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Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802)

Forfatter af The Botanic Garden: A Poem in Two Parts

44 Værker 190 Medlemmer 5 Anmeldelser 2 Favorited

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Includes the name: Erasmus Darwin

Image credit: Portrait of Erasmus Darwin by Joseph Wright of Derby (1792). From Wikipedia


Værker af Erasmus Darwin

The Botanic Garden: A Poem in Two Parts (1920) 32 eksemplarer, 1 anmeldelse
The Temple of Nature (1804) 20 eksemplarer, 2 anmeldelser
Zoonomia; or, The laws of organic life (2010) 18 eksemplarer, 1 anmeldelse
Zoonomia Volume I (2007) 17 eksemplarer
The Essential Writings of Erasmus Darwin (1968) 11 eksemplarer, 1 anmeldelse
The Letters of Erasmus Darwin (1981) 3 eksemplarer
ZOONOMIA - VOLUME II (2015) 1 eksemplar

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A long poem that sets out the author's ideas on the formation of nature. It is a bit disconcerting to read a poem to explicate a scientific idea, but I have wanted to read this for some time. Dr. Darwin uses the flowery language of his time which makes it somewhat tough going at times, even for someone steeped in Shakespeare. The poetry is okay, I wouldn't say great. The images are interesting, and the way he works various religious mythologies into the mix is intriguing. A reasonably quick read more interesting for its history than for itself.… (mere)
Devil_llama | 1 anden anmeldelse | Sep 9, 2021 |

[The Temple of Nature, or the Origin of Society]
Erasmus Darwin was an English Physician, natural philosopher, physiologist, inventor and slave-trade abolitionist; he died in 1802 and his long poem The Temple of Nature was published after his death. He was the grandfather of Charles Darwin and had enjoyed popular success with [The Botanic Garden] another long poem published in179. According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction he is now considered an important figure in the genre of proto Science fiction because of his theories on evolution.

The book is described as a poem, with philosophical notes, the actual poem consists of nearly a thousand rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter with footnotes explaining or surmising about the scientific theories therein. There are also extensive notes following the poem, but I was far too tired to go into these having read the poem in a single sitting. Darwin’s The Botanic garden had enjoyed critical as well as popular success, but probably The temple of Nature was one poem too many. He had been seen as a forerunner to the romantic poets and there are many passages similar to this in his poem:

"Now young DESIRES, on purple pinions borne,
Mount the warm gales of Manhood's rising morn;
With softer fires through virgin bosoms dart,
Flush the pale cheek, and goad the tender heart.
Ere the weak powers of transient Life decay,
And Heaven's ethereal image melts away;
LOVE with nice touch renews the organic frame,
Forms a young Ens, another and the same;
Gives from his rosy lips the vital breath,
And parries with his hand the shafts of death;
While BEAUTY broods with angel wings unfurl'd
O'er nascent life, and saves the sinking world.

However it does sound much too artificial, he was not interested in describing feelings or the inner workings of the mind. His use of the poetic form was to bring attention to his scientific and anthropological theories. His didactic style wears thin and his attempts to intersperse this with classical mythology only serves to produce more footnotes for the confused reader. Darwin says in his introduction that his poem is not meant to instruct its aim is simply to amuse by bringing distinctly to the imagination, the beautiful and sublime images of the operations of nature. It his theories on the operation of nature that are of interest because he tells us that life began beneath the sea, with atoms and chemical reactions producing cellular creatures that evolved into the life forms that we see today. He must have realised that these ideas on evolution might be rejected by the religious community because he kind of shoe horns in the Adam and Eve story from the bible.

The poem might be interesting for readers who are researching into early ideas on evolution, or for those that like the “romantic” language of Darwin’s rhyming couplets. Apart from a few arresting passages, I was glad to be finished with it and so 2.5 stars.
… (mere)
2 stem
baswood | 1 anden anmeldelse | Jan 4, 2019 |
Erasmus Darwin (1731- 1802) was one of the most accomplished men of his age. In addition to being a notable physician, he also was a key thinker of the Enlightenment, as well as a scientist, inventor, and poet. In his poetry he set out ideas about evolution that foreshadowed those of his famous grandson, Charles, published a half century later.

