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LIFE AND LETTERS
THE DARWIN FAMILY.
The earliest records of the family show the Darwins to have been substantial yeomen residing on the northern borders of Lincolnshire, close to Yorkshire. The name is now very unusual in England, but I believe that it is not unknown in the neighbourhood of Sheffield and in Lancashire. Down to the year 1600 we find the name spelt in a variety of ways -Derwent, Darwen, Darwynne, &c. It is possible, therefore, that the family migrated at some unknown date from Yorkshire, Cumberland, or Derbyshire, where Derwent occurs as the name of a river.
The first ancestor of whom we know was one William Darwin, who lived, about the year 1500, at Marton, near Gainsborough. His great grandson, Richard Darwyn, in
, herited land at Marton and elsewhere, and in his will, dated 1584, “ bequeathed the sum of 35. 4d. towards the settynge up of the Queene's Majestie's armes over the quearie (ch doore in the parishe churche of Marton.” *
The son of this Richard, named William Darwin, and
* We owe a knowledge of these earlier members of the family to researches amongst the wills at Lincoln, made by the well-known genealogist, Colonel Chester.
described as “gentleman," appears to have been a successful man.
Whilst retaining his ancestral land at Marton, he acquired through his wife and by purchase an estate at Cleatham, in the parish of Manton, near Kirton Lindsey, and fixed his residence there. This estate remained in the family down to the year 1760. A cottage with thick walls, some fish-ponds and old trees, now alone show where the “ Old Hall” once stood, and a field is still locally known as the “Darwin Charity,” from being subject to a charge in favour of the poor of Marton. William Darwin must, at least in part, have owed his rise in station to his appointment in 1613 by James I. to the post of Yeoman of the Royal Armoury of Greenwich. The office appears to have been worth only £33 a year, and the duties were probably almost nominal ; he held the post down to his death during the Civil Wars.
The fact that this William was a royal servant may explain why his son, also named William, served when almost a boy for the King, as “Captain-Lieutenant” in Sir William Pelham's troop of horse. On the partial dispersion of the royal armies, and the retreat of the remainder to Scotland, the boy's estates were sequestrated by the Parliament, but they were redeemed on his signing the Solemn League and Covenant, and on his paying a fine which must have struck his finances severely ; for in a petition to Charles II. he speaks of his almost utter ruin from having adhered to the royal cause.
During the Cominonwealth, William Darwin became a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, and this circumstance probably led to his marriage with the daughter of Erasmus Earle, serjeantat-law; hence his great-grandson, Erasmus Darwin, the Poet, derived his Christian name. He ultimately became Recorder of the city of Lincoln.
The eldest son of the Recorder, again called William, was born in 1655, and married the heiress of Robert Waring, a member of a good Staffordshire family. This lady inherited from the family of Lassells, or Lascelles, the manor and hall of Elston, near Newark, which has remained ever since in the family.* A portrait of this William Darwin at Elston shows him as a good-looking young man in a full-bottomed wig.
This third William had two sons, William, and Robert who was educated as a barrister. The Cleatham property was left to William, but on the termination of his line in daughters reverted to the younger brother, who had received Elston. On his mother's death Robert gave up his profession and resided ever afterwards at Elston Hall. Of this Robert,
, Charles Darwin writes t :
“He seems to have had some taste for science, for he was an early member of the well-known Spalding Club; and the celebrated antiquary Dr. Stukeley, in ‘An Account of the almost entire Sceleton of a large Animal,' &c., published in the Philosophical Transactions,' April and May 1719, begins the paper as follows: ‘Having an account from my friend Robert Darwin, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, a person of curiosity, of a human sceleton impressed in stone, found lately by the rector of Elston,' &c. Stukeley then speaks of it as a great
. rarity, 'the like whereof has not been observed before in this island to my knowledge.' Judging from a sort of litany written by Robert, and handed down in the family, he was a strong advocate of temperance, which his son ever afterwards so strongly advocated :
From a morning that doth shine,
Good Lord deliver me!
Captain Lassells, or Lascelles, of Elston was military secretary to Monk, Duke of Albemarle, during the Civil Wars. A large volume of account books, countersigned in many places by Monk, are now in the possession of my cousin Francis Darwin. The accounts might possibly prove of interest to the antiquarian or historian. A portrait of Captain Lassells in armour, although used at one time as an archery-target by some small boys of our name, was not irretrievably ruined.
+ What follows is quoted from Charles Darwin's biography of his grandfather, forming the preliminary notice to Ernst Krause's interesting essay, • Erasmus Darwin,' London, 1879, p. 4.
"It is suspected that the third line may be accounted for by his wife, the mother of Erasmus, having been a very learned lady. The eldest son of Robert, christened Robert Waring, succeeded to the estate of Elston, and died there at the age of ninety-two, a bachelor. He had a strong taste for poetry, like his youngest brother Erasmus. Robert also cultivated botany, and, when an oldish man, he published his ' Principia Botanica.' This book in MS. was beautifully written, and my father (Dr. R. W. Darwin] declared that he believed it was published because his old uncle could not endure that such fine caligraphy should be wasted. But this was hardly just, as the work contains many curious notes on biology-a subject wholly neglected in England in the last century. The public, moreover, appreciated the book, as the copy in my possession is the third edition.”
The second son, William Alvey, inherited Elston, and transmitted it to his granddaughter, the late Mrs. Darwin, of Elston and Creskeld. A third son, John, became rector of Elston, the living being in the gift of the family. The fourth son, and youngest child, was Erasmus Darwin, the poet and philosopher.
The table on page 5 shows Charles Darwin's descent from Robert, and his relationship to some other members of the family, whose names occur in his correspondence. Among these are included William Darwin Fox, one of his earliest correspondents, and Francis Galton, with whom he maintained a warm friendship for many years. Here also occurs the name of Francis Sacheverel Darwin, who inherited a love of natural history from Erasmus, and transmitted it to his son Edward Darwin, author (under the name of “High Elms ") of a 'Gamekeeper's Manual' (4th Edit. 1863), which shows keen observation of the habits of various animals.
It is always interesting to see how far a man's personal characteristics can be traced in his forefathers. Charles Darwin inherited the tall stature, but not the bulky figure of Erasmus; but in his features there is no traceable resemblance to those of his grandfather. Nor, it appears, had
TABLE OF RELATIONSHIP.
Robert Waring. ERASMUS, m. (1) Mary Howard ; m. (2) Eliz. Chandos-Pole.
ROBERT WARING, Charles. b. 1774, d. 1841.
Samuel Fox. b. 1767, d. 1848. b. 1758, m. Susannah
CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN.
ROBERT DARWIN of Elston.
b. 1682, d. 1754.
William Francis Rhodes, Edward Noel. Darwin Fox. now Francis Darwin of Creskeld and Elston.