[News: Thanks to Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, we now think we may be looking for a version of an 1859 painting by William Holbrook Beard called "The Youthful Darwin Expounding his Theories". Full update to follow.]
Help! Can you identify a missing Darwin caricature? All we know is that it was called “The Young Darwinian” and was drawn by the American comic illustrator Thomas Francis Beard. A copy was sent to Darwin in 1872 by his friend Asa Gray but Darwin didn’t keep it.
[NB The image on the left is just for illustrative purposes - as some people spotted, it is a poorly disguised version of a caricature from The Hornet, 1871, which is still with Darwin's papers.]
Volume 20 of the Correspondence, with all the letters from 1872, is about to go to press and we would love to be able to include an image of the caricature, but so far neither of our crack research teams on either side of the Atlantic has been able to find it. We think it was probably drawn in 1871 or 1872 in response to Darwin’s book Descent of Man. Beard was a prolific artist who worked for a number of US magazines and newspapers, including Phunny Phellow, Wild Oats, Budget of Fun, Jolly Joker, Comic Monthly, and Harper’s Weekly.
Here is what was written to Darwin about it:
Letter from Asa Gray, 11 June 1872
June 11, 1872
My Dear Darwin
I dare say you have long ago the clever thing referred to in Prof. Rood’s letter; I send the copy by a friend who will post it in Liverpool—so that it should reach you nearly as soon as this letter.
. . .
Ever yours cordially | Asa Gray
341 East 15th. St | New York
June 8th. 1872.
I send you by express two copies of The Young Darwinian, (from the artist, Mr Beard) One is intended for Mr Darwin the other for yourself.
The artist assured me that it was executed in a purely neutral
spirit, and without any intention of casting ridicule—on either
We in New York enjoyed it very much—
Sincerely | O. N. Rood
Beard is a very talented fellow, and would no doubt be delighted by a
line from you, though he dont expect it. | R—
The letters are now in Cambridge University Library, DAR 106: D13–14