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Letter 1525

Darwin, C. R. to Galton, Francis

24 July [1853]

Summary

FG’s volume on his African expedition [Narrative of an explorer in tropical South Africa (1853)] stimulates CD to express his admiration and to hope their acquaintance can be renewed.

Describes his health and life at Down.

Transcription

13. Sea Houses. Eastbourne | Sussex

July 24th

Dear Galton

You will probably be surprised, after the long intermission of our acquaintance, at receiving a note from me; but I last night finished your volume with such lively interest, that I cannot resist the temptation of expressing my admiration at your expedition, & at the capital account you have published of it.—f1 I have no doubt you have received praise, from so many good judges, that you will hardly care to hear from me, how very much I admire the spirit & style of your book. What labours & dangers you have gone through: I can hardly fancy how you can have survived them, for you did not formerly look very strong, but you must now be as tough as one of your own African waggons!—

If you are inclined at any time to send me a line, I should very much like to hear what your future plans are, & where you intend to settle.f2 I so very seldom leave home, owing to my weakened health (though in appearance a strong man) that I have had hardly a chance of seeing you in London, though I have often heard of you from members of the Geographical Socy

I live at a village called Down near Farnborough in Kent, & employ myself in Zoology; but the objects of my study are very small fry, & to a man accustomed to rhinoceroses & lions, would appear infinitely insignificant.

We have come to this for a few weeks for sea-bathing with all our children, now numbering seven.—f3

I shd much like to hear something about your brothers, Darwin & Erasmus:f4 I very distinctly remember a pleasant visit at the Larches,f5 Heaven knows, how many years ago, & having many rides with them on Ponies, without stirrups.— The only member of your family whom I have seen for years, is Emma, who gave myself & wife a very cordial greeting at the British Assoc: at Birmingham, some few years ago.—f6

I do not know, whether I ought not to apologise for troubling you with this note, but the spirit which makes me write, must be my excuse.

Pray believe me | Yours sincerely | C. Darwin

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Footnotes

f1
Galton 1853. CD recorded this work in his reading notebook on 20 July 1853 and commented: ‘good’ (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 128: 5). A copy of the work from CD’s library, inscribed ‘Erasmus Darwin Esqr with the author’s best regards’, is in the Cambridge University Library.
f2
Galton had been travelling for two years (1850–2) on an expedition in south-west Africa, of which Galton 1853 is an account. On 1 August 1853 Galton married Louisa Jane Butler and then toured with his wife in Switzerland and Italy until March 1854; from 6 August 1854 until the summer of 1855, they travelled in France. Eventually, they settled in London. See Pearson 1914–30, 1: 241–2.
f3
The family spent three weeks in July in Eastbourne, Sussex (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 5, Appendix I).
f4
Darwin Galton and Erasmus Galton, elder brothers of Francis.
f5
The Galton family residence in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, until 1832. Before leaving on the Beagle voyage, CD visited there and went shooting with the Galton boys (Pearson 1914–30, 1: 51).
f6
Emma Sophia Galton. The British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting was held in Birmingham in September 1849.
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