Charles Darwin never comes across as a particularly red-blooded male with regards to his appreciation of the fairer sex. True, there was the brief relationship with Fanny Owen in his pre-Beagle days—a relationship which seems never to have got much further than some slightly flirty correspondence. And I remember, when visiting Down House, reading with delight on the page that happened to be open in his Beagle diary that day, some rather yearnful comments regarding the Spanish ladies of Buenos Ayres.
But then Darwin came home and married his cousin, having decided that a wife would be better than a dog, the hopeless romantic.
And that's about it. Charles Darwin remained a happily married man for the rest of his days, casting never so much as a glance at any woman other than his beloved Emma.
Or so I thought…
Then, I came across the following in a letter Darwin wrote to his eldest son, William, and I began to see old Charlie in a new light:
Aunt Catherine comes here for fortnight next Monday.— Mammie & Lizzie are gone to lunch today with the Normans; as we declined a dinner invite, which the beautiful Miss Norman brought us.—
Charles, you old rogue! You're old enough to be her father! Shame on you! But seriously, though, good on you, mate! I was starting to get a bit worried about you.
An editorial footnote to the letter explains: In a letter written shortly before this one, Emma Darwin told William: '… Papa admires Miss N[orman]. very much, which I do not she smiles too constantly & a smile is never a sweet one that is constant'.
Sour grapes, Emma?
See also: Books - The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, volume 7: 1858–1859