I have already pointed out some of the many myths surrounding this topic, but the more I read about the myth of Annie's-death-caused-Darwin's-loss-of-faith, the more I am driven to believe in this powerful but hidden element, Darwinite.
Before I start on the Annie myths, let me point out that Darwinite is clearly inherited, as proven by this piece written by CD's great-great-grand-daughter Emma Darwin, where the diluted Darwinite in her veins is still able to induce hyperventilation in a healthy human male:
Let me give just two examples from the Annie mythos:
1. In his Autobiography, Darwin admits that
"later in life I wholly lost, to my great regret, all pleasure from poetry of any kind, including Shakespeare".
Well, lot's of people go off poetry in later life or get cheesed off with Shakespeare-it's part of becoming a grumpy old man. But exposure to Darwinite ensures that American English professor, George Levine, comes up with an explanation custom-built for Darwin in his book Darwin Loves You. It goes like this:
- Annie Darwin died on April 23rd 1851.
- Which happens to be Shakespeare's birthday
- So the memory of her death meant that Darwin developed a life-long downer on Shakespeare!
2. Without Darwinite poisoning, how else could anyone write the kind of twaddle that ends Jim Moore's publication (Of Love and Death: Why Darwin 'gave up Christianity'’ in Jim Moore ed., History, Humanity and Evolution. pp. 195-229, Cambridge, 1989) that kicked off the Annie myth? As opium was to Coleridge's poetry, so it seems Darwinite is to Moore's prose. Be warned this is strong stuff!
"He ends the chapter in search of a palliative: 'We may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.' But the words ring hollow. Why should consolation be sought unless some one has been bereaved? And can bereavement be so readily assuaged? Nature is the victim in Darwin's figure, but nature is also given a 'face', a face 'bright with gladness', to which death comes promptly without fear. Only one face in Darwin's experience ever did that. He could recall it 'with much distinctness' - 'her eyes sparkled brightly; she often smiled' - and he had the imaginative ability with bygone faces to make them 'do anything I like' Here, then, nature may be tortured that health and happiness should prevail, but the face is also sacrificed for the redemption of the world. The bereavement is finally his own; the real victim, tragically, a child already perfect. Annie, who died at Easter, became the paschal lamb of Darwin's post-Christian evolutionary soteriology."And how many of you didn't have to look up that last word!!