Charles Darwin lost his mother at the age of eight, repressed all memory of her, and poured his passion into newt collecting and shooting. As a young man, his five year voyage on H.M.S. Beagle changed his life. Afterwards, working privately on groundbreaking theories about the development of species, he published his geological findings. He also made a nervous proposal to his cousin Emma. They had a very happy marriage but both were painfully aware of the gulf between her devout Christian faith and his increasing religious doubt. The death of three of their ten children accentuated this gulf. For Darwin, death and extinction were nature's way of developing new species: the survival of the fittest. For Emma, death was a prelude to the afterlife. In these extraordinary poems, using multiple viewpoints - even, at one point, the orangutang at London Zoo - Ruth Padel follows the development of Darwin's thought, the drama of the discovery of evolution, and fluctuating emotions in Darwin the husband, the naturalist and the tender father, in a powerful tribute to her famous forbear.
Chatto & Windus
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