Darwin’s origin of the Origin of Species and his rejection of the Creator


In a very good research by Dennis Klass, a professor emeritus in Psychology, he demonstrated that bereavement over his daughter Annie’s death caused Darwin to denounce God as Creator. While taking care of her in a sanitorium, he read the book by F. Newman on how to become an agnostic from evangelical fundamentalism. The seeds were sown in his doubting heart and the death of his daughter Annie made him reject God and become public about it. The Origin of Species was born. Rather than just describing dr. Klasses’ essay, it is better to give it in full. The sanitorium of James Gully was where Annie was taken to. Gully was tapped into spiritualism, mesmerism and the calling up of mediums. “Like many of his educated contemporaries both in the UK, and in the USA Gully showed an interest in several popular movements of the day, such as women's suffrage, mesmerism and diagnostic clairvoyance. In later life he came to believe in spiritualism, being friend and protector to the medium Daniel Dunglas Home was present at some of the manifestations of ‘Katie King’ with Sir William Crookes and was President of the British Spiritualist Association in 1874.” (source: Wikipaedia).

The transformation of F. Newman to an agnostic is not the kind of book that Darwin would have gotten from dr. John Harvey Kellogg at the Battle Creek Sanitorium and his historical course would have been different. My cousin Fanie van Wyk went through the same grief as Darwin with his daughter and also wrote a book about her. Today he is a preacher in a church of his. “Two men sat behind bars – the one saw mud – the other one stars.”  



May 17, 2013 “The Long-lasting Effects of Parental Bereavement: The Case of Charles Darwin” Dennis Klass, Ph.D Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts


This paper describes Charles Darwin as a bereaved parent. His beloved daughter Ann Elizabeth, always called Annie in the family, died April 23, 1851. His grief for her played an important role in his understanding of grief as a universal human experience, in the philosophy that underlies his theory of natural selection, and in the family dynamics of his marriage.

As an introduction I show that John Bowlby looked at the effects of Darwin’s mother dying when he was a child, but did not look at the effects of Darwin’s grief at his daughter’s death.

To understand Darwin as a bereaved parent, I first describe Darwin’s grief using Robert Neimeyer’s constructivist model.

Second, I look at how his reconstructed life narrative included changed in how he understood his own grief, and thus how he understood the nature of grief as a universal human experience.

Third, I show how his changed understanding of his own grief affected the worldview at the heart of the theory of natural selection.

Fourth, I examine the dynamics of his marriage in which Darwin’s grief narrative was set. I conclude by showing how Darwin’s continuing sorrow fit into his multifaceted life.


Darwin as a Bereaved Child

The major strand of contemporary bereavement studies is based in John Bowlby’s attachment theory. Bowlby’s final book was a biography of another creator of significant theory, Darwin. Nora Barlow, Darwin’s granddaughter sparked Bowlby’s initial interest when he read the 1958 version of Darwin’s autobiography edited that she edited. The project remained an interest of Bowlby’s and eventually grew into a 500-page book published in 1990, shortly after Bowlby died. After his years on the Beagle, Darwin suffered from recurrent illness that had been the subject of considerable scholarly attention as Bowlby began thinking about Darwin (see Colp, 1977, 2008). Among the proffered explanations was that it might have been psychosomatic, perhaps based in repressed hostility to his religious wife, or, less harsh, anxiety because he felt the demands of his family interfered with his scientific work.

Bowlby continued the psychosomatic explanation, but he used attachment theory rather than Freud’s theory of unconscious psychic conflict. He ascribed Darwin’s condition to childhood grief. He was eight years old when his mother died. This diagnosis demonstrates Freud’s continuing influence on Bowlby.


Nora Barlow Physical illness caused by childhood bereavement is a 2 modification of Freud’s theory in his case studies on hysteria, medical symptoms with no apparent physical cause. Reading Bowlby’s biography of Darwin, it is difficult to keep the image of a Victorian invalid.

The house was bustling with energetic children, extended family who were visiting. He was active in scholarly organizations, read widely in philosophy and literature, and still had time to produce a body of scholarly work that is staggering in its reach and detail.

Yet, we know that he did all that that while suffering recurring bouts of illness interspersed with periods of relatively good health. The symptoms included fatigue, stomach cramps, vomiting, eczema, boils, acute anxiety, and headaches.

As he moved into middle age, he suffered ringing in the ears, dizziness, and violent shivering. When he was under stress, the symptoms were worse.

An internet search using the key words “Darwin’s illness” shows that the question remains interesting to physicians. Bowlby’s diagnosis is often listed among the possible candidates, although claims about psychosomatic illness tend to be discounted these days. The other leading possibilities are Chagas's Disease that Darwin could have contracted in Central America during the Beagle voyage and Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome which has a genetic base that might explain Darwin’s mother’s and possibly his daughter Annie’s medical conditions. We have, of course, no medical evidence for Chargas’s Disease or for Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, so a physically based diagnosis remains speculation.

Bowlby makes a good argument for his psychosomatic diagnosis. We are the poorer in our understanding more of Bowlby’s diagnosis because he did not have the benefit of Adrian Desmond and James Moore’s Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution (2009).

In their carefully documented work, Desmond and Moore show how Darwin’s opposition to slavery was an important motivation in his developing the theory of natural selection. In Darwin’s theory all humans were descended in the same evolutionary line, not as the slave holders’ claimed, created as separate races. It would be interesting to know what Bowlby would have made of the fact that the forced separation of children from their mothers was among the cruelties of slavery that was often the subject of “the anti-slavery tracts that he and his family devoured and distributed” (p. xvii).

Bowlby’s analysis does not makes any claim to illuminating Darwin’s theory, or the changes in worldview ushered in by Darwin’s theory as, for example, Bowlby’s contemporary Erik Erikson did in his study of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation (1958), and of Mohandas Ghandi and the non-violent John Bowlby Charles Darwin 3 struggle for India’s independence (1969).

When I sat with a group of about 25 people for a conversation with Bowlby at a conference in London in 1988, I asked whether there were psychological factors that contributed to Darwin’s scientific work.

Bowlby understood my question and assured me that the theory was purely an intellectual accomplishment. He said that he saw no connection between grief and Darwin’s intellectual life.

When I read the biography shortly after it came out I was struck by how small a part the theory of childhood bereavement plays in the book.

Darwin as a Bereaved Parent

1 As he worked on the Darwin biography, Bowlby was recognized as a leading figure in the study of grief. It is surprising, then, that Bowlby gives little attention to Darwin as a bereaved parent, especially Darwin’s response to the death of his daughter Annie at age ten in 1851. After Bowlby’s book was published, Darwin’s great grandson, Randal Keynes (2002) demonstrated that Darwin’s grief for Annie’s death was a factor in the worldview embodied in his theory of natural selection and in the timing of the publication of his landmark book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859).

