Augustus Earle and Darwin
21 January 2007 Filed in: The Voyage of the Beagle
Painting by Augustus Earle of Kororareka from his time spent in New Zealand
A little while ago I gave a talk at a conference in Auckland in which I mentioned Looking for Darwin. I was approached afterwards by Guy Hamling, who kindly drew my attention to a passage written in Earle’s Narrative of his time in New Zealand.
All this might make very little sense until you put a couple of other pieces of the jig-saw together. Augustus Earle was the artist aboard the Beagle (at least until ill-health forced him to leave). When the Beagle arrived in Brazil and set about mapping the coast, Darwin, Earle and one other, took the opportunity to set up house together in Rio de Janeiro for a few months. Apart from being a fine painter, Earle was a bon vivant with an eye for adventure, travel and the ladies. He had lived in Rio for over three years on a previous excursion (making him an excellent guide for Darwin), which had ended up with him spending nine months shacked up with a Maori maiden in New Zealand. The interesting thing is that in his Narrative, a copy of which was carried on HMS Beagle, Earle makes a passing comment that makes it clear that he thought humans had come from monkeys.
It is interesting to speculate, that in 1832, some 27 years before the publication of On the Origin of Species, Darwin and Earle may have been sitting around Copacabana Beach in Rio, drinking piña coladas and eyeing the Brazilian beauties playing beach volleyball in their thongs, while discussing evolution. Now you tell me which part of that picture seems the most likely?