In each of which she kept a little husband

Rosemary Ashton

  • The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. IV: 1847-1850 edited by Frederic Burkhardt and Sydney Smith
    Cambridge, 744 pp, £32.50, February 1989, ISBN 0 521 25590 2
  • Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction by George Levine
    Harvard, 336 pp, £21.95, November 1988, ISBN 0 674 19285 0

How clever of Nature to ‘choose’ Darwin to teach the world that she has, against the prevailing view of natural theology, no purpose, no teleology, no choice. No one could be more gentlemanly, cautious, desirous of conforming, unwilling to shock or upset – yet no one could be more deliberate, more stubborn in holding to an opinion once embraced – than Darwin. Volume four of the immaculately edited Correspondence, covering the years 1847-1850, shows him at work amongst his ‘beloved Barnacles’, doggedly yet excitedly making his discoveries in that relatively small field of zoological study. George Levine’s Darwin and the Novelists is at least as interesting in its excellent study of the Origin of Species and Darwin’s tactful relation to natural theology, as represented here by William Whewell, as it is in its analysis of novels by Jane Austen, Dickens and Trollope in the light of the Darwinian theory and method.

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