Peripatetic, itinerant, eclectic musings about books, politics, history, language, culture, and anything else that interests me.
Nicholas Guyatt reviews three new books about Lincoln and Darwin. I skimmed the article, but I most love the first paragraph, because I am so drawn to coincidence:
Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day: February 12, 1809. As historical coincidences go, this isn’t quite as stunning as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson departing this world within a few hours of each other in 1826. Not only were Adams and Jefferson architects of the American Revolution, but they died on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Darwin and Lincoln never met or corresponded, and they distinguished themselves in very different endeavors. But Adam Gopnik uses the coincidence of their birth to make the case, in Angels and Ages, for their shared significance as “prophets of liberal civilization.” Lincoln and Darwin have incontestable claims to posterity: one saved the Union from collapse and altered the course of history; the other developed the single most important scientific idea about life on our planet. Both retain a power to fascinate: for Gopnik, Lincoln and Darwin have “never been more present.”
The other two books Guyatt reviews are Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Nature by Adrian Desmond and James Moore; and Banquet at Delmonico’s: Great Minds, the Gilded Age, and the Triumph of Evolution in America by Barry Werth.