Darwin: A Life in Poems
As part of the two anniversary events in 2009—two hundred years since the birth of Charles Darwin and 150 years after the publication of The Origin of Species, Ruth Padel has written an absorbing verse-novel of the life of the scientist, his work, and his family life. The structure is chronological, with extracts from correspondence interspersed with some more conventional verse, and there is a marginal commentary running alongside the poems to identify sources and times and to fill in the background for those not immediately familiar with Darwin’s life and times.
This approach succeeds. Not only does the author provide an intelligent, if necessarily brief, analysis of the key elements of Darwin’s thought, but there is a beautifully portrayed and imaginative, though firmly based upon sources, picture of Darwin’s private life and the loving relationship with his wife Emma and their children.
There is an occasional rather clunky but presumably deliberate modern phrase such as “OK”, but I enjoyed this new way of retelling this story and understanding through art such a secularly miraculous tale of one man’s intellectual enlightenment.