After breakfasting alone about 7.45, he went to work at once, considering the 1 1/2 hour between 8 and 9.30 one of his best working times. At 9.30 he came into the drawing-room for his letters--rejoicing if the post was a light one and being sometimes much worried if it was not. He would then hear any family letters read aloud as he lay on the sofa.

The reading aloud, which also included part of a novel, lasted till about half-past ten, when he went back to work till twelve or a quarter past. By this time he considered his day's work over, and would often say, in a satisfied voice, "I'VE done a good day's work." He then went out of doors whether it was wet or fine; Polly, his white terrier, went with him in fair weather, but in rain she refused or might be seen hesitating in the verandah, with a mixed expression of disgust and shame at her own want of courage; generally, however, her conscience carried the day, and as soon as he was evidently gone she could not bear to stay behind.

My father was always fond of dogs, and as a young man had the power of stealing away the affections of his sister's pets; at Cambridge, he won the love of his cousin W.D. Fox's dog, and this may perhaps have been the little beast which used to creep down inside his bed and sleep at the foot every night. My father had a surly dog, who was devoted to him, but unfriendly to every one else, and when he came back from the "Beagle" voyage, the dog remembered him, but in a curious way, which my father was fond of telling. He went into the yard and shouted in his old manner; the dog rushed out and set off with him on his walk, showing no more emotion or excitement than if the same thing had happened the day before, instead of five years ago. This story is made use of in the 'Descent of Man,' 2nd Edition, page 74.

In my memory there were only two dogs which had much connection with my father. One was a large black and white half-bred retriever, called Bob, to which we, as children, were much devoted. He was the dog of whom the story of the "hot-house face" is told in the 'Expression of the Emotions.'

But the dog most closely associated with my father was the above-mentioned Polly, a rough, white fox-terrier. She was a sharp-witted, affectionate dog; when her master was going away on a journey, she always discovered the fact by the signs of packing going on in the study, and became low-spirited accordingly. She began, too, to be excited by seeing the study prepared for his return home. She was a cunning little creature, and used to tremble or put on an air of misery when my father passed, while she was waiting for dinner, just as if she knew that he would say (as he did often say) that "she was famishing." My father used to make her catch biscuits off her nose, and had an affectionate and mock-solemn way of explaining to her before-hand that she must "be a very good girl." She had a mark on her back where she had been burnt, and where the hair had re-grown red instead of white, and my father used to commend her for this tuft of hair as being in accordance with his theory of pangenesis; her father had been a red bull-terrier, thus the red hair appearing after the burn showed the presence of latent red gemmules. He was delightfully tender to Polly, and never showed any impatience at the attentions she required, such as to be let in at the door, or out at the verandah window, to bark at "naughty people," a self-imposed duty she much enjoyed. She died, or rather had to be killed, a few days after his death. (The basket in which she usually lay curled up near the fire in his study is faithfully represented in Mr. Parson's drawing, "The Study at Down.")

My father's midday walk generally began by a call at the greenhouse, where he looked at any germinating seeds or experimental plants which required a casual examination, but he hardly ever did any serious observing at this time. Then he went on for his constitutional--either round the "Sand- walk," or outside his own grounds in the immediate neighbourhood of the house.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I Page 47

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book