A Victorian Life
James D. Loy and Kent M. Loy
"Emma Darwin emerges in this well-researched and thoughtful biography as a figure of calm strength, whose very nature and story help make possible Charles Darwin's revolutionary work. The Darwin marriage emerges as a remarkable portrait of 'symmetrical and unconditional love.'"--Kay Young, University of California, Santa Barbara
In 1808, Josiah Wedgwood II, owner and general manager of the famous pottery and china manufactory that bore his name, welcomed an eighth child into his large, vibrant family. This daughter, Emma, had a relatively happy childhood and grew up intelligent, educated, and religious. A talented sportswoman and an accomplished pianist, she married her cousin Charles Darwin at the age of thirty, bore ten children in their forty-three years together, and patiently nursed her famous husband through mysterious and chronic illnesses.
Informed by her strong Christian faith as well as her quick, inquiring mind, Emma learned to coexist with her husband's radical scientific theories, though she worried about the fate of Charles's soul. Although the high spirits of her youth were somewhat dampened by the cares of life, she managed family and household affairs--including the difficult circumstances surrounding the death of three children--with courage, gravity, and a sense of humor.
In this charming volume, the wife, companion, and confidante of the father of evolution comes into full focus. Drawing upon Emma’s personal correspondence as well as the abundant literature about her husband, authors James Loy and Kent Loy reveal the fascinating story of an exceptional woman who remained true to herself despite hardship and who, in the process, humanized her work-obsessed husband and held her family together.
James D. Loy is professor of anthropology at the University of Rhode Island. Kent M. Loy is a freelance writer.
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"An excellent portrait of the English elite during the age of British scientific discovery."
"Despite Charles and Emma's differences concerning religion -- somewhat overplayed in other biographical works, but not here-- this work characterizes their relationship as ‘symmetrical and unconditional love’; Darwin never doubted Emma would help him in the publication of his species theory. An interesting book."
--CHOICE, vol. 48 no.6
"An excellent portrait of the English elite during the age of British science discovery."
"This most recent biography of Emma Darwin is an old-fashioned "life" in the best Victorian sense, both an uplifting portrait of Emma's qualities and an entertaining window into a world gone by. Emma Darwin was herself interesting and admirable, not just as the wife of Charles Darwin. But anyone interested in Charles Darwin will learn about his personal side, especially about the long illness through which she nursed him; without her help, he could not have completed most of his important work. People who enjoy reading about Victorian history and society will enjoy the wealth of information in this book." -- Reports of the National Center for Science Education
--Reports of the National Center for Science Education
"Effectively opens the domestic sphere to the gaze of history, allowing us to see the ways in which Charles's life, too, was deeply enmeshed in domestic attachment and family networks."
--Project MUSE Johns Hopkins University (Victorian Studies)