Monday, July 24, 2017
A lagniappe for The Sandwalk Adventures
When I started reading The Sandwalk Adventures by Jay Hosler, I was unprepared for the lagniappe (Cajun for a little something extra) I received. I enjoyed learning about Jay’s pathway from doodler to a published cartoonist as an undergraduate at DePauw University and in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame; there’s hope for me yet. I was familiar with Sandwalk from Dr. Oliver’s posts in an earlier course, but I was a little surprised that Jay had not actually visited the site.
As I read about Jay’s experience with Sandwalk, “I didn’t visit Darwin’s home or stroll along his sandwalk. Consequently, I have neither visual reference material nor the context of experience from which to draw the sandwalk scenes. Things looked bleak for my attempts at visual authenticity until I found a terrific web page called AboutDarwin.com (this was my extra treat). Among a wide array of fun Darwin stuff, this site has a photo stroll around the sandwalk.” If he had visited it, I might have not taken the next step of accessing the site which led me to another link, “Recent addition – Darwin’s burial:” What captured my attention was the statement about the relationship of Darwin’s tomb to Sir Isaac Newton’s. On further research, I saw a photo of Darwin’s tomb with a birthdate of “Born 12 February 1809” and I remember how Henry James stressed the importance of observation and storing up memories for future use. Somewhere deep in my mind a little part of that memory came alive.
I should have made this connection earlier but I realized that here was a unique Anglo-American connection that is seldom if ever mentioned. On that exact day and year, a young American boy was born. Like Darwin he had an avid curiosity. He was an insatiable reader who read by candle light. He knew Shakespeare so well that he could question an actor about the appropriate use of a pause on a particular part of a play. His favorite poet was Robert Burns from Scotland. He was a quiet humble man, a brilliant lawyer with a great wit and an incredible debater. He was criticized for not being a member of any church yet Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.
I reflected on the coincidence of the place of their births; it is 3,940 miles from Shrewsbury, England to Hodgenville, Kentucky. I thought about their educations, Lincoln a self-taught lawyer, Darwin a self-taught scientist. I wonder if The Origin of Species crossed the Atlantic in time for Lincoln to read it before the Civil War began. I think they would have enjoyed each other’s company. Lincoln would have been fascinated with Darwin’s collections and might have even provided him with some objects from America. I think Lincoln would have asked probing questions and helped Darwin in preparing his rebuttals to his opponents, because I believe Lincoln would have agreed with Darwin’s conclusions. Thanks to Dr. Oliver, Jay, and The Sandwalk Adventures for opening that door for me to think about this possible relationship.