2 In this paper I make the case that although Darwin’s bereavement as a child might not impact his theory of evolution through natural selection, his grief over the death of his favorite daughter, Annie, did. One area of Darwin’s intellectual work can be traced directly to Annie’s death: his understanding about the nature of grief itself as a universal human experience. The other relationship of his grief to his intellectual work is more nuanced. I am not arguing that his grief motivated or formed the theory of natural selection, but I am arguing his grief was incorporated into the worldview the underlies the theory of natural selection, and the grief narrative Darwin constructed after Annie can be understood best through the lens of his theory.

Darwin’s life and work has been the focus of such large body of scholarship that it is sometimes referred to as the Darwin Industry. I hope in bringing scholarship on Darwin into bereavement studies, we can expand the reach of bereavement scholarship beyond the personal and psychological boundaries in which we now keep it.

I will also argue that we would expand our own understanding of grief if we incorporate Darwin’s into our discourse.

Randal Keynes 4

Annie’s Death

Keynes (2002) proves to be a good guide to Darwin’s inner life as he cared for and then grieved his daughter, at the same time as he was preparing Origin for publication. Annie fell ill in 1850. She died April 23, 1851 at Malvern in Worcestershire, a spa town that specialized in a water cure developed by Dr. James Gully. The treatment consisted of a series of cold and hot baths, sweats, packs, wraps, and walking as well as abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and rich foods. Darwin had taken the cure there and found it helpful. He and his wife Emma took Annie to Malvern, but Annie became too ill to risk transporting her home. Emma left because she was pregnant and needed to be home for proper care and delivery of the baby. Charles stayed with Annie. He took his turn with the servants and female family members at Annie’s bedside. He devoted many hours a day to her, especially reading aloud when she became too weak to read for herself. As he cared for her, Darwin’s scientific observations never stopped. He made detailed notes on her condition and symptoms. Some were obviously a search for patterns that might give some clue as to the nature of her illness. He described her each day on a scale from “well very,” to “poorly.” He recorded how she coughed, the number of cries, her pulse rate, and sleep patterns. Observation and note-taking were second nature to Charles, but in watching Annie as he did, in varying the treatment and in noting the results, he was using his practice as a naturalist and experimenter in a desperate effort to work out what was affecting her, to help Dr. Gully to find a pattern of treatment and cure (Keynes, pp. 174-5).

His sister-in-law, Fanny Hensleigh Wedgwood, who stayed with Annie and him at Malvern reported that after Annie died Darwin cried for hours. Annie was buried in Malvern. Darwin did not attend the funeral, but went home to be with Emma. Bowlby links his not attending Annie’s funeral with the fact that Darwin had not attended his father’s funeral.

A week after Annie died, Darwin wrote a ten page memorial to her (Darwin, 1851) In the memorial he continued the combination of loving care and naturalist observation he had shown during her illness.

I write these few pages, as I think in after years, if we live, the impressions now put down will recall more vividly her chief characteristics. From Anne Elizabeth Darwin 5

whatever point I look back at her, the main feature in her disposition which at once rises before me is her buoyant joyousness tempered by two other characteristics, namely her sensitiveness, which might easily have been overlooked by a stranger & her strong affection. Her joyousness and animal spirits radiated from her whole countenance & rendered every movement elastic & full of life & vigour. . . . . Her figure and appearance were clearly influenced by her character: her eyes sparkled brightly; she often smiled; her step was elastic and firm; she held herself upright, and often threw her head a little backwards as if she defied the world in her joyousness . . . . Occasionally she had a pretty coquettish manner towards me; the memory of which is charming: she often used exaggerated language, & when I quizzed her by exaggerating what she had said, how clearly can I now see the little toss of the head & exclamation of "Oh Papa what a shame of you".


He ends the memorial, We have lost the joy of the household, and the solace of our old age. She must have known how we loved her. Oh, that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly, we do still and shall ever love her dear joyous face! Blessings on her.

He recalled Annie’s death in 1876.

We have suffered only one very severe grief in the death of Annie at Malvern on April 24th, 1851,3when she was just over ten years old. She was a most sweet & affectionate child, & I feel sure would have grown into a delightful woman. But I need say nothing here of her character, as I wrote a short sketch of it shortly after her death. Tears still sometimes come into my eyes, when I think of her sweet ways (Recollections, 1876, p.75).

4 Darwin’s Understanding of Grief and Contemporary Theories

Although Keynes does not describe Darwin’s grief at Annie’s death using any contemporary bereavement studies, in effect he applies Neimeyer’s (2001, 2006) constructivist model of grieving in his recounting of how responded to Annie’s death. The deaths of significant people in our lives, Neimeyer says, challenge the meanings we make of our lives, the meanings we make of the lives of those who have died, and the meanings we make about the larger world and our place in that world. As we come to terms with significant deaths, we reconstruct our life narrative to include the reality of the death, the meaning of the life of the person who died, and the meaning of our life in a world that no longer includes the physical presence of that person.

In my long-term study of bereaved parents I found that each bereaved parent had to confront the large philosophical and theological questions of how the universe functions and what is our place or power in that universe (see Klass, 1999, Chapter 5).

For some parents those questions were answered by reaffirming the religious faith in which they were reared, or reaffirming the answers they had found earlier, often in their late adolescent years.

For other parents, the old answers were 6 inadequate and they searched for new answers. The level of sophistication of the meanings parents make ranges from simple literalism to, as we will see in Darwin’s case, well-grounded theological and philosophical reasoning. Darwin’s answers to both questions, Keynes shows, were incorporated into his theory of natural selection, a narrative that changed the cultural narrative about how the universe functions and about what place or power humans have in that universe.

Before we examine that largescale narrative, however, it will be helpful as bereavement scholars if we looked at a more personal part of his theory. We will show how after Annie died Darwin changed how he understood grief, both his own and grief as a universal human phenomen.


Grief Before She Died – Attachment Theory

Bowlby showed that the death of Darwin’s mother hung like a shadow over his adult life. Darwin, however, never made the connection. He said that his only memory of his mother was her death bed. His older sisters, who assumed responsibility for his care, did not talk about their mother. It would have been almost impossible for a child to construct a narrative of his mother’s death in an environment where neither the death, nor thoughts and feelings people had about the death could be discussed. If his grief was somatized as Bowlby says it was, it would not have been available to his conscious mind.

