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Darwin Correspondence Project

'Like confessing a murder' audio play


It is like confessing a murder
It is like confessing a murder
CUL DAR 114: 3
Cambridge University Library

This specially commissioned BBC Radio drama is based entirely on Charles and Emma Darwin’s own words and correspondence. Behind the controversial public persona, Darwin was an affectionate family man, fully engaged – sometimes heartbreakingly so – in the lives of his wife, Emma and their children. Emma was not without her own concerns about the spiritual implications of some of her husband’s ideas, fearing they would undermine his Christian faith. How could he reconcile these apparent contradictions – which, years before the publication Origin, when outlining the theory to Joseph Dalton Hooker, Darwin had said felt 'like confessing a murder'. The letters recreate the domestic context from which evolution by natural selection arose.

'Like Confessing a Murder' was written by Craig Baxter and originally broadcast by the BBC World Service in 2009. The part of Darwin was played by Alex Jennings and Emma by Oona Beeson. The play was directed by Penny Boreham and was a Ruth Evans Production for the BBC.  We are very grateful to Alex, Emma, and the BBC for permission to include it here.