Randal Keynes, his book, and its multiplicity of titles – and now, the film

January 24, 2010 at 2:57 am (Anglophilia, books, Film and television, Music)

Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution was first published in this country in 2002. Randal Keynes paints an appealing picture of Charles Darwin as a young man, living the English country house life with his wife and children. But a life of relative ease and comfort could not shield the family from terrible loss: the central event in the book is the death, at age ten, of Darwin’s daughter Annie.

Randal Keynes is the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin. While was going through some material belonging to his illustrious forebears, he came upon a writing box containning various keepsakes. The box, about 150 years old, had belonged to Annie Darwin. This fortuitous discovery was the genesis of Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution.

And about that rather clunky title… It was actually the subtitle of the original British publication:  . To complicate matters further, a recently released film version film version is entitled Creation. The book has been duly re-issued with that title:  .

Randal Keynes is the scion of more than one distinguished family. He is the great nephew of economist John Maynard Keynes and is descendant from the Wedgwoods through both Charles and Emma Wedgwood Darwin. (The two were cousins.)

Randal Keynes

And there’s more: in addition to being the grandson of Josiah Wedgwood,  Charles Darwin was also the grandson Erasmus Darwin, the famed 18th century philosopher, physiologist, abolitionist, botanist, poet, and all around polymath.

Finally, I think it worth mentioning that the great English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was Charles Darwin’s great nephew! Got all that ? Me neither…

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the subject. And here’s a family tree (click to enlarge):


Here is an excerpt from Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The video was made with loving care, as befits its subject. As it begins, look carefully at the photograph on the album cover; then watch what happens at the end. In the meanwhile, you will hear sublime music.


I read Randal Keynes’s book shortly after it came out. It was extremely readable and very poignant. Click here to read Darwin’s eulogy for Annie.

Anne Elizabeth Darwin: 1841-1851

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