Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

by Deborah Heiligman

The relationship between Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, is the focal point of... read more

The relationship between Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma, is the focal point of a remarkable work of nonfiction that also chronicles Darwin’s thinking about the theory of evolution and its eventual publication. That thinking was greatly advanced when the bachelor Darwin made his now famous journey on the H.M.S. Beagle. Returning from the trip, he began to contemplate marriage along with what he would eventually call natural selection. He listed the “Pros” and “Cons” of matrimony and decided in the affirmative—but to whom? If turning to a family with whom he was already close seemed convenient, it didn’t lessen his anxiety as he began to court his cousin Emma Wedgewood (although she was at first oblivious to the courting). And when he began to fall in love, his worries deepened. Emma was a devout Christian. What would she think about his radical idea that God was not the master designer of Nature? Author Deborah Heiligman’s vivid history is full of humor, drama, passion, and keen details of time, place, and personality. For the Darwins, love and mutual respect were paramount, bridging the chasm between their beliefs, seeing them through personal tragedy, and sheltering them from the furor over the publication of Darwin’s first book. Heiligman’s primary focus is Darwin, but she masterfully reveals both Charles and Emma and shows the developing and then steadfast relationship between them in this accomplished work that incorporates numerous passages from her subjects’ many letters. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2010

show less