Darwin said of her death: My mother died in July 1817, when I was a little over eight years old, & it is odd that I can remember hardly anything about her except her death-bed, her black velvet gown, & her curiously constructed work-table. I believe that my forgetfulness is partly due to my sisters, owing to their great grief, never being able to speak about her or mention her name; & partly to her previous invalid state (Recollections, p. 1A).

Darwin, who thought keenly about whatever he observed, never seems to have given much focused attention to grief before Annie died. A letter to his second cousin, William Darwin Fox dated March 25, 1843, a year after Fox’s wife died (http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-665) shows that before Annie’s death Darwin understood grief much as most researchers and clinicians understand it today. 7

First, he thought grief is a temporary condition, that time usually heals, that is, a “state of intense emotionality” from which people “return to normal functioning and effectiveness” (Strobe, Gergen, Gergen, and Stroebe, 1992, p. 1206). I was very glad to get your letter some six weeks since, but grieved5 to the heart at its contents. Your’s does indeed seem at present a hopeless case— I should have thought that time inevitably would have done you more good, than it seems to have done.

Second, we see in this letter that before Annie died, Darwin assumed, as do the majority of contemporary bereavement scholars, that the response to death can best be understood in terms of the attachment between the bereaved and the person who died. Darwin uses the term “strong affections” to describe what today we would call attachments. I had hoped (for experience I have none) that the mind would have refused to dwell so long & so intently on any object, although the most cherished one— Strong affections, have always appeared to me, the most noble part of a man’s character & the absence of them an irreparable failure.

As he writes to Fox, however, Darwin says that he has never really experienced a significant death. Thus, he said that, while he can sympathize with Fox, he really cannot understand Fox’s grief. But I am writing away without really being able to put myself in your position—you have my sincerest sympathy & respect in your sorrow—I can only hope that the intensity of your grief may shorten (however little you may think it possible) their duration.


Grief After She Died -- depression

After Annie’s death Darwin changed. He understood grief differently than most contemporary bereavement researchers do. He no longer thought grief was a temporary condition that would heal with time. Grief, as he now understood it, was a permanent condition. His friend and academic colleague Joseph Hooker wrote a sympathy letter in 1877 after Darwin’s brother Erasmus died. Hooker said that perhaps it was harder to have an older person die because with an older person we know better the value of what we have lost. Darwin’s reply ended with, “I cannot quite agree with you about the death of the old and young. Death in the latter case, when there is a bright future ahead, causes grief never to be wholly obliterated.” (Francis Darwin, 1887, p. 228).6

Grief for Darwin, then, was not just a matter of the strong affections between the bereaved and the dead person, that is, attachment theory. It was also continuing sadness, which has similar symptoms to what we now call depression (see Horwitz & Wakefield, 2007).

I have noted elsewhere that continuing sorrow that cannot be understood within attachment theory is a common feature of the reconstructed narratives that bereaved parents carry for the rest of their lives (Klass, 1999, Klass, 2013a).

Darwin’s only effort to incorporate grief into his theoretical work is in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) in which he describes postureal and especially facial muscle movements that are universal in humans and also in many animal species. That book is really not useful in bereavement studies, because, I think, the purpose of Expression is not to understand emotions, or to show 8 how emotions evolved. Expression bolsters his argument for a single species of human, not multiple species(see Desmond and Moore, 2009). Expression is, thus a companion volume to The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871).

The universality of expressions of grief, like the expressions of other emotions support the argument that there is only one species of human. I have endeavoured to show in considerable detail that all the chief expressions exhibited by man are the same throughout the world. This fact is interesting, as it affords a new argument in favour of the several races being descended from a single parent-stock, which must have been almost completely human in structure, and to a large extent in mind, before the period at which the races diverged from each other (Expression, pp. 359- 360).

The opening sentences of Chapter 7, “Low Spirits, Anxiety, Grief, Dejection, Despair” in Expression, however, is of a very different tone. It seems autobiographical. He referes to his grief as well as to his chronic illness. After the mind has suffered from an acute paroxysm of grief, and the cause still continues, we fall into a state of low spirits; or we may be utterly cast down and dejected. Prolonged bodily pain, if not amounting to an agony, generally leads to the same state of mind. If we expect to suffer, we are anxious; if we have no hope of relief, we despair (p.176). The clause in the first sentence “the cause still continues,” is, of course, a reference to the distinction made in medical diagnosis until very recently between sadness with cause and sadness without cause. Sadness without cause is depression (Horwitz & Wakefield, 2007). Grief was sadness with cause. For Darwin, the cause continued, even though as he described in Expression, the “acute paroxysm” was past.

In a footnote Francis Darwin (1887) quotes an 1863 letter Darwin wrote to a friend whose child had just died. How well I remember your feeling, when we lost Annie. It was my greatest comfort that I had never spoken a harsh word to her. Your grief has made me shed a few tears over our poor darling; but believe me that these tears have lost that unutterable bitterness of former days (Volume 3, p.39).

As he said in his 1876 Recollections, that we quoted above, “Tears still sometimes come into my eyes, when I think of her sweet ways.”

Darwin said as he grew into later middle age, he could still be warm and friendly to other people, but he could no longer be deeply attached to them. He ascribed the change to his illness. Whilst I was young & strong I was capable of very warm attachments, but of late years, though I still have very friendly feelings towards many persons, I have lost the power of becoming deeply attached to anyone, not even so deeply to my good & dear friends Hooker & Huxley, as I should formerly have been. As far as I can judge this grievous loss of feeling has gradually crept over me, from the expectation of much distress afterwards from exhaustion having become firmly associated in my mind with seeing & talking with anyone for an hour, except my wife & children (Recollections, pp. 80-81). 9

We also see a change in his tolerance for attending funerals. Bowlby noted that Darwin did not attend Annie’s funeral, just as he had not attended his father’s funeral. It appears, however, that in his narrative reconstruction after Annie’s death, he no longer needed to avoid important funerals.

Darwin was not present when the theory of evolution through natural selection was first presented as a joint paper with Alfred Russell Wallace. His last child was Charles Waring Darwin, who probably had Downs syndrome, was born in 1856 and died of scarlet fever at 18 months.

The day the theory of natural selection was introduced to the public for the first time at the Linnean Society in London, he did not attend the meeting.

Rather, that day he followed his son’s “small coffin to the village churchyard and watched as it was laid in the family tomb” (Keynes, p. 248).

We can ask, but we cannot know what might have been his thoughts that day about his own grief or about the nature of the world in which children die. What memories of Annie might he have had during the funeral of the unfit child on the same day he finally unveiled his survival of the fittest theory that he was fully aware would change the way future generations would think about how the natural world functions, and about humans’ place in it. 7


Contemporary Theory and Darwin’s Description of grief

As I tried to understand the pain and the trajectories of resolution in my study of bereaved parents (1988, 1999) it became clear that their sorrow has two elements: first yearning and second a continuing sense of sadness and emptiness.

