Charles Darwin

New book: Darwin's Debt to the Romantics

Darwin's Debt to the Romantics: How Alexander von Humboldt, Goethe and Wordsworth Helped Shape Charles Darwin's View of Nature

by Dr Charles Morris Lansley, Research Fellow, University of Winchester

Published by Peter Lang (ISBN 978-1-78707-138-4).

The author traces the influences that contributed to the development of Charles Darwin’s imagination leading to his theory of natural selection. This asks the question of whether they could be regarded as Romantic and square with Darwin being a Victorian naturalist and gentleman. 

Darwin took Alexander von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative with him on the Beagle and this is analysed alongside Darwin’s works to identify any influences. Darwin refers to the concept of ‘archetype’ a number of times in his 'Origin' and this is examined to see if he might have been influenced by Goethe’s use of the concept. If so, could Darwin have been influenced by the German Romantics? Darwin also refers to the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth in his notebooks, yet in his Autobiography he describes all poetry as creating a feeling of nausea. The author looks into this contradiction to see if Romantic poetry had an effect on Darwin’s imagination. Darwin also denied that his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had had any influence on him. The author analyses his poetry to trace any influences and whether any of these could be regarded as strengthening the view that Charles Darwin was Romantic.

One chapter in particular deals with an analysis of The Ancient Mariner in relation to Charles Darwin.

The book cleverly follows Darwin’s form of the narrative in searching for traces of history both in science and poetry, and this is achieved with the same inspired imagination as Darwin’s.

Details of the publication can be found on the Peter Lang web page at

Purchases can be made from Amazon, a selection of which can be found at

Darwin cover

A walk in the Quantocks in the time of Coleridge and Wordsworth

Saturday 30 June, 10.30–14.30. Start Bowling Green car park, Holford, Somerset (around 6 miles, about 4 hours)

Led by Terence Sackett and Ian Enters of the Friends of Coleridge (part of the Quantock Hills Walking Festival)

The Quantocks in the time of Wordsworth and Coleridge - Literary insights into the two poets' time here, history, landscape, crafts and industries.

A strenuous walk starting at the Bowling Green car-park in Holford, taking in Hodder's Combe, Higher Hare Knap, Dowsborough Hill Fort and Woodlands Hill.

To register, visit Stowey Walking Festival walk

A new Friends of Coleridge flyer

I have put together a new flyer for the Friends. Click here for a PDF.

Please print it out and post it on relevant notice boards, or email and I will send you a quantity.

Terence Sackett

Free online course on major West of England poets and novelists, including Coleridge

Writing the West: Literature & Place is a free online course on some major poets and novelists associated with Bristol, Bath, and the West of England.

Learners will find out how Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, Robert Lovell, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Thomas Hardy found inspiration in the West Country, and how they contribute to the culture and economy of the region today. It includes a film about Coleridge's poem 'This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison', made with the kind assistance of staff at Coleridge Cottage.

The course is an opportunity to explore these writers' lives, gain insight into their writings, and see the places that influenced them.

Open to all. Starts 18 June, 4 weeks' duration, 3-4 hours study per week.

Find out more and enrol at

Robin Jarvis, Professor of English Literature, UWE Bristol

Malcolm Guite talk

Malcolm Guite talk, 'Faith in the Arts', 21 May, Wesley Church, Cambridge

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