Recognized HTML document
Previous Index Next

The Ancestry of Francis Galton   17

that we can find so little trace of it in the generations of Darwins before Erasmus. They belonged more recently to the smaller squirearchy and ultimately to the yeoman class. i s far as a full pedigree has yet been traced the Darwin stock is linked by the marriage of Erasmus' great-grandfather William Darwin with Ann Earle to a stock of considerable ability. , Ann's father Erasmus Earle (whence ultimately the. name Erasmus) was " Own, Serjeant" to the Commonwealth, a lawyer and diplomatist of some distinction, from whom through the female line the Lytton Bulwers or Bulwer-Lyttons trace descent (see Plate LXII). There is no evidence, however, of any member of the Earles having had scientific ability, and such distinction of the more literary kind as might come from this family must have laid dormant for two generations. Until the pedigree of the Hills is more -fully worked out, I am inclined to think that Erasmus Darwin's mother, Elizabeth Hill of Sleaford, may have brought some of their exceptional ability into the family'. Her portrait (see Plate :VII) shows her to have been a lady of much character and her husband Robert Darwin (see Plate VI) is,'reported to have composed the verse

"From a morning that doth shine, From a boy that drinketh wine, From a wife that talketh Latine,

Good Lord deliver me!"

where the third line is suggested by Charles Darwin to have had some relation to the learned character of Robert's own wife!

So far we have kept to Charles Darwin's line of descent in the Darwin family, i. e. that connected with Erasmus Darwin's first wife Mary Howard (see Note II, Appendix). It seems likely that a certain delicacy, but possibly also a certain increase of sympathy and gentleness, was brought into the Darwin stock by this lady ; she died at 30 years of age.

For eleven years Erasmus Darwin remained unmarried', then at

' I have examined all the available wills of the Sleaford Hills and the church registers in the hope of linking up Erasmus Darwin with Sir John Hill, the botanist, who sprung from Lincoln, but I have found no link so far.

2 Froni the standpoint of heredity it is of interest to know that he had in the interval two natural daughters whom he educated ; he set up a school and wrote a book on female education for them, and provided his own later daughters as pupils. One of

these ladies afterwards married a doctor and her son became a distinguished surgeon. This lady and her future husband are shown, in the "hydrophobia" staircase scene from the MS. autobiography of Sir Francis S. Darwin's boyhood : see Plate X.

P. G.   3


Previous Index Next