Books: The Sage of Lichfield

ERASMUS DARWIN by Desmond King-Hele. 183 pages. Scribner. $3.95.

DOCTOR DARWIN by Hesketh Pearson. 235 pages. Walker. $5.

To the eyes of the British, eccentricity often looks like genius. In his own time (1731-1802), Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles, was renowned not only as Britain's foremost physician but as a poet, scientist, inventor and conversationalist of formidable talent. He had, said Coleridge, "a greater range of knowledge than any other man in Europe," and King George III begged him to come to London as the royal physician (he refused, on the ground that he preferred...

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