ERASMUS DARWIN (1731-1802)
Erasmus Darwin, M.B., grandfather and to some extent precursor of the more famous Darwin whose evolutionary hypotheseses were for some time accepted as law, was a Lichfield physician of some personality. His bodily and mental vigour was extreme, his eccentricities included that of drinking only "English wines," his temper was imperious and irascible, and he heartily disliked Dr. Johnson, who returned his dislike thoroughly: for each lion deemed the other a bore.
Darwin's grotesque verse, a critic has remarked, everywhere shows a powerful mind. The Loves of the Plants was published in 1789, and was followed by Zoonomia, or Laws of Organic Life, and Phytologia, or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening. The first was praised by Cowper, Hayley, and Walpole; two of these being men of piety and benevolence, the third a man of fashion. The vivid romance of Elize which follows is unique in that never before has an English (or any other) poet so clearly demonstrated the folly of taking the children to see a battle. Not only does the constant rushing about make them peevish, fretful, and overheated, but a ball may easily sink into their mother's neck and she may fall to the ground, hiding her babes within her blood-stained vest. The agony of the warrior after finishing the battle is graphically conveyed; yet he, too, has a blood-stained vest, in which he immediately wraps the children, thereby staving off the inevitable rash, whooping-cough, and croup.
It might be justly added that in this age of univeral exploitation in print of erotic situation Darwin's tribute to the chastity of the Truffle strikes a welcome note. His respiring lampreys will probably arouse little emotion in a generation to whom similar embraces have become, by assiduous contemplation of American superfilm, a commonplace.
—from The Stuffed Owl, An Anthology of Bad Verse, selected and arranged by D.B. Wyndham Lewis and Charles Lee, 1930