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the experience of reading in Britain, from 1450 to 1945...

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Charles Darwin


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Charles Darwin : 

'In 1898 Armstrong organised the Ashington Debating and Literary Improvement Society, and his reading broadened out to Shakespeare, Burns, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Byron, Whitman, Wordsworth, Scott, Robert Browning, Darwin and T.H. Huxley. Robertson Nicoll's British Weekly had introduced him to a more liberal Nonconformity that was hospitable to contemporary literature. The difficulty was that the traditional Nonconformist commitment to freedom of conscience was propelling him beyond the confines of Primitive Methodism, as far as Unitarianism, the Rationalist Press Association and the Independent Labour Party. His tastes in literature evolved apace: Ibsen, Zola. Meredith, and Wilde by the 1890s; then on to Shaw, Wells, and Bennett; and ultimately Marxist economics and Brave New World'.

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: Chester Armstrong      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : The Origin of Species

'Rose... remembers her father reading to them - Dickens, Scott, Robinson Crusoe, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Meredith, Tom Jones, The Three Musketeers, Don Quixote, and, curiously, The Origin of Species'

Century:      Reader/Listener/Group: George Macaulay      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : [unknown]

'The [1890s] dockers' leader Ben Tillett went hungry in order to buy books ... [and] thereby struggled through the literary classics, as well as works on evolution by Darwin, Spencer, and Huxley ... after his day's work in the warehouse.'

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: Ben Tillett      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : [probably 'The Voyage of the Beagle']

[analysis of a female respondent in Arnold Freeman's 1918 Sheffield Survey] 'Housewife, age twenty-eight... Has read "David Copperfield", "The Old Curiosity Shop", "Lorna Doone", Louisa May Alcott and the travels of Livingstone and Darwin'.

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: questionaire respondent      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : On the Origin of Species

'Nottinghamshire collier G.A.W. Tomlinson volunteered for repair shifts on weekends, when he could earn time-and-a-half and read on the job. On Sundays, "I sat there on my toolbox, half a mile from the surface, one mile from the nearest church and seemingly hundreds of miles from God, reading the Canterbury Tales, Lamb's Essays, Darwin's Origin of Species, Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol, or anything that I could manage to get hold of". That could be hazardous: once, when he should have been minding a set of rail switches, he was so absorbed in Goldsmith's The Deserted Village that he allowed tubs full of coal to crash into empties'.

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: G.A.W. Tomlinson      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : The Descent of Man

'For Dunfermline housepainter James Clunie, Das Kapital and the Wealth of Nations both demonstrated that industrialism inevitably increased economic inequality, the exploitation of labour and class conflict. To this The Descent of Man added "the great idea of human freedom... It brought out the idea that whether our children were with or without shoes was due to poverty arising from the administration of society".'

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: James Clunie      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : [all works]

'Ewan McColl remembered his father, a Communist ironfounder, as someone who was always giving him secondhand books. He "belonged to the generation who believed that books were tools that could open a lock which would free people..." At age eight McColl received the works of Darwin. By fifteen he had read Gogol, Dostoevsky and the entire Human Comedy: "They were a refuge from the horrors of the life around us... Unemployment in the 1930s was unbelievable, you really felt you'd never escape... So books for me were a kind of fantasy life... For me to go at the age of fourteen, to drop into the library and discover a book like Kant's Critique of Pure Reason or The Mistaken Subtlety of the Four-Sided Figure... the titles alone produced a kind of happiness in me... When I discovered Gogol in that abominable translation of Constance Garnett with those light blue bindings... I can remember the marvellous sensation of sitting in the library and opening the volume and going into that world of Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin in The Overcoat or in The Nose, or The Madman's Diary. I thought I'd never read anything so marvellous, and through books I was living in many worlds simultaneously. I was living in St Petersburg and in Paris with Balzac... And I knew all the characters, Lucien de Rubempre and Rastignac as though they were my own friends".'

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: Ewan McColl      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : 

"Ellen Wilkinson, brought up in Ardwick, Manchester, went with her father to lectures on theological and evolutionary subjects, and by the time she was fourteen was reading Haeckel, Huxley and Darwin with him."

Century: 1850-1899 / 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: Ellen Wilkinson and father     Print: Book


Charles Darwin : [unknown]

'after tea [W.J. Brown] would enjoy "five glorious hours of freedom" reading Darwin, Huxley and Tennyson's "In Memoriam" at the Battersea Public Library'.

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: William John Brown      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : The Origin of Species

'One book... stimulated the poet beyond all others; it became, in a way, a key to the rest of his reading for some time to come. This was George du Maurier's "Trilby". It was not so much the work itself - though John Masefield enjoyed it more than any book he had read until then - which played so prominent a part in forming his tastes, but the other works which George du Maurier put John Masefield on to... Whatever book "Trilby" mentions John Masefield bought... On the oblique recommendations in "Trilby" he read the "Three Musketeers"; Sterne's "Sentimental Journey"; Darwin's "Origin of the Species"'.

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: John Masefield      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : Origin of Species, The

'We began Darwin's work on "The Origin of Species" tonight. It seems not to be well written: though full of interesting matter, it is not impressive, for want of luminous and orderly presentation.'

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: George Eliot (pseud) and G.H. Lewes     Print: Book


Charles Darwin : On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

'what I write for is to thank you again for sending me your brother's [Charles Darwin's] book. As for thanking him for the book itself, one might say "thank you" all one's life without giving any idea of one's sense of obligation. It has been an immense pleasure to Maria and me...'

Century: 1800-1849     Reader/Listener/Group: Harriet Martineau      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : Origin of species

'The conversation went on about Darwin's "Origin of species", and F. said to S. "tha doesn't favour a monkey, but tha acts like one." R. said "I think he's bloody crackers". S. went on to say their house was full of books, so F. said "Don't you think it's about time you started reading them". Eventually between them they got S. that tied up in argument he had to retire, and shook hands with us all and went home.'

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group:      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals

'I bought Darwin's last book in despair, for I knew I could generally read Darwin, but it was a failure.'

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: Robert Louis Stevenson      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex

Marginalia in pencil in English on the following pages: 59, 208, 211, 256.

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: Vernon Lee      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : Voyage of the Beagle, The

'My chief pleasure at the moment is Darwin's [italics] Voyage of the Beagle [end italics]... it is so fresh, so clear, so solid, so modest, so alive. When I read a book like that I am full of admiration yet I feel so humiiated and despairing too...'

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: Antonia White      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : Voyage of the Beagle, The

'Reading Darwin's [book] I wish I had loved objective things and looked at them when I was a child instead of feeding always on books and fancy'.

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: Antonia White      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : The Voyage of the Beagle

Passages transcribed in E. M. Forster's Commonplace Book (1943) include reflections on Australia from Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle.

Century: 1900-1945     Reader/Listener/Group: Edward Morgan Forster      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : On the Origin of Species

'[from Gissing's diary] Spent the evening in a troubled state of mind, occasionaly glancing at Darwin's "Origin of Species" - a queer jumble of thoughts'.

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: George Gissing      Print: Book


Charles Darwin : On the Origin of Species

'In November [1859] [Tennyson] was reading with intense interest an early copy of Darwin's Origin of Species, sent him by his own desire'.

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: Alfred Tennyson      Print: Book


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