First, then, we find them yearning for their dead child whose physical presence has been taken from them. That aspect of sorrow is best understood by Bowlby’s attachment theory. We saw that aspect in Darwin’s letter to Fox.

The second element, that Darwin sees after Annie died, is a deep and abiding sense of sadness, emptiness, what the existential philosophers call nothingness and what psychiatrists call depression is common in short and long-term bereavement.

It is, as Darwin notes, a sadness with cause. The cause continues. Bereaved parents do not get over their grief, they learn to live in the world that includes their child’s death. As many parents have explained to me, being a bereaved parent is a permanent condition. When a child dies, parents now know death in a way many had not known it before. A world that includes the death of a child is less bright, less hopeful, less kind than it was before the child died. The continuing sorrow, then, is not a psychological state. It is a realistic assessment of how the universe functions and a realistic assessment of the parent’s place and power in the universe. That is not to say that the parents themselves are less hopeful or kind. Indeed, as I have noted elsewhere, their children represented the parents’ best selves, and after their children die, many find meaning in living out that best self they knew in their Emma and Charles Waring Darwin 10 children.

But the world has changed for the worse, and parents change the way they live in the changed world.

I have argued (2013a), that contemporary bereavement research has a bias toward optimism. Within the bias, grief’s continuing sorrow has been largely regarded as problematic in contemporary theories of bereavement. Indeed, because the distinction between sadness with cause or without cause has been diminished, the thoughts and feelings in grief that are so similar to psychiatric depression have been the diagnostic criteria for pathological grief beginning in mid-twentieth century and codified in the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel(DSM-5). Darwin’s understanding of grief is at odds, then, with most contemporary theories of grief. We could say that from our present theories, Darwin suffers from pathological grief. On the other hand, my study of bereaved parents indicates that rather than call Darwin’s grief pathological, we should use Darwin’s observations of his own grief to help us correct the inadequacies in our present understandings.

I have suggested (2013a, 2013b) that we should revise our theories to include grief’s long-term depression, but at this point there is little energy in bereavement scholarship to do so. We need not answer here, however, whether contemporary diagnoses of pathology in grief are correct or whether Darwin’s grief is pathological. It is long past time when our settling on a diagnosis could be helpful to him or to us. Keynes’ point is that in his grief after Annie’s death, Darwin created the narrative which contained the worldview that underlies the theory of natural selection in Origin.

I hope that by looking at Darwin’s changed worldview from the perspective of Neimeyer’s constructivist theory of grief we can gain a bit more insight into Darwin’s world as he wrote Origin.



Keynes makes the case that Darwin’s grief after Annie’s death plays a large role in the sober stoicism in Origin. In the survival of the fittest death plays an integral role in the system. Insects develop toward camouflage over generations because more camouflaged individuals are less likely to be eaten and therefore more likely to pass on their genetic mutations to more offspring.

Darwin understood the religious and philosophical implications of natural selection.

Well before Annie’s death, at the same time he was working out the theory of natural selection he was also coming to a new philosophical and theological worldview. He went on the Beagle after he dropped out of the study of medicine partly because he was so upset by the suffering he saw when surgeons operated without anesthesia.

He enrolled in Christ’s College in Cambridge with the idea of becoming a country parson. During that time, he said,

Charles and William Darwin 11

I did not then in the least doubt the strict & literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted. It never struck me how illogical it was to say that I believed in what I could not understand & what is in fact unintelligible (Recollections, p. 26).

He read William Paley’s theology in which the whole natural world is evidence of God as designer. Natural theology was a widely held view among educated classes.

We can see it in Jefferson citing “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God” in the Declaration of Independence As he worked on his theory in 1838-9 soon after his return from his years on the Beagle, Darwin was also working out difficult theological questions.

During these two years I was led to think much about religion Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, & I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality (Recollections, pp.61-62).


The thought that humans are a species of animal, Keynes says, drew him at once to metaphysics as it put into question the idea that God governed events in human lives according to a particular Providence or special moral purpose for each person, and that individuals’ suffering had a moral meaning for them or people close to them (p. 34).

From his later account, it appears that Darwin was as systematic in his examination of the Biblical accounts and Christian doctrines as he was in his observations of the natural world.

His description many years later is both coherent and vehement.

But I had gradually come, by this time, (i.e. 1836 to 1839) to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, &c., &c., & from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian. The question then continually rose before my mind & would not be banished, — is it credible that if God were now to make a revelation to the Hindoos, would he permit it to be connected with the belief in Vishnu, Siva, &c., as Christianity is connected with the Old Testament. This appeared to me utterly incredible. By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, — that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become, — that the men at that time were ignorant & credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, — that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, — that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses; — by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation (Recollections, pp. 62-63).


12 Darwin read widely. He incorporated Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature that linked the mental powers of humans and animals. He was especially taken with the poetry of Wordsworth in which God is not a singular being, but rather that religious life is based in the human experience of awe and wonder in moments of experiencing nature. Thus, Darwin was completely aware of the significance of his theory, but he kept these thoughts to himself. He did not even share them with his family or with his intimate scientific colleagues. Because they were completely private thoughts, he seems to have been able to compartmentalize his theology from his interpersonal relationships.


“Disbelief,” he said, “crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress” (Recollections, p. 64).


Darwin method of working compartmentalized the theological thoughts from the front of his mind. One of the images that we find over and over in his life is his spending long periods attending to minute details as he took notes on barnacles, pigeons, climbing plants, and countless other natural phenomena. In his barnacle studies, each specimen is examined to describe individual differences. Such detailed mental activity could completely fill his mind for hours, and that part of his mind was separated from his theological questioning. This intense focused activity was also one of his strategies for dealing with his recurring ill health. His son Leonard (1927) recalled that My elder brother one day asked my father whether he could not take some rest away from home in order to regain his strength. To this my father replied that the truth was that he was never quite comfortable except when utterly absorbed in his writing. He evidently dreaded idleness as robbing him of his one anodyne, work. This ability to compartmentalize is probably the reason the thoughts caused him “no distress.”

While he cared for Annie at Malvern, Darwin read Francis William Newman’s new book about his change from evangelical Protestantism to agnostic skepticism (1850/1874).


Newman was the younger brother of John Henry Newman, whose theological journey would lead him from Protestantism to being named a Roman Catholic cardinal. Francis Newman’s journey was the mirror opposite of his brother’s – from the certainty of evangelical Protestantism to the systematic critical analysis of Christian doctrines and scriptures. Newman was a friend of Darwin’s sister-in-law Fanny, who was with him in Malvern to help with Annie’s care. Newman’s book covers arguments similar to those Darwin made in the long passage from Recollections (pp. 62-63) that we quoted above.


