Two people, two conflicting forces in Darwin’s internal struggle. Photo obtained from Darwin Project website; http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/emma-darwin
Perhaps the most prominent historical aspect of Darwin’s findings and subsequent publishing to the world, at least for me was just the shear magnitude of shock value it brought upon the religious world. For he, Darwin a man with religious upbringing, someone who actually attended school to become a clergyman at one point had just done someone he himself said was like “confessing a murder”. It is striking how much his life trajectory can be paired to that of his grandfather Erasmus; two men with religious upbringings, and then following years of scientific observations and personal tragedies men whose faiths seemed to be in a steady state of decline.
It is absolutely vital in any recollection of Charles Darwin’s life, those brief periods in which him and his wife were separated. Darwin’s tone in these letters, at least for me was by far the most candid out of any correspondence he had, and it is apparent the intimate relationship for which he had with his wife.
This openness may not have fully extended to Darwin’s views on religion. Although Charles clearly held his views from an early age, well before his marriage with Emma, through reading the letters it appears that Emma may definitely be a figure of resistance, possibly even considerably accountable for Charles’ constant postponement of getting his work published. Although the two essentially come to a compromise on the subject, Emma it would seem was pretty discouraging of Charles, coming up with counterpoints that refute Charles’ hypotheses. One notable counterpoint was one that I am sure occurred quite frequently within the religious community, and that was that there are certain things that are simply above the human level of comprehension. She was also very forthcoming in her fear of the backlash that could possibly accompany the disclosure, both from her creator as well as more imminently the still very religion dominated English society.
As discussed in class, in any historical perspective it is very inquisitive to look back and think what if. Although not by any means a figure of staunch opposition, say someone such as Cuvier or Owen, Darwin’s wife could definitely be seen as a deterring entity. It makes some look back and think, what if? This internal struggle that plagued Darwin for so long, had the burden of having a wife so religious in which Darwin had to come to compromise with been as much of a free thinker as Darwin himself, would Darwin have come out with his findings several years previously? The implications of this work being disposed to the public even five years earlier would have far reaching implications on the biological sciences today. On the other hand, had Darwin married a woman whom he wasn’t as related to, producing children in which recessive deleterious mutations wouldn’t have accumulated making them inviable past early childhood and their subsequent deaths, would his spiritual foundation still had allowed him to come to the public with his findings? Many say the tipping point which ultimately led to him going public with his earth shattering theory was the passing of his eldest daughter in 1851. The role of Darwin’s wife upon the entire basis of biological study is one that cannot be overstated.