Apropos of yesterday’s post on Darwin’s private life and emotional side, reader DermotC sent me a picture of the tombstone of Darwin’s daughter Anne (“Annie”), who died in 1851 the age of 10. She was the second of Charles and Emma’s ten children, and, as many of us know, her loss was a severe blow to her parents. Two other offspring died young (typical of those days), but note that one of them, Leonard, lived until 1943!
The cause of her death isn’t known. It used to be thought that she died of scarlet fever, but she’d been ill for two years and, as a recent scientific article speculates, it was more likely tuberculosis. Darwin had taken her to the spa town of Great Malvern for the famous “Gully water cure,” a regimen of drinking, dousing, and perambulation that Darwin himself had tried in a vain attempt to cure his own chronic illness (still unknown, but possibly “cyclic vomiting syndrome“).
It was at Great Malvern that Annie died, and there she was buried. The photo was taken at the Great Malvern Priory churchyard, and here are DermotC’s notes on the photo:
As you’re running posts about Darwin’s private life, I thought I’d send you my photo of the gravestone of his daughter Anne who died aged 10. There’s plenty on the net about it, but my brother and I found this on a pilgrimage to the lovely Great Malvern.
The inscription, I think, demonstrates a compromise between his growing atheism and the Christianity of his wife. It reads:IHSAnne Elizabeth DarwinBorn March 2 1841Died April 28 1851A dear and good childNo mention of God or being called to the after-life, as one might expect in this era; and starkly sad.It is in Malvern Priory in Worcestershire (pronounced Wusstersher) and a beautiful graveyard it is (btw. Kierkegaard means graveyard!). She went there, with her father, for the waters as her condition deteriorated. You probably know that her death affected him deeply.
From 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. It was delightful & cheerful to behold her. Her dear face now rises before me, as she used sometimes to come running down stairs with a stolen pinch of snuff for me, her whole form radiant with the pleasure of giving pleasure. Even when playing with her cousins when her joyousness almost passed into boisterousness, a single glance of my eye, not of displeasure (for I thank God I hardly ever cast one on her,) but of want of sympathy would for some minutes alter her whole countenance. This sensitiveness to the least blame, made her most easy to manage & very good: she hardly ever required to be found fault with, & was never punished in any way whatever. Her sensitiveness appeared extremely early in life, & showed itself in crying bitterly over any story at all melancholy; or on parting with Emma even for the shortest interval. Once when she was very young she exclaimed “Oh Mamma, what should we do, if you were to die”.
. . .Her health failed in a slight degree for about nine months before her last illness; but it only occasionally gave her a day of discomfort: at such times, she was never in the least degree8 cross, peevish or impatient; & it was wonderful to see, as the discomfort passed, how quickly her elastic spirits brought back her joyousness & happiness. In the last short illness, her conduct in simple truth was angelic; she never once complained; never became fretful; was ever considerate of others; & was thankful in the most gentle, pathetic manner for everything done for her. When so exhausted that she could hardly speak, she praised everything that was given her, & said some tea “was beautifully good.” When I gave her some water, she said “I quite thank you”; & these, I believe were the last precious words ever addressed by her dear lips to me.But looking back, always the spirit of joyousness rises before me as her emblem and characteristic: she seemed formed to live a life of happiness: her spirits were always held in check by her sensitiveness lest she should displease those she loved, & her tender love was never weary of displaying itself by fondling & all the other little acts of affection.—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 & shall ever love her dear joyous face. Blessings on her.—
April 30. 1851.