On March 16, 1851, on his list of books to read Darwin wrote “excellent” after the name of Newman’s book. That was little over a month before Annie died, but during the time Darwin was still hoping she would recover (Darwin, 1838-1851p. 24r).


Newman makes the same points about the relations of death to religious history as Darwin did Francis William Newman 13


Geologists assured us, that death went on in the animal creation many ages before the existence of man. The rocks formed of the shells of animals testify that death is a phenomenon thousands of thousand years old: to refer the death of animals to the sin of Adam and Eve is evidently impossible (Ch. 4).


Thus only a few weeks before Annie died, Darwin read a book that systematically covered the intellectual doubts and conclusions that Darwin had in private over the previous two decades.8


Darwin’s thoughts about the Old Testament as false geological history, about biblical miracles as opposed to the fixed laws of nature, about Christianity as not more true than Hinduism, had an objective character. Outwardly he lived as a conventional liberal Christian. The ideas were intellectual, not existential. Annie’s death would change that. He said, “I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life” (Recollections, p. 65).


Although Darwin does not say so, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the “later period” began with Annie dying.


We can ask what thoughts came in his grief while he kept watch at his daughters deathbed after he had read about Newman’s theological changes, We cannot know how long Darwin could have kept his new scientific and philosophical thoughts to himself. He did so for twenty years between his telling Emma about his theory of natural selection and its first paper. But academic politics forced his hand. Natural selection was, in retrospect, an obvious solution to the question of what drove evolution.


Alfred Russell Wallace had come to the same conclusions as Darwin. When Wallace sent his essay Darwin, Darwin realized that if he delayed much longer, he would miss getting credit for the theory. Wallace did not have family wealth to support him in his scientific work as did Darwin and most other scientists of the day. Wallace earned a living largely by selling the specimens he collected in his travels. He did not have the body of evidence Darwin had amassed. Later Darwin used his influence to secure a Wallace pension on which he could live out his days. Wallace was one of the pall bearers at Darwin’s funeral. So Darwin went cautiously public, first within a small circle of confidants, and then in the paper that he co-authored with Wallace that was presented at the Linnean Society. As we noted above, Darwin was at his son’s funeral and did not attend the meeting.

Thus, practical academic politics combined with the stoic narrative that solidified in his grief over Annie’s death underlay Darwin’s decision to finally publish his theory of natural selection. In his grief after Annie’s death, then, we find the confluence of the intellectual and the personal about which I asked Bowlby in 1988. As he set himself the task putting his thesis of natural selection into the form in which he would publish, he did so as he was coming to terms with the meaning he made of his beloved daughter’s life and death, and the meaning he made of his own grief at her death. His ongoing sadness with cause made its way into the book that would signal a turning point in science, and in the culture. Keynes says that as he was formulating his theory of natural selection that Darwin understood in an abstract way that nature was neutral about the fates of individuals. After Annie’s death it was no longer abstract. “There was a darkness in the wording of some passages, and others echoed his feelings about human loss” (p. 14 243). How, he wondered, could the female spider killing and eating the male after mating be in the service of the species. To be sure the males body provided nourishment to the now pregnant female, but in that explanation, “we are reduced to the grossest utilitarianism compatible, it must be confessed with the theory of natural selection” (quoted in Keynes, p. 244). Did Annie’s death have no meaning beyond that? If so, then the deep sorrow he experienced when he thought of her had no consolation. As he wrote Origin, Darwin was aware that his dark worldview was too pessimistic for most of his readers. He knew he was writing to the culture, not simply to the small circle of scientists.


In place of the providential care of a creator God, he substitutes a kind of nature mysticism. What he wrote could have been written by John Muir or today by those who find “spirituality” in Nature (see Bregman, 2013) : It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. He softens the harsh reality of everyday life with the idea that death enables higher forms to develop. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms, or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautifully and most wonderfully have been and are being evolved (Origin, p.491).


But that was the best he could do for public consumption. In his heart it was darker. Neither uncamouflaged moths nor frail human children live on in the care of a benevolent God after death. The solace we find in Darwin is the Stoic’s solace (see Klass, 2013b). He could remove himself from the present, beholding the infinite complexity of the barnacles, finch beaks, and other living creatures that he could Charles Darwin 15 describe in such detail. He could find a kind of perfection in the nearly mathematical elegance of his theory of how the whole system works over time. And in one way he could feel a sense of belonging in the knowledge that humans are fully integrated into the evolutionary process. But it is doubtful that he could use that narrative to make sense of Annie’s death.


Darwin had rejected God’s solace-giving eternal time, but the geologic time in which he set human life could be of no comfort to a father as lovingly bonded in human time as was Darwin to Annie.


Grief in Charles and Emma’s marriage

The grief over the death of a child presents severe challenges in the parents’ marriage. One of the issues that often comes into the discussions when bereaved parents gather is that the father and the mother may grief differently. Some professional literature ascribes the problem to gender differences in grieving styles, but that is probably too simple. One couple told me that they had talked about gender differences and decided that while men may be from Mars and women from Venus, their daughter’s death had put them both into outer space.

Charles and Emma’s marriage was by the standards of their day, and by the standards of ours, a strong one. Indeed, it can be held up as an example of a 19th century marriage that meets the egalitarian criteria the women’s movement brought to the mid 20th century. A difficulty Annie’s death brought to her parents’ marriage were grounded in an issue that had been in their relationship from its beginning.


Soon after he returned from the Beagle voyage Charles began courting his cousin Emma Wedgwood, whom he had known for most of his life. Both were grandchildren of Josiah Wedgwood, whose ceramics are still admired. Charles’ mother was Wedgwood’s daughter Susannah. Emma’s father was Susannah’s brother Josiah Wedgwood II. Emma was intelligent and educated. She had briefly studied piano with Frederic Chopin. She was a well-read and devout Unitarian Christian.

They were married January 29, 1839 when Emma was 30 and Charles was 29. Charles confided in Emma that he had doubts about religion, and that he thought he had solved the problem of evolution with the theory of natural selection.

He would later say that telling her these things made him feel like he was confessing a murder.

Emma, like all the Wedgewood women had been brought up to think for herself. She wrote a long letter to him responding on both an emotional and intellectual level.

She said that the honest and sincere search for the truth is good, but she was somewhat uncomfortable with his single-minded reliance on his scientific findings.

