Boulder City Magazine® July 2009 Issue
by Fran Haraway
Boulder City Library
Charles and Emma
by Deborah Heiligman
If you want to know what Emma Wedgwood (Yes, that Wedgwood; her grandfather created the pottery.) looked like, think “Jane Austen.” Like Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, Emma was clever, well read, intelligent, attractive, musical (She took piano lessons from Chopin!), wealthy and altogether a perfect catch for the gentlemen whose proposals she had already refused when the love of her life came along.
Boulder City Magazine®
|Emma was also very religious. When her sister Fanny died, Emma came to believe that, “... if you were a good Christian you would go to heaven. And if you weren’t, you would go to hell.” Therefore, it might come as a surprise to find that when Emma did marry, she chose her first cousin, Charles Darwin!
Yes, that Darwin. He of the “People and apes have a common ancestor” studies. Except for religion, Charles was Emma’s male counterpart, having all her fine qualities as well as a wealthy father who financed his studies and his voyage on The Beagle.
This entertaining biography is the story of their marriage, which included ten children, totally opposing ideas about God, a deep love and a great friendship. Emma firmly believed in a God-created world and afterlife while Charles firmly believed that, although there was a creation, he couldn’t prove a creator. In spite of this intellectual canyon between them, Emma edited Charles’s work, correcting grammar, punctuation and (often appalling) spelling and having him reword thoughts if she felt they weren’t clear. She loved the man, and he adored her.
They admired, praised and valued their children, and they buried three of them. They created a home where each child was treasured and each knew it. When Charles found his youngest son, Lenny, bouncing on a new sofa, he told the child that he was breaking home rules. “Then you’d better leave the room,” replied Lenny. And he did.
Charles and Emma’s differences enriched them both. Early on, a friend of both said, “It is very like a marriage of Miss Austen’s. Can I say more?”
If you are interested in this book or would like to learn more, contact me at info@bouldercity magazine.com.
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