‘Mr Darwin Welcome. Delighted you have come to Yorkshire’ is the opening caption, spoken by Charles Waterton from the top branches of an elm tree to Darwin, then in his mid-thirties, midway between the voyage of The Beagle and the publication of The Origin of Species.
It’s a complex double-page spread but you’ve got to start somewhere so this very rough rough suggests how we can slot in the main aspects of a tour of Waterton’s sanctuary for wildlife at Walton Park. You could really extend this one tour into a twelve page comic story in its own right but that’s all the space we have for the last forty years of Waterton’s life.
I would so like to have heard a discussion between Darwin and Waterton about the Nondescript, Waterton’s enigmatic ape-man creation. Did it give Darwin the idea for his Descent of Man?!
And here’s another Darwin/Waterton which regrettably we’re unable to follow up in this brief comic strip biography. Here’s Darwin recalling his medical student days in Edinburgh;
‘I heard Audubon deliver some interesting discourses on the habits of North American birds, sneering somewhat unjustly at Waterton. By the way, a negro lived in Edinburgh, who had travelled with Waterton and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently; he gave me lessons for payments, and I used often to go sit with him for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man.’
Charles Darwin, Autobiography
Also in Darwin’s autobiography there’s a passage which echoes Charles Waterton’s childhood. Darwin recalls; ‘To my deep mortification my father once said to me “You care for nothing but, shooting, dogs and rat catching and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”‘
He and Waterton had so much in common!