Desmond King-Hele is the most prominent and prolific scholar of Erasmus Darwin's life and work, having (nearly single-handedly) resurrected interest in him. Having published the definitive biography of Erasmus Darwin (in addition to three earlier, more concise biographies of the great man), he also has published an analysis of his poetry prior to this work. Erasmus Darwin's poetry is of particular interest, because most of his scientific ideas were presented in this unusual form. Their form of presentation helps explain why his ideas were overlooked by subsequent scientists.

King-Hele's veneration of Erasmus Darwin ("ED" below) is evident from his Introduction to this book: Darwin belongs with Leonardo da Vinci and Goethe, in the small band of great all-rounders, who excelled in both practical and theoretical work, in both literature and science. No one since Darwin's day has equaled him in the scope and variety of his accomplishments, and in our fragmented culture, few can appreciate the full range of his accomplishments. The author quotes the poet Coleridge as asserting of ED that he had a greater range of knowledge than any other man in Europe.

The Essential Writings of Erasmus Darwin will be invaluable to anyone interested in Darwin's life and work. It offers a broad compilation of excerpts of ED's writings (especially his poetry), interspersed with commentary and explanations by King-Hele. Following a brief (12 page) account of ED's life, the author offers the following: excerpts from Darwin's letters; eye-witness descriptions by his contemporaries; excerpts from his "Plan for the Conduct of Female Education" (a work ahead of its time); his medical writings; his extended ideas about evolution and the history of life (as presented in "Zoonomia" and "The Temple of Nature"); botanical writings (from "Phytologia," "The Botanic Garden," and "The Economy of Vegetation" and "Loves of the Plants"); and the "ascent of man" (in "The Temple of Nature"). Also included are Darwin's scientific papers (two of which are reprinted in toto, and excerpts of poems that show the influence of ED's work on Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. A concluding summary ends with an alphabetized list of 75 subjects on which King-Hele believes that ED was a pioneer, including "female emancipation," "abolition of slavery," "photosynthesis," "hereditary diseases," "microscopy," "windmills," "origin of life," "mental illness," and "evolutionary theory."

ED's poetry is not easy to read or understand by the modern reader. The meter is in a dated style, and the language and literary allusions are often obscure. King-Hele offers carefully selected excerpts, often of but a few lines or stanzas, interspersed with his commentary. For someone who is not a scholar of 18th century poetry, this may be the most fruitful way to comprehend ED's poetic works, as King-Hele's prose explains their content and context, and draws parallels to other works and ideas.

As I have found in other works by King-Hele, his perspective on ED tends to be somewhat Whiggish; a more dispassionate assessment would not award as much credit to ED as does the author. Likewise, I was not convinced by some of the examples he offers of places where prominent poets seem to have "borrowed" from Darwin's poetry. Nevertheless, King-Hele makes a powerful case for the stunning breadth and depth of Erasmus Darwin's interests, ideas, and accomplishments. This book offers a good way to become familiar with his actual writings, with the guidance of a scholar who has spent his life on the works and contributions of one of the 18th century's most remarkable intellects.
… (mere)
1 stem
danielx | Jul 2, 2017 |
Written by the grandfather of Charles Darwin, this book is a masterful treatise on the medical disorders and how to treat them. Primarily of interest to people who are interested in the period, because very little of the information would be taken seriously by a medical doctor today. It is fun to read to see the odd things they called diseases (biting nails, for instance, is considered quite pathological), and the treatments, which included healthy doses of opium on a regular basis. I suppose if it didn't cure you, it might make it where you didn't mind so much being sick. The book suffers quite a bit from being a scanned version of the original, with all the problems attendant on scanning text, primarily s's that look like f's; this is particularly bad because the f's also look like f's, and you have to figure out from the context which letter it's meant to be. Also, some pages were nearly impossible to read because of poor copy quality in the scanning. Overall, though, it is enjoyable, but long, so not for the faint of hear. I suppose if you have enough opium handy, the time will go much quicker...… (mere)
Devil_llama | Nov 6, 2013 |

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