On the Origin of Darwin


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On the Origin of Darwin

by Kirk Wood Bromley
Characters (in order of appearance):
Francis Beaufort - Navy Admiral

George Peacock - Cambridge Professor

Robert Fitzroy - Captain of the Beagle

John Henslow - a friend of Darwin

Charles Darwin - naturalist on the Beagle

Fanny Mostyn Owen - Darwin's fiance

Syms - an impressed sailor

Lieutenant Sulivan - Fitzroy’s second-in-command

Augustus Earle - the Beagle’s artist

Richard Matthews - the Beagle’s minister

Jemmy Bucket - a displaced Fuegian

York Minster - a displaced Fuegian

Fuegia Basket - a displaced Fuegian

Sailors on the Beagle

Senor Chilito - un hombre de Buenos Aires

Las mujeres de Buenos Aires

Los gauchos – Spanish Cowboys

General Rosas - el jefe de los gauchos

An Indian

Native Fuegians

Mr. Lawson - head of the penal colony at Galapagos

A Conscientious Sailor

The Playwright

A Police Officer

Emma Darwin
Time: September 1, 1831 – October 5, 1836

Place: Around the world

On the Origin of Darwin was originally commissioned by Melanie Joseph of the Foundry Theatre, NYC, 2001. It was first performed by Inverse Theater in December 2004 at the Connelly Theater in NYC.

From 1831 to 1836, the HMS Beagle, a three mast, 10-gun bark with a crew of 74, circled the globe on a commercial and cultural mission. Leaving from Davenport, England, the ship sailed across the Atlantic, moved slowly around South America, traversed the Pacific, shot swiftly about the Horn, and home, all the while stopping to chart, collect, and civilize. Aboard the Beagle was a young English naturalist by the name of Charles Darwin. During the voyage Darwin experienced a diversity of events that were formulated into his theory of evolution. This is and is not that story.

Scene 1: The Office of the Hydrographer of the British Admiralty. Enter Professor George Peacock, Admiral Francis Beaufort, and Captain Robert Fitzroy. Enter an assistant.

Assist- Admiral, behold! A dodo feather from our office in Mauritius!

Beau- Excellent! The fruits of extinction do so charm the ladies.

Peac- This reminds me that the Reverend Leonard Jenyns shall this Friday address the Cambridge Philosophical Society on the divine design of feathers and advance most conclusively the teleological argument from design founded on the unity and perfectibility of created things.

Fitz- He is only forced to do so in response to the most recent blasphemous circular of the wicked Robert Taylor.

Assist- The circular which claims such anathema as ‘Jesus Christ never existed; the Christian religion had no such origin as has been pretended; and it is in no way beneficial to mankind’?

Beau- What, have you read it?

Assist- No, sir.

Fitz- Any man, fine or no, who publicly questions the divine design of feathers should be snackered with a depilated dodo!

Enter John Henslow.
Hen- Gentlemen, Charles Darwin.
Enter Charles Darwin.

Dar- Good morning.

Hen- Charles, this is Admiral Francis Beaufort,

Hydrographer of the Royal Navy,

To'm I first appealed your nomination

As naturalist upon the Beagle’s voyage.

Dar- Very nice to meet you, sir. Your support

For geologic circumnavigations

Has proved a mighty boon to English science.

Beau- The earth is round, I say, so round we go!

Hen- You know, I believe, Professor Peacock.

Pea- Last we glared, I was handing spriggy Charles

A less-than-average in his calculus.

Dar- My studies have been hindered, I’m afraid,

By too much collection, and too little


Hen- A common fault.

Fitz- Quite common.

Hen- And last but first, Captain Robert Fitzroy,

Who shall command the ship.

Dar- An honor, sir.

Fitz- Wish you, Mr. Darwin, to swab my stern,

Then kindly steep the ocean’s etiquette:

A sailor does not shake, he salutes.

Dar- Yes, sir.

Hen- And moving right along...

Fitz- Mr. Henslow,

You may have championed the candidate,

But I requested such a gentleman,

If he be that, and still I doubt he be,

So may I steer the interview?

Hen- Of course.

Fitz- What is your age?

Dar- I am a naturalist,

So every age is mine.

Fitz- Well, you may go.

Hen- But why?

Fitz- Clever is a quality I detest.

Dar- I am 21. And you?

Fitz- Ask the questions,

But, to quell your cheek, I’m 26.

Dar- So must I respect you as my elder.

Fitz- Respect me as your better.

Dar- Such respect

Is envy’s cover, and I envy none

Save those who excel at my ambitions,

And we are different men: You, an officer,

I, a flycatcher, so my better? No,

And yes, tho at those deeds I do not do,

So shall I respect you as my equal.

Beau- Now here’s a noggy jug o’ spicy spunk!

Fitz- Why don’t we drop the jolly repartee

And scull our lugger thru the nasty bizz.

Dar- Well.

Fitz- Our voyage shall be five years long.

Dar- Five years short,

For twenty's trite for all I hope to snag.

Fitz- Your quarters will be crampt, dark and musty.

Dar- A mansion next to any London flat.

Fitz- I’m talking savage South America!

Dar- Where I shall shoot the Great Cannibal King!

Fitz- You're indifferent to seasickness and disease?

Dar- If we but follow our immunities

Then all we will discover is regret.

Fitz- The food shall be bad, wine little, women none.

Dar- Bad food brings good thoughts, wonder is my wine,

And for women, I've got Fanny Mostyn Owen.

Beau- Her daddy and I were royal dragoons!

Pea- Her uncle’s a notorious debauch.

Hen- She's a fine girl, Charles. Congratulations.

Fitz- You’ll marry her if you return from hell.

Dar- I will return or marry her in heaven.

Fitz- Yet you'll miss her, and lang in melancholia.

Dar- As Milton tells, the lamina of hell

Are rife with fossils of all types and times,

So missing her will smooth with digging these,

And I’ll be happy as the devil’s dog.

Fitz- Such arrogance on blasphemy doth teeter.

Dar- I sense we share the sin.

Fitz- Mr. Darwin!

Dar- Please, Captain Fitzroy, forgive me how I thrash.

It is my failing that formality

Stuck between myself and my desires

Makes me rebel against what I respect:

I bear a swatch of my grandfather’s spots,

But let me bleach them, and say calmly this:

I am a simple man, less educated

Than enticed; loving nature to a fault,

I live to know her, which my mending is.

If you crave a friend upon your travels,

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