Emma Wedgewood Darwin 16

The state of mind that I wish to preserve with respect to you, is to feel that while you are acting conscientiously & sincerely wishing & trying to learn the truth, you cannot be wrong, but there are some reasons that force themselves upon me & prevent my being always able to give myself this comfort. She said gently, but firmly that his reliance on the rational methods of science might close him off to truths that come in more intuitive ways. Your mind & time are full of the most interesting subjects & thoughts of the most absorbing kind, viz following up yr own discoveries — but which make it very difficult for you to avoid casting out as interruptions other sorts of thoughts which have no relation to what you are pursuing or to make it possible for to be able to give your whole attention to both sides of the question. (Words crossed out in the hand-written MS.)


Science and religion were not incompatible for Emma, they were just two different ways of knowing. The scientific method of only believing what has been proven might have, she worried, closed Charles’s mind to those truths that cannot be scientifically proven.

May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way, & which if true are likely to be above our comprehension.

Emma cared deeply for Charles, but she would not be a submissive wife. She did not like the conversation between the two to be one side against the other. But she did not agree with his privileging scientific epistemology.

Fortunately, they could agree on ethics and morality, on the right way to act.

I do not know whether this is arguing as if one side were true & the other false, which I meant to avoid, but I think not. I do not quite agree with you in what you once said — that luckily there were no doubts as to how one ought to act. . . . But I dare say you meant in actions which concern others & then I agree with you almost if not quite.

While she asks him to be patient with her, she is firm that her thoughts and concerns about the intellectual matters at hand and about their relationship should be his concerns as well as hers.

I know you will have patience, with your own dear wife. Don't think that it is not my affair & that it does not much signify to me. Every thing that concerns you concerns me & I should be most unhappy if I thought we did not belong to each other forever.

Between the lines in Recollections Charles made a note about Emma’s letter. He wrote,

“her beautiful letter to myself preserved, shortly after our marriage.”

He read the letter several times over the years. At the bottom of the letter, we do not know when, he wrote in ink:


When I am dead, know that many times, I have kissed & cryed over this. C. D. (Darwin Online, CUL-DAR210.8.14)


The difference about whether intuitive religious thoughts were as valid as ideas based in the scientific method continued through their long marriage. But they 17 agreed, as Emma noted in her letter in “how one ought to act.”

Both believed firmly in the reform ideas, especially anti-slavery, that were deeply ingrained in the Wedgwood family. Emma, with other Wedgwood women, had helped launch the North Staffordshire Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in 1828 (Desmond and Moore, 2009, p. 61).

Charles brought Emma a the latest issue of the Westminster Review that featured the story of the mob breaking up the press and murdering the American abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy, in Alton, Illinois (Desmond and Moore, 2009, p. 136- 137). Charles understood that his theory of showed that all humans were of one species and not separate species as the slave holders claimed. After Origin was published he commented on how opposition to his scientific theory came from people who supported slavery both in England and especially in America.

This was, then, a marriage that began and remained based both on mutual respect and on a deep affection between them, but the difference about singleminded reliance on rational scientific thinking was always there.

Charles died in 1882; Emma survived him by fourteen years. Emma’s problem at Charles’s rejection of intuitive truths continued after his death.

As their son Francis was editing Recollections into the official autobiography. Emma wrote Francis a letter asking him to delete a sentence both because it was still “painful” to her, but also because she feared that readers might interpret the sentence to mean Charles believed worse than he did.

There is one sentence in the Autobiography which I very much wish to omit, no doubt partly because your father's opinion that all morality has grown up by evolution is painful to me; but also because where this sentence comes in, it gives one a sort of shock — and would give an opening to say, however unjustly, that he considered all spiritual beliefs no higher than hereditary aversions or likings, such as the fear of monkeys towards snakes (Recollections, pp. 73B-73C).

Well after Origin had been published, and the scientific acclaim was pouring in, Charles said of Emma

I marvel at my good fortune that she, so infinitely my superior in every single moral quality, consented to be my wife. She has been my wise adviser & cheerful comforter throughout life, which without her would have been during a very long period a miserable one from ill-health. She has earned the love & admiration of every soul near her(Recollections, p. 74). Annie’s death did not create a gap between Emma and Charles. Rather it became a part of the strong bonds between them. In contemporary parlance we would say that their grief narratives were different, but that does not mean that they were not deeply aware of the other, and of their shared loss. In the letter telling of Annie’s death Charles strongly expressed his bond to her. He wrote,

“We must be more and more to each other, my dear wife.”

Emma replied in kind, Francis Darwin 18

You must remember that you are my prime treasure (and always have been).My only hope of consolation is to have you safe home and weep together. I feel so full of fears about you. They are not reasonable fears: but my power of hoping seems gone. . . .You do give me the only comfort I can take, in thinking of her happy, innocent life. . . We shall be much less miserable together” (Litchfield, 1904, pp. 145-147).

We saw above that after Annie’s death Charles felt a deep sadness for the rest of his life. Their daughter Henrietta Litchfield says that the continued sorrow over Annie’s death was shared.

It may almost be said that my mother never really recovered from this grief. She very rarely spoke of Annie, but when she did the sense of loss was always there unhealed. My father could not bear to reopen his sorrow, and he never, to my knowledge, spoke of her. (1904), pp. 147).


Bereaved parents have often told me that they have a memory box stored away. It contains items that express the continuing bond the bereaved maintain with the dead, things, they say, that they cannot throw or give away. Henrietta says,

After my mother's death a little packet of memorials of Annie was found, carefully treasured for the 45 years she outlived her child. A half-finished piece of woolwork, a child's desk, a little paper of texts in a child's hand, and two ornamental pocket-books, which came back to me with strange vividness since I saw and admired them in Annie's possession (1904, pp,149- 150).9


Whatever his private thoughts before Annie died, Darwin maintained a public façade of conventional religiosity. After she died, however, despite his respect Henrietta Litchfield Emma and Charles Darwin 19 and affection for Emma, he could no longer maintain the façade. He “set the Christian faith firmly behind him.”


He stopped attending church services. “He would walk the family to the church door, but then left them to enter on their own and stood talking with the village constable or walked along the lanes around the parish” (Keynes, p. 343).


Natural selection was true. The existence of his wife’s God was not.

Still, Emma and Charles remained committed to each other. Emma might believe that Annie was in heaven, but neither had a way of dealing with the continuing sadness over her death. They maintained the family pattern Darwin had learned from his sisters about his mother’s death. Annie’s name was not spoken. Even though we find letters from Darwin to male friends, especially Joseph Hooker, in which he shared his thoughts and feelings about Annie, within the family she was a forbidden topic. His daughter Henrietta remembered,

“He never spoke to us of her for years, hardly twice in my life, & I shd never have ventured to say her name to him” (Litchfield, n.d., p.22).



