs. Wedgwood is now the sole survivor.): Marianne, married Dr. Henry Parker; Caroline, married Josiah Wedgwood; Erasmus Alvey; Susan, died unmarried; Charles Robert; Catherine, married Rev. Charles Langton.
The elder son, Erasmus, was born in 1804, and died unmarried at the age of seventy-seven.
He, like his brother, was educated at Shrewsbury School and at Christ's College, Cambridge. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and in London, and took the degree of Bachelor of Medicine at Cambridge. He never made any pretence of practising as a doctor, and, after leaving Cambridge, lived a quiet life in London.
There was something pathetic in Charles Darwin's affection for his brother Erasmus, as if he always recollected his solitary life, and the touching patience and sweetness of his nature. He often spoke of him as "Poor old Ras," or "Poor dear old Philos"--I imagine Philos (Philosopher) was a relic of the days when they worked at chemistry in the tool-house at Shrewsbury-- a time of which he always preserved a pleasant memory. Erasmus being rather more than four years older than Charles Darwin, they were not long together at Cambridge, but previously at Edinburgh they lived in the same lodgings, and after the Voyage they lived for a time together in Erasmus' house in Great Marlborough Street. At this time also he often speaks with much affection of Erasmus in his letters to Fox, using words such as "my dear good old brother." In later years Erasmus Darwin came to Down occasionally, or joined his brother's family in a summer holiday. But gradually it came about that he could not, through ill health, make up his mind to leave London, and then they only saw each other when Charles Darwin went for a week at a time to his brother's house in Queen Anne Street.
The following note on his brother's character was written by Charles Darwin at about the same time that the sketch of his father was added to the 'Recollections.':--
"My brother Erasmus possessed a remarkably clear mind with extensive and diversified tastes and knowledge in literature, art, and even in science. For a short time he collected and dried plants, and during a somewhat longer time experimented in chemistry. He was extremely agreeable, and his wit often reminded me of that in the letters and works of Charles Lamb. He was very kind-hearted...His health from his boyhood had been weak, and as a consequence he failed in energy. His spirits were not high, sometimes low, more especially during early and middle manhood. He read much, even whilst a boy, and at school encouraged me to read, lending me books. Our minds and tastes were, however, so different, that I do not think I owe much to him intellectually. I am inclined to agree with Francis Galton in believing that education and environment produce only a small effect on the mind of any one, and that most of our qualities are innate."
Erasmus Darwin's name, though not known to the general public, may be remembered from the sketch of his character in Carlyle's 'Reminiscences,' which I here reproduce in part:--
"Erasmus Darwin, a most diverse kind of mortal, came to seek us out very soon ('had heard of Carlyle in Germany, etc.') and continues ever since to be a quiet house-friend, honestly attached; though his visits latterly have been rarer and rarer, health so poor, I so occupied, etc., etc.