The career of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) affords an extraordinary glimpse into the intellectual ferment of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Britain. As a popular poet, practicing physician, inventor of speaking machines and mechanical birds, essayer of natural history from geology to meteorology, and proponent of an evolutionary theory that inspired his famous grandson Charles, he left a lasting impression on almost every branch of knowledge. His magnum opus, and the synthesis of his myriad interests, is The Botanic Garden (1792) — an epic poem that aims to "enlist the Imagination under the banner of Science." Part I, The Economy of Vegetation, sings the praises of British industry as a dance of supernatural creatures while part II, The Loves of the Plants, wittily employs metaphors of human courtship to describe the reproductive cycles of hundreds of flowers. Darwin supplements his accomplished verses with (often much longer) "philosophical notes" that offer his idiosyncratic perspective on the scholarly controversies of the day.
Despite a recent surge of academic interest in Darwin, however, no authoritative critical edition of The Botanic Garden exists, presenting a barrier to further scholarship. This two volume set comprises a complete, meticulously transcribed, reading text — including all the poetry, prose apparatus, and illustrations — along with extensive commentary. Throughout Darwin is situated within contemporary debates about the natural sciences, the "science of the mind", aesthetics, sexuality, politics, and spirituality, among other concerns. This set will be of interest to readers across these and related disciplines as the definitive reference edition of The Botanic Garden and due to its efforts to make the work more practically and intellectually accessible to seasoned and novice readers alike.
"…this is an edition of The Botanic Garden which every university library – and the library of anyone interested in the long poem and its seemingly infinite annotative capacities – should have on hand."
- Christy Edwall in TLS
"They are to be applauded: their meticulous presentation of a difficult and slippery text gives it to critics of Romanticism as never before. Theirs will be the standard scholarly edition for generations to come; it will also, if enough of us ensure that our unversity libraries order it, be a fertile text for our students: under Komisaruk's and Dushane's green editorial fingers, the Botanic Garden flowers again."
- Tim Fulford, De Montfort University
A. Canto I
B. First Interlude
C. Canto II
D. Second Interlude
E. Canto III
F. Third Interlude
G. Canto IV
H. Additional Notes
I. Back Matter