Darwin was a noted 18th-century physician, as well as a famous poet. Many people thought he was the greatest of his generation, which included William Cowper and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This selection from his seemingly inexhaustible flood of rhyming couplets has been arranged and published by Stuart Harris. He has given the collection the title 'Cosmologia' to reflect Darwin's interest in science and technology, which often informed his poetry. Like his grandson, Darwin had his own ideas about the origin of life on Earth and its development, and these figure in the last part of the collection, 'The Temple of Nature'. 'Cosmologia' also contains long cantos on the four classical elements, earth, air, fire and water. Astonishing talent is richly displayed here: there isn't a single leaden line. The unvarying metre and inevitable rhyming pairs ought to prove monotonous, and the apostrophising ('Sylphs! Aquatic Nymphs!) grandiloquent, but in fact it is exhilarating. --New Scientist, 27 July 2002, review by Roy Herbert
About the Author
Dr Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was a leading figure in both the English Enlightenment and in the Industrial Revolution as a founder member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham. He was a famous medical doctor practising in Lichfield, as well as a renowned poet especially in the final decade of the eighteenth century. His sympathy for revolutionary politics and his radical views on such social issues as the slave trade, as well as his well-developed ideas on the evolution of life that brought a charge of atheism against him in his closing years made him unpopular with both church and state. Nevertheless, his writings on natural history and especially his early views on evolution that made him a precursor of his grandson Charles - views expressed in prose ('Zoonomia') and verse ('The Temple of Nature') make him an important historical figure.