Congratulations, Wedgwood Museum

Josiah Wedgwood I, © National Portrait Gallery London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Josiah Wedgwood I, © National Portrait Gallery London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

It is very good news that the Wedgwood archive and pottery collection  has been bought for the nation.  The Darwins and Wedgwoods were so intermarried, it was a Wedgwood family joke that the Darwins were more Wedgwood than Darwin. Charles thought he and his wife, Emma Wedgwood (also his cousin) were rather ‘degenerate descendants of old Josiah W.’, however, because they didn’t particularly like Wedgwood ware, and he teased his friend Joseph Hooker about his passion for collecting it.  Darwin hunted out some pieces for him but they had been casualties of family life: ‘I had a whole Box of small Wedgwood medallions; but drat the children everything in this house gets lost & wasted; I can find only about a dozen little things as big as shillings, & I presume worth nothing; but you shall look at them when here & take them if worth pocketing.’

 

Dar 97: b10, © Cambridge University Library

Dar 97: b10, © Cambridge University Library

It was Josiah Wedgwood II (Emma’s father  – and Charles’s uncle), who set the course of history by pursuading  Robert Darwin to let his son go off on HMS Beagle  – countering a list of objections to what seemed to an understandably nervous father to be a ‘wild scheme’, and  ‘useless undertaking’ – and most disreputable to the character of a future clergyman.

 

Darwin was proud of his family connections and sent some letters exchanged between his two famous grandfathers to Eliza Meteyard for her biography of Josiah Wedgwood I.      And the connections continued strongly into younger generations: Darwin’s Wedgwood neices often did field work and made observations on his behalf, in particular Lucy Wedgwood, who did so much to collect plants, poke knitting needles down wormholes,   and observe  everything from horses to babies, that she assumed the title of ‘lieutenant’.

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