S'il eût été plus court
He was nearly six feet high, but did not look his height, having in later years contracted a slight stoop. Every one has seen engravings or photographs of him. They give a very good idea of his face, for its features were well marked; and in elderly men the expression seems to become a part of the features. The form of the head, high and dome-shaped, was characteristic, and it showed all the more because nearly bare in front. A long and snow-white beard gave him a venerable aspect. The nose, which had nearly caused him to lose the voyage on the Beagle1, was rather blunt, more like that of Socrates than that of Julius Caesar. But the feature which struck one most was the projecting brow with its bushy eyebrows, and deep beneath it the large gray-blue eyes with their clear and steady look. It was an alert look, as of one accustomed to observe keenly, yet it was also calm and reflective. There was a pleasant smile which came and passed readily, but the chief impression made by the face was that of tranquil, patient thoughtfulness, as of one whose mind had long been accustomed to fix itself upon serious problems. With this there was also a benignity and serenity which reassured the visitor, and put him, however deep his reverence, at his ease in the great man's presence. One could not feel constrained or timorous, because his manner was perfectly simple and natural, with nothing to indicate any consciousness of exceptional powers.
“Afterwards, on becoming very intimate with Fitz-Roy, I heard that I had run a very narrow risk of being rejected on account of the shape of my nose! He was an ardent disciple of Lavater, and was convinced that he could judge of a man's character by the outline of his features; and he doubted that anyone with my nose should possess sufficient energy and determination for the voyage. But I think he was afterwards well satisfied that my nose had spoken falsely” (Charles Darwin, “The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–1882”, Nora Barlow (Ed), Collins, London, 1958, pp. 48–49). Richard Lewontin concludes a recent review with the question, “But what if it had been bigger?”— to which the historian of science Peter Bowler has actually attempted an answer. See Richard C. Lewontin, “Why Darwin?”, in The New York Review of Books, Vol. 56, No. 9, 28 May 2009; and Peter J. Bowler, “What Darwin Disturbed: The Biology That Might Have Been”, in Isis, Vol. 99, No. 3, September 2008, pp. 560–567. ↩