Today we were guests at a delightful wedding on the beach at Byron Bay.

The first reading was from the Gospel according to Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin was a prolific journal keeper – the prototypical blogger! His complete works are available online at His private papers are held by Cambridge University, and amongst these is Darwin’s methodical anaylsis of the benefits of marriage.

In July 1838, aged 29, he had returned from his 5 year voyage on the HMS Beagle and had spent 2 years back in London living in grand batchelor style. A decision had to made. In his journal, he  weighed up the Pros and Cons of marriage using a scientific approach.


This is the Question


  • Children (if it Please God)
  • Constant companion (and friend in old age) who will feel interested in one
  • Object to be beloved and played with. Better than a dog anyhow
  • Home, & someone to take care of house
  • Charms of music and female chit-chat
  • These things good for one’s health—but terrible loss of time
  • My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, and nothing after all—No, no, won’t do
  • Imagine living all one’s day solitary in smoky dirty London House
  • Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire and books and music perhaps
  • Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Great Marlboro Street, London


Not Marry

  • Freedom to go where one liked
  • Choice of Society and little of it
  • Conversation of clever men at clubs
  • Not forced to visit relatives and bend in every trifle
  • Expense and anxiety of children
  • Perhaps quarrelling
  • Loss of Time
  • Cannot read in the evenings
  • Fatness and idleness
  • Anxiety and responsibility
  • Less money for books etc.
  • If many children forced to gain one’s bread (But then it is very bad for one’s health to work too much)
  • Perhaps my wife won’t like London; then the sentence is banishment and degradation into indolent, idle fool


Marry, Marry, Marry Q.E.D.


Having come to this decision, he wasted no time. To be his ‘nice soft wife on the sofa’, he chose his first cousin Emma Wedgewood, one year older than he was. Darwin wrote to her about his expectations. “I think you will humanize me, & soon teach me there is greater happiness than building theories, & accumulating facts in silence & solitude.” How could she resist?

He had known Emma since childhood. Her grandfather, Joshua Wedgewood, had earned a fortune in the ceramics and pottery business. They were married in January 1839 after a three month engagement. Charles suffered with frequent illness, and Emma cared for him and their 10 children till his death aged 73. It appears his analysis of the pros and cons of marriage was confirmed!

However, history does not tell us the reckoning from Emma’s point of view!


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