venerdì 10 febbraio 2012

Happy Birthday Charles !

Very few people know that Emma Wedgwood wasn’t the only great love in Darwin’s life.
Fanny Owen of Woodhouse, the sister of his school friend William Owen, was Darwin’s first love.
Fanny was a pretty free spirit, unusual in Jane Austen times. She was great at riding and shooting and Charles admired her a lot for this reason.
When he went to University, they wrote to each other and he kept her letters in his desk for the rest of his life.
Charles said about her: “Fanny as all the world knows is the prettiest, plumpest, most charming personage that Shropshire possesses, and Birmingham too” and called her “la belle Fanny”.

She called him “Postillion” and he called her “Housemaid” ; the couple very often went riding together across the country and rolled together on strawberries fields.

These were the years in which Darwin studied at Cambridge’s Christ’s College; a very good period for him.

He later wrote “ Upon the whole, the three years I spent at Cambridge were the most joyful of my happy life”

In that period Charles developed a beetles mania and, with his second cousin William Darwin Fox, looked for rare species of beetles in the countryside around Cambridge. Darwin’s enthusiasm was legendary….He wrote “ no poet ever felt more delight at seeing his first poem published than I did at seeing in Illustrations of British Insects the magic words, ‘captured by C.Darwin,Esq.’

Fanny reproved Charles, complaining that he preferred beetles to her! She wrote: ”Why did you not come home for Xmas? I supposed some dear little Beetles kept you away! If I had wrote to you that I had found a Scrofulum morturorum you would come home!

He also established a dining club, named “Glutton Club”

They met once a week to eat meat of animals, “unknown to human palate”; the group would sample unusual meats, including delights such as hawk, bittern and old brown owl. But the Gluttons chickened out after digesting a particularly stringy and very hot old brown owl!

Darwin was an unusual gourmet.
On the Beagle his culinary experiments were even more extravagant, having a go at armadillo and an anonymous chocolate-colored rodent, which he announced as 'the best meat I ever tasted'. The tortoises from the Galapagos were used as sustenance (none of the shells were kept for science). Land iguanas were, according to Darwin, 'hideous animals, but are considered good food'.

Then he was given the opportunity to travel around the world.

And as Darwin was setting sail on his voyage on the Beagle, Fanny wrote: “You hope I shall not have forgotten you! “So do not my dear Charles talk of forgetting!
“The many happy hours we have had together from the time we were Housemaid and Postillion together, are not to be forgotten and would that there was not to be an end of them!”

Only four months later

when Charles arrived in Brazil, his sister sent him a letter to inform him that Fanny had married Robert Myddelton Biddulph!

he was obviously completely shocked!

Would Darwin’s life be different if he had married “ la Belle Fanny” instead of the “religious Emma”?

7 commenti:

  1. Fanny was my great-great-great-grandmother Tryphena Owen's cousin.. their fathers were brothers. A great article, thanks for sharing :-) By the way, the Darwins did marry into the Owen family.. Charles Darwin's niece Mary Susan Parker (daughter of his sister Marianne Darwin) married my Tryphena's brother Edward Mostyn Owen.


    1. Hello Rachel! very nice to meet you :)

      It's incredible to have met here on my blog a
      relative of Fanny ! I saw you are also connected with Charles Darwin family !you lucky woman :)

      I have found the results of your research here :

      " it's very exciting for me to see this marriage notice and information about Mary Susan Parker as it means my family does indeed have a connection by marriage with Charles Darwin and his sister. My great-great-great-grandmother was Tryphena Mostyn Owen, daughter of the Rev. Edward Henry Mostyn Owen and sister of Edward jnr who married Mary Susan. Tryphena's cousin Frances (Fanny) Mostyn Owen was also Charles Darwin's love interest before he set sail on the 'Beagle' Cheers, Rachel"
      Do you have a geanealogy of your family?

      I would love to keep in touch with you, so I have added you to my G+ circles!

      hoping to hear you soon!


  2. Patrizia,

    che bel blog.
    che dettagli fascinanti sulla vita del giovane Charles.
    il padre di Fanny Mostyn-Owen e' il mio quadris-nonno e abito nella stessa casa.
    Mandami una mail e ti spediro' dei scans di bozzetti e diarii dell'epoca.
    Stiamo tentando di accertarci del sito del famoso 'strawberry patch' dove Charles e Fanny ebbero una delle loro esperienze piu' tenere, secondo le lettere.

    un saluto,

    owen rednal net
    oppure il mio conto google

  3. Thanks Owen x your kind comments :)

    I'm goin to send you an email :) Ciao !!!!


  4. Fanny became engaged to Robert Biddulph only ten days after the Beagle set sail for South America.He learnt about the engagement in a letter from home on 5th April 1832 as the Beagle sailed into Rio de Janeiro Harbour.By the time Darwin received this bad news Fanny had already been married for a month!

  5. Hello Steven! I know what happened between Fanny and Charlie! Darwin was completely shocked! Poor guy 😔
    Thanks for leaving a comment!

  6. I don't believe Fanny ever intended to marry Charles. She was older than he was, and in 1832 he was just leaving university and too young to marry, he needed to make a position for himself. But Fanny was 24 and in danger of being left on the shelf. She had already been jilted in 1830 by Rev John Hill. A woman with as many brothers and sisters as Fanny had to find a husband. But this did not prevent Charles being heart broken -
    29 Jan 1832 Catherine Darwin "I hope it won't be a great grief to you, dearest Charley. You may be perfectly sure that Fanny will always continue as friendly and affectionate to you as ever and as rejoiced to see you again though I fear that will be but poor comfort to you, dear Charles"
    29 Jul 1834 Charles Darwin "Thank Fanny for her good-natured note: I have just reread it. The sight of her hand writing is enough alone to make me long for this voyage to come to some end."