Being a bereaved parent is a permanent condition. Bereaved parents do not “get over” the death of their child because, as many parents have explained to me, they don’t stop loving their child. But that does not mean that they remain as they were in the first few years after the death. As Darwin wrote to a newly bereaved parent twelve years after Annie died,

“Your grief has made me shed a few tears over our poor darling; but believe me that these tears have lost that unutterable bitterness of former days” (Francis Darwin, 1887, p.39).

As the years pass, the death takes its place within the their life course – the birth of subsequent children, the successes and failures in their work life, divorces or adjustments in their marriages, grandchildren, and then the many changes that old age brings. The death also takes its place within the growth that the death of a child can occasion, however, as Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi who study post-traumatic growth in bereaved people, note,

“we are finding that continuing personal distress and growth often coexist” (2004, p.2).

After she died, Darwin’s inconsolable sorrow over Annie coexisted with other parts of his multifaceted life. As I noted, Darwin seems to have been able to compartmentalize well. He kept his continuing sorrow in its own psychic space. He had his scientific work that he knew was important. He had a large extended family to which he felt he belonged and the household at Downe where, despite his recurring illness, he enjoyed his other children and his gardens. He had a very large circle of colleagues with whom he exchanged letters and occasional conversations. Within that circle of colleagues, he had a small set of friends, especially Joseph Hooker, to whom he could confide his ongoing thoughts and feelings about Annie. When he first told Emma about his theory of natural selection, he said it felt like he was confessing a murder. Indeed, as it has so proven. It was a murder, a killing of an old way of understanding how the universe functions and an old understanding humans’ place within that universe. The immediate enthusiastic reception of the theory was, however, not about what he had taken away. Conservatives are still trying to deal with that.

Rather the reception was to what he 20 had given, a whole new scientific paradigm.

While it might be ironic that the paradigm he gave us is one that does not provide solace in grief like Darwin’s for Annie, he never seemed to sense the irony. His life’s work was validated. In 1851 when Annie died he was already well-known among the leading scientists. He became one of the giants. The voyage of the Beagle took on the mythic status that it retains to this day.

When he wrote the 1876 Recollections, his sorrow over Annie’s death was still there, but he could say that it was the only “very severe grief” he had suffered (p.75).



Bowlby, J. (1991). Charles Darwin: A new life. New York: Norton.


Bregman, L. (2013). The Ecology of Spirituality: Meanings, Virtues, and Practices in a Post-Religious Age. Waco TX: Baylor University Press.


Colp, R. (1977) To Be an Invalid: The Illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Also see: NY review of books Darwin’s Complaint October 27, 1977 Ralph Colp Jr., reply by W.W. Bartley IIIIn response to:What Was Wrong With Westminster Abbey 21 Darwin? from the September 15, 1977 issue reply to Martley October 27, 1977 • Volume 24, Number 17


Colp, R. (2008). Darwin’s illness. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.


Darwin, C. (1851). Our poor child Annie. [Darwin's reminiscence of Anne Elizabeth Darwin] (March 3,1851). CUL-DAR210.13.40 Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray, Fifth thousand. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Darwin, C. (1872). The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. New York: D. Appleton and Company. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Darwin, C. (1876) Darwin, C. R. 'Recollections of the development of my mind & character' [Autobiography [1876-4.1882] CUL-DAR26.1-121 Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Darwin, C. (1871). The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. London, John Murray. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Darwin, C. (1843) letter to William Darwin Fox March 25, 1843 (http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-665.)


Darwin, F. (Ed.). 1887. The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Vol. 1. London: John Murray. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/) Darwin, L. (1929). Memories of Down House. The Nineteenth Century 106:118-123. (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Desmond, A. & Moore, J. (2009). Darwin’s sacred cause: How a hatred of slavery shaped Darwin’s views on human evolution (2009, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).


Erikson, E. (1958) Young Man Luther. A Study in Psychoanalysis and History. New York: W.W. Norton.


Erikson,E. (1969). Gandhi's Truth: On the Origin of Militant Nonviolence. New York: W.W. Norton.


Freud, E.L. (Ed.). (1960). Sigmund Freud, Briefe 1873-1939. Frankfort am Main: Fischer Verlag. 22


Horwitz, A. V. & Wakefield, J. C. (2007). The loss of sadness: How psychiatry transformed normal sorrow into depressive disorder. New York, Oxford University Press.


Keynes, R. (2001). Annie's box: Charles Darwin, his daughter and human evolution. London: Fourth Estate Ltd Published in North America as: (2002). Darwin, his daughter and human evolution. New York: Riverhead


Klass, D. (2013). Sorrow and solace: Neglected areas in bereavement research. Death Studies. In press.


Klass, D. (2013b) Grief, consolation, and religions: A conceptual framework. Omega, Journal of Death and Dying, In press.


Klass, D. (1999). The Spiritual Lives of Bereaved Parents, Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel.


Klass, D. (1988).Parental grief: Solace and resolution, New York: Springer Publishing Company.


Litchfield, H. (Ed.). 1904. Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin. A century of family letters. Cambridge: University Press, Volume 2. (Darwin Online, http://darwinonline.org.uk/)


Litchfield, H. (no date) 'Sketches for a biography'. CUL-DAR262.23.1 (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)


Neimeyer, R. A. (Ed.). (2001). Meaning reconstruction and the experience of loss. Washington DC. American Psychological Association.


Neimeyer, R. A. (2006). Complicated grief and the reconstruction of meaning: Conceptual and empirical contributions to a cognitive-constructivist model. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13, 141-145.


Newman, F. W. (1850/1874). Phases of Faith - or – Passages from the History of My Creed http://www.fullbooks.com/Phases-of-Faith.html. (See end note for comparison of 1850 and 1874 editions).


Newman, F. W. (1847). A history of the Hebrew Monarchy, from the administration of Samuel to the Babylonish captivity. London: John Chapman (hathitrust.org)


Newman, F. W. (1849). The soul, her sorrows and her aspirations. An essay towards the natural history of the soul as the true basis of theology. London. John Chapman. http://www.archive.org/stream/soulhersorrowsa00newmgoog#page/n4/mode/2 up. 23


Stroebe, M., Gergen, M. M., Gergen, K. J., & Stroebe, W. (1992). Broken hearts or broken bonds: Love and death in historical perspective. American Psychologist, 47(10), 1205-1212.


