Friday, February 13, 2009

Guest Blog from Lauri Lebo: Darwin's Pilgrims 1

Sunday 8th February, 2009

Visited the grave this afternoon of Charles Darwin's daughter Annie, who died of an infection here when she was 10. Her simple gravestone says, "A dear and a good child." A small rosebush has been planted at the foot of the stone and a single pink rose blooms. Her father had brought her here in 1851 to a house perched on the Malvern Hills overlooking the expansive Severn River Valley, which is covered in fog today, to try to save her. The family had spent a summer in Great Malvern, a Victorian-era spa in western England, two years earlier. Darwin, who suffered from chronic stomach ailments, had found the water restorative. Emma, pregnant, had remained behind in London. And Annie died without her mother. Darwin did not wait for the funeral - instead, he let the servants bury Annie - and rushed back to London to be at his wife's side.

Our host, Mark Pallen, a Birmingham University microbiologist, has taken us to the graveyard, which stands under towering ancient Norfolk pines brought here by the church. Now sitting in hotel lobby waiting for dinner at the local pub, drinking coffee and watching it snow over the Malvern Priory (a Middle Age church cut from blocks cut of red and tan sandstone.) The snowflake clusters are so big, one would cover the palm of your hand.

It's cozy and sleep beckons seductively, but Cyndi Sneath and I gamely fight off its advances. (But unable, apparently, in my jet-lagged state to resist heavy-handed metaphors.)

Tomorrow, we head for Cambridge.

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