Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, February 23, 2009

Muggle she was not: Mrs. Charles Darwin

A friend just sent me this remarkable quotation from Mrs. Charles Darwin, gleaned from an exhibition on Darwin at the American Museum of Natural History. In one sentence, Mrs. D. says it all. Here is the verbatim text from the exhibition, with the quotation:


Letter from Emma Darwin to Charles Darwin,
February 1839 (page 2 of 4)

Dr. Darwin [Charles' father] had advised Charles to keep his spiritual doubts to himself—"some women suffered miserably" if they thought their husbands were not going to heaven, he told his son. But this letter, which Emma wrote soon after their marriage, shows Charles must have ignored his father's advice.

Emma took a much more literal view of resurrection and salvation than did her husband. She believed Charles tended to apply scientific standards of proof to questions of faith, and—as revealed here—his skepticism worried her deeply.

"May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way, & which if true are likely to be above our comprehension."

At the bottom of this letter is a poignant note in Darwin's hand. "When I am dead, know that many times, I have kissed & cryed over this. C. D."