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The Voyage of ideas
on 18 March 2013
I recently wrote about having read "The Voyage of the Beagle", and "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin and asked questions originating from the latter.
However, `the Voyage of the Beagle' is by far the more enjoyable and informative and contains many insights and readable prose. Something must have happened to Darwin after his wonderful five year journey around the world.
I have rarely read two so very different books inn style and attitude by the same author. Indeed, any examination of Darwin's portrait either in sketches, painting or photograph reveals a man not only profoundly ageing but acquiring an expression of increasing gloom. Of course, one might think, as I did, that this was the nature of Victorian Man, at least in terms of a man living in Victorian society.
That society would contrast sharply with the liberal ideas today but then I noticed that Darwin himself had commented on his glum expression saying that people might expect such a man to have few friends. Even his wife, from the few pictures available, appears to have prematurely aged.
Nevertheless, I was struck by the descent of this man into what appeared on view a somewhat morose looking figure. That Darwin's health declined is a well known fact and some suspect that his illness which continued for the rest of his life had origins in his emotional state of mind and therefore sychosomatic.
The Beagle followed a course of exploration which provided Darwin with an opportunity to explore and examine fauna and flora along much of the South American coastline including that of the nearby Falkland Islands and later, of course, his observations on the world famous ground-breaking observations in the Galapagos Islands, for example, two types of Galapagos Lizard; one terrestrial and the other aquatic. He writes:
"I threw one several times as far as I could, into a deep pool left by the retiring tide; but it invariably returned in a direct line to the spot where I stood."
The Beagle sailed farther on to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, and other islands including Saint Helena in the South Atlantic before, finally, arriving at Falmouth, England and a new beginning in scientific speculation.