21 April 2011

Writery rooms: Darwin's rooms at Cambridge.

Charles Darwin was a very modest student at Christ's College Cambridge, suggesting that University performance is no guide to subsequent greatness. While many would consider him a scientist, the conservative UK political journal The Spectator dubs him a writer and includes his rooms at Christ's in their list of quirky or desirable writers' rooms and abodes.

Award for quirkiest writerly abode, meanwhile, is won by Charles Darwin. For Darwin at 200 in 2009, Christ's College, Cambridge made a motherly fuss over Darwin's old college rooms, redecorating the insides to best echo the original right down to chalking in Darwin's name outside the staircase (pictures included on the link above), an act of architectural homage afforded few.

Looking at his bibliography many a person now considered a writer has published far less, but then looking at the grounds of Down House gardeners may equally claim him one of their own. Perhaps we should call him a polymath or renaissence man and have done with pigeonholing him, despite his love of pigeons.

Anyway, for the 2009 Darwin Year bash Christ's titvated the rooms back to their 1820's state and the results can be seen here. According to the biographies, Darwin did lots of hunting and feasting while at Cambridge, while developing his eye for natural history at the point where he was called 'the man who walks with Henslow' (John Stevens Henslow). Darwin's friendship with Henslow was fateful, as it was Henslow who wrote to Robert Fitzroy prevailing upon him to accept Darwin as the Beagle's gentleman scientist. And the rest is (natural) history.

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