Cranleigh Arts Centre
West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
Darwin and the Voyage of HMS Beagle
Report of the lecture given by James Taylor MA FRSA on September 23rd
Taylor introduced us to Darwin's family and others who importantly contributed
to our appreciation of Darwin's work. Born to a wealthy family in 1809, and
later married into another wealthy family, Darwin was intended for a career in
the Church, but his father felt driven to tell him that he would be a disgrace
to his family because of his interest in rats, animals and hunting. Fortunately,
Wedgwood, his future father-in-law, induced in Darwin Snr a change of mind that
led to him agreeing to fund Charles's passage on the second voyage of HMS "Beagle"
lasting from 1831 to 1836, which eventually took him to South America, Cape
Horn, Tahiti and as far as New Zealand and Australia before coming home.
The commander of "Beagle" was Robert Fitzroy. He wanted very much
to return to Tierra del Fuego, near Cape Horn, some Fuegans who had been brought
to England as curiosities by a previous expedition to the Cape Horn area.
However, Francis Beaufort, the Admiralty Hydrographer, insisted that the voyage
should have a scientific objective as well as the objective of mapping parts of
the coast of South America. Darwin's Cambridge College nominated him to carry
out the scientific aspects, and Fitzroy was happy to have Darwin as his
gentleman companion. Fitzroy was greatly interested in art and he also took on
board firstly, Augustus Earle, and on his departure from "Beagle",
Conrad Martens, both very able artists, who by their drawings and paintings
created vibrant pictures of the scenery, places visited by Darwin with "Beagle"
and the wildlife he saw. Darwin always regretted his inability to draw well but
still contributed to the pictorial record of his journey. The drawings and
pictures we saw gave us a fuller picture of the Darwin story.
saw pictures of his study and home at Down House. Darwin was not a well man.
James Taylor was not able to tell us his ailments. But happily his wife Emma
(Wedgwood) was a very capable person who managed the family's affairs leaving
Darwin to his writing. He died in 1882.
A very interesting lecture.
James Taylor willingly gives his time for lively individual