By Desmond King-Hele (auth.)
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Extra resources for Erasmus Darwin and the Romantic Poets
He was very conscious of the struggle for existence and painted a lurid picture of its operation throughout the natural world in his last poem The Temple of Nature. He also saw beyond its apparent cruelty. First, it was a necessary part of the process for improving species. Second, it was not only the survival of the fittest but also, by and large, the survival of the happiest, because the survivors are generally healthier and happier than the victims. He saw each organic being as possessed of a quota of happiness, whence his concept of 'organic happiness' and the idea that evolution tends to enhance organic happiness.
Plate I, lines 5-7). The 'Marriage' and the 'Visions' 45 Sparks were also seen in sunflowers, and Oothoon becomes sunflowerlike in line 13: 'I turn my face to where my whole soul seeks'. ' 19 She offers to spread 'silken nets' to catch 'girls of mild silver, or of furious gold' and intends to 'view their wanton play/In lovely copulation' (Plate 7, lines 23-5). This is very like Darwin's viewing of the amorous antics of the plants; and Blake probably drew on Darwin's picture of the promiscuous lovers on Tahiti, where Venus spreads a 'silken net' to catch the 'smiling youths' and 'blushing maids'.
131, 133. 15. British Critic, 5, 113-22 (1795). 16. H. Williams, Great Biologists (Bell, 1961) p. 80. 17. A. Seward, Memoirs of the Life of Dr Darwin, pp. 5-6. 18. Letters of Erasmus Darwin, p. 336. 19. Temple of Nature, Note VIII. 20. Letters of Josiah Wedgwood ii 541. 21. E. Darwin, Zoonomia i 352. 22. Letters of Erasmus Darwin, p. 54. 23. , pp. 146-71. 24. 59. 25. Letters of Erasmus Darwin, p. 104. 26. See D. King-Hele, Doctor of Revolution, pp. 141-3. 27. Philosophical Transactions, 78, 43-52 (1788).