See note below: Some have written to disputed the accuracy of Lady Hope’s story.
Lady Hope, who visited Charles Darwin during his last days on earth, has the following to say regarding his views on evolution towards the end of his life:
It was on a glorious Autumn afternoon when I was asked to go and sit with Charles Darwin. He was almost bedridden for some months before he died. Propped up with pillows, his features seemed to be lit up with pleasure as I entered the room. He waved his hand towards the window as he pointed out the beautiful sunset seen beyond, while in the other he held an open Bible which he was always studying.
“What are you reading now?” I asked.
“Hebrews,” he answered, “still Hebrews. The Royal Book, I call it.” Then he placed his fingers on certain passages and commented upon them.
I made some allusions to the strong opinions expressed by many unbelievers on the history of the creation and then their treatment of the earlier chapters of the book of Genesis. He seemed distressed, his fingers twitched nervously and a look of agony came across his face as he said, “I was a young man with unformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything. And to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them.” Then he paused and after a few more sentences on the holiness of God and the grandeur of this Book, looking at the Bible which he was holding tenderly at the time, he said:
“I have a summer house in the garden which holds about thirty people. It is over there (pointing through the open window). I want you very much to speak here. I know you read the Bible in the villages. Tomorrow afternoon I should like the servants on the place, some tenants and a few neighbors to gather there. Will you speak to them?”
“What shall I speak about?” I asked.
“Christ Jesus,” he replied in a clear emphatic voice, adding in a lower tone, “and His salvation. Is not that the best theme? And then I want you to sing some hymns with them. You lead on your small instrument, do you not?”
The look of brightness on his face I shall never forget, for he added, “If you take the meeting at 3 o’clock this window will be opened and you will know that I am joining with the singing.”
Quoted from the Bombay Guardian, 25th March 1916, by Prof. H. Enoch in Evolution or Creation (Union of Evangelical Students of India, P.O. Box 486, Madras 7, India, 1966), pp. 165-167.
Response: Shortly after Darwin’s death, Lady Hope told a gathering that she had visited Darwin on his deathbed and that he had expressed regret over evolution and had accepted Christ. However, Darwin’s daughter Henrietta, who was with him during his last days, said Lady Hope never visited during any of Darwin’s illnesses, that Darwin probably never saw her at any time, and that he never recanted any of his scientific views (Clark 1984, 199; Yates 1994).