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van Wyhe, J. (Ed.).(2002). The complete work of Charles Darwin online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?pageseq=1&itemID=CULDAR210.8.14&viewtype=text) Endnotes 1 A note on sources: Beginning in October, 2006 a huge amount material, including all Darwin’s published work, published work about Darwin by family members, as well as unpublished work and letters by Darwin, his family, and others was put on the Internet (http://darwin-online.org.uk). Prior to being available online, beginning in 1942, the papers were in boxes at the Cambridge University library where they were brought to scholars who requested them. Scholars working before 2006 often note that they had access to all the letters and papers. That appears to be code for their having been granted access to the collection at Cambridge. Those scholars were guided through the collection by the “Gorringes Catalogue” dated 1932, named for Bernard Darwin’s house where most of the collection was stored in the basement after Bernard inherited them from his father Francis who had used them to write the official biography (1887). Although I make no claim to a professional historian’s skills, having all the materials online, with new transcriptions of hand-written manuscripts, and with a good search engine on the website has allowed me to access scarce publications and original manuscripts in a way that would have not been possible a decade ago. 2 In his note before the transcript of Darwin’s memorial of Annie, John van Wyhe argues against Keynes’ thesis. Although it is often repeated that Annie's death destroyed the remnants of Darwin's belief in Christianity, no clear evidence has been presented to support this interpretation. Some historians believe, e.g. Jon Hodge, that the death of Darwin's freethinking father in 1848 is more likely. According to Darwin's Autobiography . . . he gradually came to give up belief in Christianity because he found it was not supported by evidence and that 'The rate was so slow that I felt no distress'. The death of Annie, on the other hand, was arguably the most distressing event in Darwin's life. JvW I think van Wyhe makes some fundamental hermeneutical mistakes. Van Wyhe’s logic (that because Annie’s death was distressing, and Darwin said the theological change was not distressing, therefore Annie’s death did not affect the theological change) does not hold. Because Darwin says he felt no distress does not make it so. I will show that Darwin was very good at compartmentalizing parts of his mental life 24 from other parts. Further, as I will show, Annie’s death occasioned some behavioral changes that indicate the changed worldview, that is the changed theology. 3 For whatever reason, Darwin here remembered the date as April 24. She died on the 23rd. 4 In this paper the original hand-written manuscript, Recollections of the development of my mind & character, written in 1876, and transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker in 2009, has been a good source for Darwin’s account of his inner life. Darwin’s son Francis says the Recollections were “written for his children,—and written without any thought that they would ever be published.” In Francis’s 1887 edited work, The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter (available at Darwin Online) Recollections was Chapter Two. Some passages were problematic for Emma Darwin, Charles’s wife. Francis heeded his mother’s concerns. He says, It will easily be understood that, in a narrative of a personal and intimate kind written for his wife and children, passages should occur which must here be omitted; and I have not thought it necessary to indicate where such omissions are made (p. 26) Darwin’s granddaughter Nora Barlow restored the omissions in her 1958 edited book The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882. With the original omissions restored. Edited and with appendix and notes by his grand-daughter. Bowlby used this version. As I tried to understand Darwin as a bereaved parent, I found that Rookmaaker’s transcription of Recollections on the screen next to the original in Darwin’s own hand gave me a sense of intimacy that I did not feel so strongly when I read the Barlow text. I therefore chose to quote Rookmaaker’s transcription. 5 In Darwin’s time the word grief had not become the specialized word it is now. The word was used to describe the response to death, but it also described more general saddness. Thus in passages such as this one, Darwin is not grieving for Fox’s wife, rather he is saying that he feels badly for Fox’s condition. 6 Freud made a similar observation about his own ongoing grief over his daughter Sophie. Nine years after Sophie died, on what would have been her thirty-sixth birthday, he wrote to Ludwig Binswanger whose child had just died. One knows that the acute grief after such a lose will lapse, but one will remain unconsoled, never find a substitute. (Man weiβ, daβ die akute Trauer nach einem solchen Verlust ablaufen wird, aber man wird ungetröstet bleiben, nie einen Ersatz finden (April 12, 1929, E.L Freud, p. 383). 7 Henrietta Litchfield, Charles and Emma’s daughter, focused on her mother in her account written many years later. She does not describe her father’s response. This had been a suffering year for my mother. Her last child, Charles Waring Darwin, was born on December 6th, 1856. I remember very well the weary months she passed, and reading aloud to her sometimes to help her bear her discomforts. The 25 poor little baby was born without its full share of intelligence. Both my father and mother were infinitely tender towards him, but, when he died in the summer of 1858, after her first sorrow she could only feel thankful. He had never learnt to walk or talk (1904, Vol. 2, p. 178). It is likely, although we cannot know with certainty, that Charles shared his Emma’s sense of relief when Charles Waring died. 8 Darwin read the original 1850 edition of Phases of Faith, that does not seem to be availiable on line. I was able to examine the 1850 edition closely in the library, but the book’s condition was in too poor to check it out, or to copy it. The following information makes the online text usable to scholars for whom the 1850 text is unavailable or who are, like me, fearful of causing further damage by fully opening pages of deteriorating books. Chapters 1-6 are the same as in the 1874 edition that is online. Chapter 8 “On Bigotry and Progress” in the 1874 edition is the Conclusion in the 1850. Chapters 7 and 9 as well as both appendices in the 1874 edition are not in the 1850 edition. Newman also added a few more footnotes to the 1874 edition, seemingly to answer his critics as he did in the chapters and appendices he added. Darwin might have also read Newman’s1849 book The soul, her sorrows and her aspirations, An essay towards the natural history of the soul as the true basis of theology, that deals with the idea of a personal God. Darwin has that book on the same reading list as Newman’s 1850 Phases of faith. Fanny Hensleigh Wedgwood was at Malvern. As Newman’s friend, she would have been a strong advocate for both books. Desmond and Moore, in my opinion, take an unfairly dismissive tone on Newman that is not characteristic of most of their book. They describe him as a “campaigner on women’s rights, republicanism, vegetarianism (and anti everything else – slavery, animal cruelty, vivisection)” (p. 331). Darwin appears to have read Newman’s 1847 study of the Old Testament monarchy. In that book Newman introduced the German critical method to English biblical studies. That critical method remains a basic assumption in serious academic study of Jewish and Christian scripture. Religious leaders who still reject the theory of evolution are very likely to as adamantly reject the historical/critical approach to the Bible that Newman introduced into English-speaking scholarship. 9 Henrietta apparently put Emma’s memory box in a chest of drawers. Randal Keynes rediscovered it when he inherited the chest from his grandmother. He used the box as the starting point of his book Annie’s Box, published in the UK in 2001, and in North America with a different title in 2002. Keynes’ book provided me with the framework for understanding the intersection of Darwin’s personal life and his intellectual accomplishment. The box is now on display in Down House, the Darwins’home.