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through the filial channel, though fervently just to the excellencies of the commemorated. : Of those years in which the talents and social virtues of this extraordinary man shed their lustre over the city which I inhabit, no historian remains, who, with vicinity of habitation, and domestic intercourse with Dr. Darwin, took equal interest with myself in all that marked, by traits of him, that period of twenty-three years, and which engaged my attention from my very earliest youth. Some few of his contemporaries in this town yet remain; but not one who could be induced to publish what their observation may have traced, and their memory treasured.
His sometime pupil, and late years friend, the ingenious Mr. Bilsborrow, is writing, or has written, his Life ; but since Dr. Darwin constantly shrunk with reserved pride from all that candour would deem confidential conversation, and which the world is so apt to ridicule as vain egotism; since it is understood that he had not left biographic documents; since Mr. Bilsborrow was scarcely in existence when his illustrious friend first changed his sphere of action; he must find himself as much a stranger to the particulars of his Lichfield residence, as I am of those which were most prominent in the equal number of years he passed at Derby. Between us, all will probably be known that can now with accuracy be traced of Dr. Darwin. : To the best of my power I have presumed to be the recorder of vanished Genius, beneath the ever-present consciousness that biography and criticism have their sacred duties, alike to the deceased, and to the public; precluding, on one hand, unjust depreciation, on the other, over-valuing partiality.
THE LIFE AND WRITINGS
Doctor Erasmus Darwin was the son of a private gentleman, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire. He came to Lichfield to practise physic in the autumn of the year 1756, at the age of twentyfour ; bringing high recommendations from the university of Edinburgh, in which he had studied, and from that of Cambridge, to which he belonged.
He was somewhat above the middle size, his form athletic, and inclined to corpulence; his limbs too heavy for exact proportion. The traces of a severe small-pox; features, and countenance, which, when they were not animated by social pleasure, were rather saturnine than sprightly; a stoop in the shoulders, and the then professional appendage, a large full-bottomed wig, gave, at that early period of life, an appearance of nearly twice the years he
bore. Florid health, and the earnest of good humour, a sunny smile, on entering a room, and on first accosting his friends, rendered, in his youth, that exterior agreeable, to which beauty and symme. try had not been propitious..
He stammered extremely; but whatever he said, whether gravely or in jest, was always well worth waiting for, though the inevitable impression it made might not always be pleasant to individual self-love. Conscious of great native elevation above the general standard of intellect, he became, early in life, sore upon opposition, whether in argument or conduct, and always revenged it by sarcasm of very keen edge. Nor was he less impatient of the sallies of egotism and vanity, even when they were in so slight a degree, that strict politeness would rather tolerate than ridicule them. Dr. Darwin seldom failed to present their caricature in jocose but wounding irony. If these ingredients of colloquial despotism were discernible in unworn existence, they increased as it advanced, fed by an ever-growing reputation within and without the pale of medicine.
Extreme was his scepticism to human truth. From that cause he often disregarded the accounts his patients gave of themselves, and rather chose to collect his information by indirect inquiry and
by cross-examining them, than from their voluntary testimony. That distrust and that habit were probably favourable to his skill in discovering the origin of diseases, and thence to his preeminent success in effecting their cure;....but they impressed his mind and tinctured his conversation with an apparent want of confidence in mankind, which was apt to wound the ingenuous and confiding spirit, whether seeking his medical assistance, or his counsel as a friend. Perhaps this proneness to suspicion mingled too much of art in his wisdom.
From the time at which Dr. Darwin first came to Lichfield, he avowed a conviction of the perni. cious effects of all vinous fuid on the youthful and healthy constitution; an absolute horror of spirits of all sorts, and however diluted. His own example, with very few exceptions, supported his exhortations. From strong malt liquor he totally abstained, and if he drank a glass or two of English wine, he mixed it with water. Acid fruits, with sugar, and all sort of creams, and butter, were his luxuries; but he always ate plentifully of animal food. This liberal alimentary regimen he prescribed to people of every age, where unvitiated appetite rendered them capable of following it; even to infants. He despised the prejudice, which deems foreign wines more wholesome than the wines of