Mr Darwin’s Shooter

Roger McDonald

Mr Darwin's Shooter
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Mr Darwin’s Shooter

Roger McDonald

the story of Syms Covington, Darwin’s manservant on the Beagle and afterwards. Last century Charles Darwin set out on a voyage in the Beagle that would change forever the way human history was viewed. It was on this voyage that Darwin collected the information that gave birth to his controversial Theory of Evolution. This is a novel of scientific discovery, of religious faith, of masters and servants, and of the endless wonder of the natural world. But its greatest triumph is Covington himself, the boy who looked up at the beckoning figure of a yellow-haired Christian in the stained glass window in his boyhood church of Bedford, and sought to follow. He leaves Bedford as a lad of 13 and goes to sea with the evangelical sailor John Phipps and becomes one of Phipps' ‘lads’. But Phipps' catechising can’t repress Covington’s passage into manhood, nor prevent him chasing the exotic native maidens of Tierra del Fuego. When next he returns to sea it is to serve on the Beagle. Mr Darwin’s Shooter re-creates the voyage of the Beagle, where Covington spends time exploring – and collecting specimens – inland. And we travel on to the Galapagos Islands, with their huge turtles and armadillos and remarkable finches. Years later, in Sydney’s Watson’s Bay in beset middle age, Covington awaits the arrival of the first copy of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, which contains the scandalous theory of evolution. What part of his life might be in it? What truths may it contain? How can one man absorb the meaning of Creation?

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