The common people [in Tahiti], when working, keep the upper part of their bodies quite naked; and it is then that the Tahitians are seen to advantage. They are very tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, and well-proportioned. It has been remarked, that it requires little habit to make a dark skin more pleasing and natural to the eye of an European than his own colour. A white man bathing by the side of a Tahitian, was like a plant bleached by the gardener’s art compared with a fine dark green one growing vigorously in the open fields.Survival of the fittest indeed! Note also that, in personal appearance, the women "are far inferior in every respect to the men."
One of the things I have come to enjoy about Darwin is his artlessness. In the various excerpts from the "Voyage" and the "Origin" (for Darwin gets two volumes in the Harvard Classics -- that progressive thing again), you never see him out to destroy competing theories. Instead, he's almost more like a kid; when he is in nature (or "Nature") he notices something and wonders, "How does it work"? In the opening of today's reading, he wonders how come the birds on the Galapgos are so tame:
As the birds are so tame there, where foxes, hawks, and owls occur, we may infer that the absence of all rapacious animals at the Galapagos, is not the cause of their tameness here. The upland geese at the Falklands show, by the precaution they take in building on the islets, that they are aware of their danger from the foxes; but they are not by this rendered wild towards man. This tameness of the birds, especially of the waterfowl, is strongly contrasted with the habits of the same species in Tierra del Fuego, where for ages past they have been persecuted by the wild inhabitants.And in a footnote to this passage, there is real wonder:
There is much, as Dr. Richardson well remarks, utterly inexplicable connected with the different degrees of shyness and care with which birds conceal their nests. How strange it is that the English wood-pigeon, generally so wild a bird, should very frequently rear its young in shrubberies close to houses!First of all, "shrubberies," but also, where pigeons do or don't build their nests doesn't even seem like much of a strange fact to the normal person, but for Darwin it's exclamation-point worthy.
But, as the quote indicates at the beginning, Darwin is a man of appetites:
When in the evening I descended from the mountain, a man, whom I had pleased with a trifling gift, met me, bringing with him hot roasted bananas, a pine-apple, and cocoa-nuts. After walking under a burning sun, I do not know anything more delicious than the milk of a young cocoa-nut. Pine-apples are here so abundant that the people eat them in the same wasteful manner as we might turnips. They are of an excellent flavor-perhaps even better than those cultivated in England; and this I believe is the highest compliment which can be paid to any fruit.Better than English pineapples! You don't mean it!