After dinner he never stayed in the room, and used to apologise by saying he was an old woman, who must be allowed to leave with the ladies. This was one of the many signs and results of his constant weakness and ill-health. Half an hour more or less conversation would make to him the difference of a sleepless night, and of the loss perhaps of half the next day's work.

After dinner he played backgammon with my mother, two games being played every night; for many years a score of the games which each won was kept, and in this score he took the greatest interest. He became extremely animated over these games, bitterly lamenting his bad luck and exploding with exaggerated mock-anger at my mother's good fortune.

After backgammon he read some scientific book to himself, either in the drawing-room, or, if much talking was going on, in the study.

In the evening, that is, after he had read as much as his strength would allow, and before the reading aloud began, he would often lie on the sofa and listen to my mother playing the piano. He had not a good ear, yet in spite of this he had a true love of fine music. He used to lament that his enjoyment of music had become dulled with age, yet within my recollection, his love of a good tune was strong. I never heard him hum more than one tune, the Welsh song "Ar hyd y nos," which he went through correctly; he used also, I believe, to hum a little Otaheitan song. From his want of ear he was unable to recognize a tune when he heard it again, but he remained constant to what he liked, and would often say, when an old favourite was played, "That's a fine thing; what is it?" He liked especially parts of Beethoven's symphonies, and bits of Handel. He made a little list of all the pieces which he especially liked among those which my mother played-- giving in a few words the impression that each one made on him--but these notes are unfortunately lost. He was sensitive to differences in style, and enjoyed the late Mrs. Vernon Lushington's playing intensely, and in June 1881, when Hans Richter paid a visit at Down, he was roused to strong enthusiasm by his magnificent performance on the piano. He much enjoyed good singing, and was moved almost to tears by grand or pathetic songs. His niece Lady Farrer's singing of Sullivan's "Will he come" was a never- failing enjoyment to him. He was humble in the extreme about his own taste, and correspondingly pleased when he found that others agreed with him.

He became much tired in the evenings, especially of late years, when he left the drawing-room about ten, going to bed at half-past ten. His nights were generally bad, and he often lay awake or sat up in bed for hours, suffering much discomfort. He was troubled at night by the activity of his thoughts, and would become exhausted by his mind working at some problem which he would willingly have dismissed. At night, too, anything which had vexed or troubled him in the day would haunt him, and I think it was then that he suffered if he had not answered some troublesome person's letter.

The regular readings, which I have mentioned, continued for so many years, enabled him to get through a great deal of lighter kinds of literature. He was extremely fond of novels, and I remember well the way in which he would anticipate the pleasure of having a novel read to him, as he lay down, or lighted his cigarette. He took a vivid interest both in plot and characters, and would on no account know beforehand, how a story finished; he considered looking at the end of a novel as a feminine vice. He could not enjoy any story with a tragical end, for this reason he did not keenly appreciate George Eliot, though he often spoke warmly in praise of 'Silas Marner.' Walter Scott, Miss Austen, and Mrs. Gaskell, were read and re- read till they could be read no more. He had two or three books in hand at the same time--a novel and perhaps a biography and a book of travels. He did not often read out-of-the-way or old standard books, but generally kept to the books of the day obtained from a circulating library.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I Page 52

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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