Monday, July 13, 2009


Charles Darwin and his son

While pregnant, Emma wrote a letter to Charles (though they were living together), worried that if he did not believe, he would not be saved; so if she died she would never see him again.

Darwin meanwhile was publishing his Journal of Researches, later known as Voyage of the Beagle.

'While I talk to you face to face I cannot say
exactly what I wish.' Her back aches all the time;
she never goes out. His friend's wife has died
in childbirth. 'You say you are uncertain
about Christian Revelation but your opinion
is still not formed.' He's told her his discoveries:

she'd love him to be right in everything. She's very afraid
he's not. 'Faith is beyond our comprehension,
not provable in the scientific way you like.
I believe you sincerely wish to learn the truth.
But there are dangers in giving up Revelation
and Christ's offer of eternal life. And in the sin--

I know you will have patience with your own
dear wife -- of ingratitude for His suffering,
casting off what has been done. For you,
for everyone. I do not wish an answer.
It is satisfaction for me just to write. My fear
is for the afterlife. I cannot say how happy

you make me in this one, nor how dearly I love you.
I thank you for all the affection, which makes
my happiness more and more each day.
But everything that concerns you concerns me.
I should be most unhappy if I thought
we would not belong to each other for eternity.'


Darwin left Emma's letter, with his message on it, for her to find after his death in 1882.

He kept her note all his life. He must have said
something then, but he wrote to her too
on the outer fold. (No one knows when.
He was maybe quite old. He wasn't blind
to where his thought led, what she thought
she'd lose.) 'When I am dead, know
I have kissed and cried over this many times.'

~ Ruth Padel, Darwin: A Life in Poems


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