Front Cover
Self-taught and ambitious, Darwin genuinely believed he was ‘below the common standard in intellect’ and had gained little from formal education. Yet he also knew he had seized his one great stroke of luck - the voyage of the Beagle - and forged a lasting body of knowledge through solitary determination and sheer hard work. His memoir concentrates on his public career and towering scientific achievements, but is also full of lively anecdotes about his family and contemporaries. Among these, he paints a vivid portrait of his bullying father, and pays a loving tribute to his devoted wife Emma, who was so distressed by their religious differences. The figure that emerges from these pages is one who stands isolated, dogged by illness and confined to solitude by his ailing body, with a mind that rejected the arts and the ‘damnable doctrine’ of Christianity. This volume also includes a fascinating fragment about Darwin’s earliest memories, which he jotted down while pondering the impact of evolution on human psychology.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AliceAnna -

A bit dry, but I still found it interesting as it pertains to his thought processes and reasoning. As a bonus, his down-to-earth and unassuming demeanor was very endearing. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Booktacular - LibraryThing

A good quick read, though it focuses heavily on his works on only lightly on family and internal thoughts. If you wish to know more about Darwin the man then I'd suggest his letters and correspondence. Or The Voyage of the Beagle. Read full review

Selected pages


An autobiographical fragment
1876 May 31 Recollections of the Development of my Mind and Character
Cambridge 18281831
from Dec 27 1831 to Oct 2 1836
From my return to England Oct 2 1836 to my marriage Jan 29 1839
Religious Belief
From my marriage Jan 29 1839 and residence in Upper Gower St to our leaving London and settling at Down Sep 14 1842
Residence at Down from Sep 14 1842 to the present time 1876
My Several Publications

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2002)

Charles Darwin (1809-82) was an evolutionary scientist, best-known for his controversial and ground-breaking 'Origin of Species' (1859).

Michael Neve is based at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London. He teaches and researches the history of psychiatry and the history of the life sciences. With Janet Browne, he co-edited Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle for Penguin Classics. Sharon Messenger is a research officer at the Wellcome Trust Centre.