Books: Barnacles for All

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Nurse for the Patient. The only casualty in Darwin's struggle was Darwin himself. His ailments included "weakness, fatigue, headache, insomnia, sinking feelings and dizziness." Actually, sickness was a vast help to him. "A half-hour's conversation with a stranger could give him a sleepless night"—so Darwin happily avoided strangers. "An hour in church could produce dizziness and nausea"—so Darwin had time for his barnacles even on Sundays. He paid tribute to the very heaviest tomes by reclining in a chair to read them with numerous cushions under him. As this made his legs uncomfortable, he placed them on a footstool; this, in turn, made necessary more cushions on the chair, which demanded higher support for the feet. "One is tempted to imagine him, in the course of a long German work, rising rather close to the ceiling."

The question of whether or not to marry had been solved with the greatest difficulty. As in his study of barnacles, he had been careful to jot down all available evidence on the nature of the married state. Against it was: "Terrible loss of time, if many children forced to gain one's bread." But the advantages were pretty inviting: "Children (if it please God)—constant companion (& friend in old age)—charms of music & female chitchat . . . Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa, with good fire and books . . ." In 1839 he married firm, kindly Emma Wedgwood: "the perfect nurse had married the perfect patient." Among their many common bonds was backgammon. Darwin tabulated the results of all their games, so that towards the end of his life he was able to write to a friend: "She, poor creature, has won only 2,490 games, whilst I have won, hurrah, hurrah, 2,795 games."

Drafts in the Abbey. The theme of Apes, Angels & Victorians is the evolution of evolutionary theory, and it is not Author Irvine's fault if Darwin the man almost steals the whole show. Imbedded in crustaceans, orchids, insectivorous plants and earthworms. Darwin seems at one moment the most innocent and lovable of sages, at the next the most cunning of nervous foxes. From Down House, his retreat in Kent, he issued a stream of letters to his disciples and champions, urging them on, tactfully setting them straight, occasionally punctuating his orders with childlike cries of "Oh my gracious!" Far away, in sooty London, in learned Berlin, in skeptical Paris, lesser Darwinian deities wielded his thunderbolts: bearded Titans of science grappled amid earth-shaking roars with massive doctors of divinity. Darwin was dumfounded by the racket. "I feel quite infantile in intellect," he said.

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