Excerpt from Darwin's Armada by Iain McCalman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Darwin's Armada

Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution

By Iain McCalman

Darwin's Armada
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Aug 2009,
    432 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2010,
    432 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Politicians, both Liberals and Tories, had also to be coaxed, especially Liberal Prime Minister Gladstone, who had frequently clashed with Huxley over evolution. Here too Huxley sought the help of Lubbock, who lobbied a group of science-friendly politicians of all parties and obtained a petition in support of a Westminster Abbey funeral. Public opinion had to be stimulated and guided, but not too obviously. Huxley chose to work through the Standard because of its impeccably conservative reputation.

Finally, some of Darwin's important fellow scientists and friends had to be rallied. Joseph Hooker, for example, hated any type of ceremonial fuss and favoured a quiet local event. Alfred Wallace lived so quietly in the countryside these days that Huxley forgot about him altogether, until reminded by one of Darwin's sons. Cursing himself for his stupidity, Huxley hastily invited him to be a pallbearer.

To Huxley's relief, all the leading newspapers followed the cue of the Standard in arguing that British patriotism demanded a suitable acknowledgement by the state of Darwin's achievements, especially when countries like Germany and France had long accorded him their highest honours. The Vienna Allgemeine had been typical in declaring: 'Our century is Darwin's century, we can suffer no greater loss'. This cosmopolitan ownership of Darwin had to be usurped; Britain's national reputation was at stake. Even newspapers like Clerical World agreed that the days of the evolution wars were long forgotten; an accommodation between Christianity and evolution was possible. So successful was Huxley's strategy that The Times thought it was telling the truth when it claimed that the idea of an Abbey funeral 'arose, not apparently, in any single mind, but spontaneously and everywhere it was felt that the Abbey needed it more than it needed the Abbey. The Abbey tombs are a compendium of English deeds and intellect. The line would have been incomplete without the epoch-making name of DARWIN'.

With clerical, political, public and family agreement finally secured, Huxley set about organising the trappings for a grand Abbey funeral. A famous firm of Piccadilly undertakers, Messrs T. and W. Banting of St James Street, was hired; they'd been the orchestrators of one of the century's most magnificent state funerals, that of the military hero Wellington in 1852. John Lewis's rough coffin was discarded. 'They sent it back,' the carpenter complained, and shunted Darwin into a new one, 'so shiny you could see to shave in.'

Lewis and some other villagers, including the aggrieved publican of the George and Dragon, did share an element of self-interest in their grumbling. Having the world-famous naturalist buried in Downe would be excellent for business: the village would become a place of pilgrimage, Lewis's coffins would be legendary and pints of beer in brisk demand. But the locals had a point when they complained about the cavalier way in which Darwin's wishes had been overridden. Lewis was right in saying that the reclusive Charles Darwin 'always wanted to lie here, and I don't think he'd have liked [a Westminster Abbey burial]'.

There was a deeper sense, too, in which Darwin had a right to be recognised as a Kentish naturalist. It was not just that he'd lived for forty years in that brick house with its azaleas and giant old mulberry tree; that he'd conducted his famous homely experiments using vines, floating seeds, and pigeons in its hothouses and roosts; that he'd written most of his great books in its cluttered, comfortable study with engravings of Hooker and Huxley on the wall; or that he'd exchanged ideas in the garden with some of the most brilliant scientists in the world. All these were important enough reasons for him to be buried in the village, but some newspapers also hinted that Darwin had become so intimate with the 'natural economy', as they termed it, that it seemed wrong to remove him from it.

Reprinted from Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalum copyright (c) 2009 by Iain McCalum. with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Sailor Twain
by Mark Siegel

Published Mar. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.