Novelist biographer historian literary critic. Daughter of Hensleigh and Frances Emma Elizabeth Wedgwood.
Sources: Wedgwood, Barbara and Wedgwood, Hensleigh 1980
(See the bibliography for full references to sources)
F rances Julia, or “Snow” as she was affectionately known, was considered the cleverest of her generation in the impressively intellectual Wedgwood and Darwin family circles. Through her family she was well connected to many academic and literary luminaries of the day including Thomas H. Huxley, Elizabeth Gaskell, Ruskin, as well as James Martineau and Thomas Erskine. Deeply interested in the reconciliation between an intellectual Christianity and Darwinism, Julia worked for 22 years on a volume titled Moral Ideal: a Historic Study, a history of the evolution of ethics in the great world civilizations, from antiquity down to Victorian scientific positivism and theological modernism. At the zenith of her reputation Julia Wedgwood was a considered one of the great female intellects, beneath only George Eliot, as far as her ability to handle ‘masculine subjects’ and modern topics. However, her work was impeded by the expectations placed on her as a maiden aunt in a large family circle, and she spent much of her adult life caring for relatives’ children, and ailing elderly relatives. Towards the end of her life Julia Wedgwood regretted that she had not had the opportunity to attend university as many of the younger generation, and lamented that she might have made so much more of her life, and her work has been largely forgotten to the present day.
Snow had a particularly notable exchange with Darwin over a review she wrote of The Origin of Species in July of 1861 for Macmillan’s Magazine. Deeply interested in reconciling Darwin’s newly published theories with the tenets of Christianity, Julia structured her review as a dialogue between the religiously orthodox “Philocalos” and the defender of Darwinism “Philalethes.” Importantly, Wedgwood's review suggests that natural selection is not inherently at odds with Creation. The crux of Wedgwood's argument is that natural selection provides an explanation of the origin of species but says nothing of the origin of life. Therefore, Creation is upheld as the means by which life came to be and natural selection is upheld as the means by which God's creatures reach his ultimate goal. Darwin praised Julia’s Macmillan’s review, in particular lauding her comprehension of Origin.
Relevant Gender Resources:
Darwin Correspondence Database, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-3206
Darwin Correspondence Database, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-7059
Darwin Correspondence Database, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-7651
Darwin Correspondence Database, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-8994
[Wedgwood, Frances Julia]. 1860--1. The boundaries of science, a dialogue. Macmillan's Magazine 2 (1860): 134--8; 4 (1861): 237-47.
Wedgwood, Barbara and Hensleigh Wedgwood. The Wedgwood Circle, 1730-1897. London: Studio vista, 1980.
Jose Harris, ‘Wedgwood, (Frances) Julia (1833–1913)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006.