Down House

Large house with many windows, covered in greenery. A rounded corner and a glass roof patio which looks out on a garden are both covered in vines.

Down House - Explore manuscripts written by Darwin while he lived at Down House spanning from September 1842 to November 1859

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In 1844, two years after Charles and Emma Darwin settled in Down House, Darwin expanded the 1842 Sketch into an Essay of a nominal 189 pages, which he had a copyist turn into a Fair Copy of 230 pages. This long document approached being the draft of a publishable book on transmutation. But Darwin, for a number of pressing reasons, decided to wait. Some of these were social, religious and political pressures, For Darwin feared that opposition to his theory on these grounds might imperil the respectability of the theory. But, as the documents in this section show abundantly, there were also a number of quite serious unresolved scientific problems with the theory. These scientific difficulties threatened to undermine the validity of the theory. Hence, he chose not to push on directly to publication. So the 1844 Essay, along with the 1842 Sketch were bound up and stored under the stairs at Down House. 

Darwin's Sand Walk - or his 'Thinking Path' at Down House
Darwin's Sand Walk - or his 'Thinking Path' at Down House

But Darwin put aside much more than just the 1842 and 1844 narratives. For by the time Darwin wrote the 1844 Essay, he had produced, during the nine years of the late Beagle, London, and early Down periods, many manuscripts bearing on—and in most cases fully affirming—transmutation, namely: the February 1835 Essay, the Galapagos entries of the Ornithological Notes, the Red Notebook, Notebooks B-E, M-N, the Questions & Experiments Notebook, the Torn Apart and Summer 1842 Notebooks, the 1842 Pencil Sketch, the 1843 General Aspect Document, an ink recapitulation of the theory on the verso of pages of the 1842 Sketch (written in 1844 or later), a rejected draft of Part 1 of the 1844 Essay, and the 1844 Essay itself in draft and fair copy. To this accumulated mass of documents must also be added the books and periodicals he read and annotated and his scientific correspondence over this period. Of course, all of these materials were crucial resources in the creation and one might say perpetual recreation of the Origin. While these manuscripts were ‘put aside’—though not necessarily bundled up under the stairs—they remained ever accessible for Darwin’s review and rethinking over the remainder of his life.

Now, if we look forward from 1844 to 1859, we can see that there is a temporal order to the surviving manuscripts that, once again, corresponds to the structure of Darwin’s work. Looking at the list of Down years evolution manuscripts written after 1844, we find that there is a near vacuum.