I know this is brief, but I’m pressed for time and I liked the book and wanted to say something about it here.
Eric Simons, a graduate of UC Berkeley’s graduate program in environmental and science writing, recently published Darwin Slept Here. In contrast to the plethora of books on Darwin marking the bicentennial of his birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species, which tend to focus on the development of the science and the mature man, Simons’ book asked ‘What was it like for Charles Darwin, a young guy just out of college, to visit all those places that were so foreign to him and the culture in which he had been raised?’ Could a 21st century Californian, not much older than Darwin’s age at the time, recapture some of the feelings Darwin recorded himself as having in his Beagle Diary if he trekked up as far as he could toward the headwaters of the Rio Santa Cruz, as Darwin, Fitzroy, and some crewmen of the Beagle did? Would Tierra del Fuego elicit the same feelings of revulsion and fascination? Is the inland of Patagonia really that barren? And was that really Charles Darwin, aboard the Beagle called “Philosopher,” traveling overland on horseback for weeks with a party of gauchos, sleeping rough every night with a saddle for a pillow, meeting a revolutionary general and talking his way through hostile lines to get into town? Who is that cowboy anyway?
And did anyone in those places Darwin visited know that he was there?