Darwin's House

Down House where Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, ten children & servants lived in Kent. Photo: Mario Modesto

Down House where Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, ten children & servants lived in Kent. Photo: Mario Modesto

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Writers' homes, as museums, are a source of fascination for a certain type of literary tourist -- people drawn to the idea that a house reflects a lot about the evolution of a creative mind.


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The best house museums leave you wondering: what makes a house a home? A happy home? A home of kinship and community which produces interesting, fertile lives and minds?

For forty years, from the 1840's onward, naturalist Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, ten children and servants lived in a sprawling home called Down House in the Kentish countryside south-west of London, England. It was a liberal house, full of books and animals, a greenhouse (left) and children and the stuff of his many experiments. It was a house of good humour and affection, but one that experienced sadness and loss, and accepted it as part of life's process.  
 
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Michael Enright talks to British writer Rebecca Stott in London. She has studied Darwin and written about his remarkable household, and says Down House was a work in progress...an organism as interesting as anything Darwin studied. 
 
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