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Darwin Correspondence Project

4.22 Gegeef et al., 'Our National Church', 2

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The second version of Our National Church. The Aegis of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity was commissioned by the freethinker, radical and secularist George Jacob Holyoake. It was published by John Heywood of Manchester and London in June 1883 as a colour lithograph, at a new raised price of sixpence. In the caption Holyoake explained his dissatisfaction with the artistic qualities of the first print of 1873: its ‘unlooked for success’ and circulation among the educated classes would certainly have exposed those stylistic shortcomings to criticism. ‘I have now reconstructed, revised, and brought down to date that original sketch, and, being no artist myself, have enlisted the pencil of Mr. F.C. Gould to “invest with artistic merit” my dry bones of design’. Francis Carruthers Gould was then in the early years of his career as a political cartoonist, but later worked for the Pall Mall Gazette and Westminster Gazette, contributed to Vanity Fair’s ‘Men of the Day’ series of portrait caricatures, and was knighted in 1906 for services to the Liberal party. His reworked version of Our National Church, while remaining faithful to its emblematic character, is certainly more skilfully drawn than that of the mysterious ‘gegeëf’. 

Once again, both the entrenched constitutional privileges of the established church and the doctrinal dissensions within it are emphasised. The ‘umbrella’ of St Paul’s dome tilts perilously towards the Catholic ‘shadow’ side on the right, where Cardinals Manning and Newman muster the ‘con and per-verts chanting the familiar processional’. On the left or ‘sunrise’ side of the composition, are the nonconformists and agnostics. Moncure Daniel Conway, the American freethinker and opponent of slavery, ‘plants his tent to catch the latest zephyr breeze and entrap the earliest scientific sunbeam’. He preaches from ‘Conway’s free and airy tabernacle’, carries a banner inscribed ‘We move on’, and gestures towards the sunlit heights of Darwinism beyond. There a signpost points to ‘Modern Education’, and steps marked with the names of the successive geological periods lead up and back in time to the original ‘Protoplasm’ of life on earth, and to the sun emerging from the clouds. Mounting these steps, Herbert Spencer carries a banner marked ‘Philosophy’; Huxley, with a ‘Science’ banner, demands to know, ‘Why missing link?’, and an ape carrying a banner marked ‘Darwinism’ is saying, ‘This way to daylight my sons’. The ape is no longer a caricatured representation of Darwin himself, as it was in the 1873 print. He had died in 1882, a year before the second version of the print was published, and is now raised to the mountain top, the highest point in the design, in the form of a garlanded bust. Yet an element of irreverent satire remains: Darwin’s face is still mildly caricatured, and he is associated with an adapted Scripture reference from Genesis xxvii.11: ‘Behold my brother is an hairy man, and I am a smooth man’. 

Moncure Conway, pictured as occupier of the ‘free and airy tabernacle’, bought the print and described it appreciatively in his autobiography as the work of an ingenious ‘artistic cynic’. Conway was indeed a great admirer of Darwin, lectured on his work and ideas, and fondly recalled a visit to Down House in 1867. 

  • physical location Darwin archive, Cambridge University Library. Copies exist elsewhere, for example in the Science Museum, London; the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings; and the Wellcome Library. 

  • accession or collection number DAR 141.11 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image Francis Carruthers Gould, working from the design of George Jacob Holyoake, who signed the print with his nom de plume, ‘Ion’. 

  • date of creation 1883 

  • computer-readable date 1883-01-01 to 1883-06-30 

  • medium and material colour lithograph 

  • references and bibliography Moncure Daniel Conway, Autobiography: Memories and Experiences, 2 vols (Boston and New York, 1904), vol. 2, pp. 356-8, 393-4.  Warren Sylvester Smith, The London Heretics, 1870-1914 (London: Constable, 1967), pp. xiii-xvii, reproduced on end papers. Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, vol. II of a Biography (London: Jonathan Cape, 2002), pp. 380-1. J. van Wyhe, ‘Iconography’, p. 188, mentions a version of the print that was cut into 15 sections and glued to a backing, so that it could be folded up within book covers. 


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