In the same way he had an affection, half- artistic, half-botanical, for the little blue Lobelia. In admiring flowers, he would often laugh at the dingy high-art colours, and contrast them with the bright tints of nature. I used to like to hear him admire the beauty of a flower; it was a kind of gratitude to the flower itself, and a personal love for its delicate form and colour. I seem to remember him gently touching a flower he delighted in; it was the same simple admiration that a child might have.
He could not help personifying natural things. This feeling came out in abuse as well as in praise--e.g. of some seedlings--"The little beggars are doing just what I don't want them to." He would speak in a half-provoked, half-admiring way of the ingenuity of a Mimosa leaf in screwing itself out of a basin of water in which he had tried to fix it. One must see the same spirit in his way of speaking of Sundew, earth-worms, etc. (Cf. Leslie Stephen's 'Swift,' 1882, page 200, where Swift's inspection of the manners and customs of servants are compared to my father's observations on worms, "The difference is," says Mr. Stephen, "that Darwin had none but kindly feelings for worms.")
Within my memory, his only outdoor recreation, besides walking, was riding, which he took to on the recommendation of Dr. Bence Jones, and we had the luck to find for him the easiest and quietest cob in the world, named "Tommy." He enjoyed these rides extremely, and devised a number of short rounds which brought him home in time for lunch. Our country is good for this purpose, owing to the number of small valleys which give a variety to what in a flat country would be a dull loop of road. He was not, I think, naturally fond of horses, nor had he a high opinion of their intelligence, and Tommy was often laughed at for the alarm he showed at passing and repassing the same heap of hedge-clippings as he went round the field. I think he used to feel surprised at himself, when he remembered how bold a rider he had been, and how utterly old age and bad health had taken away his nerve. He would say that riding prevented him thinking much more effectually than walking--that having to attend to the horse gave him occupation sufficient to prevent any really hard thinking. And the change of scene which it gave him was good for spirits and health.
Unluckily, Tommy one day fell heavily with him on Keston common. This, and an accident with another horse, upset his nerves, and he was advised to give up riding.
If I go beyond my own experience, and recall what I have heard him say of his love for sport, etc., I can think of a good deal, but much of it would be a repetition of what is contained in his 'Recollections.' At school he was fond of bat-fives, and this was the only game at which he was skilful. He was fond of his gun as quite a boy, and became a good shot; he used to tell how in South America he killed twenty-three snipe in twenty-four shots. In telling the story he was careful to add that he thought they were not quite so wild as English snipe.
Luncheon at Down came after his midday walk; and here I may say a word or two about his meals generally. He had a boy-like love of sweets, unluckily for himself, since he was constantly forbidden to take them. He was not particularly successful in keeping the "vows," as he called them, which he made against eating sweets, and never considered them binding unless he made them aloud.
He drank very little wine, but enjoyed, and was revived by, the little he did drink. He had a horror of drinking, and constantly warned his boys that any one might be led into drinking too much. I remember, in my innocence as a small boy, asking him if he had been ever tipsy; and he answered very gravely that he was ashamed to say he had once drunk too much at Cambridge. I was much impressed, so that I know now the place where the question was asked.
After his lunch, he read the newspaper, lying on the sofa in the drawing- room. I think the paper was the only non-scientific matter which he read to himself.