Annie's Box Charles Darwin | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Annie's Box Charles Darwin

Darwin's box of secrets: The tragedy that inspired the naturalist's amazing discovery

Annie Darwin's box of keepsakesBut Annie, of course, did not survive. She died in her father's arms at noon on a thundery-spring day in 1851, of a 'fever' that doctors-today would doubtless have recognised as tuberculosis. Yet here was evidence, not only of her vibrant young life, but of her passions, interests and affections.

More than that, Charles had written his own private memorial of her immediately after her death. A picture of her, with a rope of dark hair and sparkling eyes, springs from the pages. Charles writes of a 'joyous' little girl; generous and sweet-tempered.

'Her dear face now rises before me, as she used sometimes to come running downstairs with a pinch of snuff for me, her whole form radiant with the pleasure of giving pleasure, ' he recalled. 'We have lost the joy of the household.'

Darwin's memorial to his beloved daughter is, I believe, the most remarkable piece of writing he left. When I opened Annie's box and felt the first glimmer of understanding about what it contained, it was heart-stopping.

Keepsakes: Some of the precious items Emma Darwin kept in remembrance of Annie

Emma had assembled each item, and kept them for the remaining 45 years of her life. She looked at them often - the wear on the paper testifies to this - but her sorrow was private. She showed them to no one else. When she died, the box was passed down through the family and almost forgotten - until I found it while helping English Heritage build up a picture of my great-great-grandfather's life.

Actors Paul Bettany and Martha WestThe Darwins' grief for their lost child never left them. Annie's death was significant on many levels: it had a far-reaching effect on Charles and Emma's marriage and their rapidly diverging beliefs.

Emma was deeply religious. Although she could not fathom God's purpose in taking Annie, she believed their daughter would go to heaven. Charles had no such consolation to draw on. The cruelty of Annie's passing only confirmed his view that there was no divine purpose behind the death of his adored little girl.

Since writing his essay on evolution in 1844 - which formed the basis of his seminal work, On The Origin Of Species - he had held the opinion that death was purely a natural process. There were no explanations in religion for the loss of a loved child; no hope of a celestial reunion.

Fourth Estate Annie's Box: Charles Darwin, His Daughter And Human Evolution
Book (Fourth Estate)

Absolutely pathetic

by secularhuman

"The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.
"It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There's still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It's quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules

Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation & Annie's Box: ... review): An article from: Wordsworth Circle
Book (Wordsworth Circle)
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