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Letter 8079

Norton, S. R. to Darwin, C. R.

20 Nov [1871]


Sends CD a German pamphlet, “War Goethe ein Darwinianer?”


Dresden. | 9. Räcknitz Strasse—

Nov. 20th.

My dear Mr Darwin—

Truth compels me to state that I was not in search of purescience when I came across the little pamphlet which leaves here forDown tomorrow morning—far from it—but as I looked vainly, alas!for a french novel what should I see but the words “War Goetheein Darwinianer”?f2 Now I ask you, who are incapable of prejudice, ifany better proof of German “fleissigkeit”f3 is wanting than that theseadmirable pursuers of hidden truth have actually time enough &to spare to steal the best genius of other countries?— Beingin true feminine style convinced,without knowing anything about the matter that Goethe wasno Darwinianer—I have not read the pamphlet—but Mr Nortonf4 has & hetells me that the profound Schmidt is of my way of thinking—You shall decide whether yr great original was to have been seen sometime since wooing the lovely sirens of Weimarf5 rather than those mostinteresting inhabitants of warmer climes—

Writing you this nonsense gives me a pleasant opportunity of telling youthat we have heard from my Aunts & Sister, most animated accounts ofyour sons’ visit to Cambridge.—f6 They have left behind them manyfriends & the most agreeable impressions & what more can one ask to doin going to a foreign country?— My Sister & brotherf7 imply that there was an immense amount of laughingdone— So I take it that my country furnished at least one veryadmirable element of enjoyment—Mirth.— I wish we might have beenat home to return a little bit of your unbounded hospitality to usbut perhaps one of these days you may be fired with the desire tosee those monkeys which one of yr great novelists describes as gailygambolling in the trees of Illinois!f8 If such should be the case youwill surely not overlook Cambridge, the home of all virtue & learning& at least for a time will rest at Shady Hill,—where novels anda most affectionate welcome will always await youf9

You may be glad to know that we are most comfortably established inthis dullest & most respectable of cities—& are all well— evenMrs. Nortonf10 may be called well now—but Germany is “langweilig”f11& I shall be glad when I find myself on the lovely shores of the dearlittle Island.

We send to you & yours warmest messages of regard—& Mr Nortonbids me remember him very especially to yrself & Mrs. Darwin | Pray give her my love— | & always believe me | dear Mr Darwin— |Affectionately yours | Susan Norton.

Forgive Donatis Comet—which has sprung out of spacef12

DAR 172: 78



The year is established by the reference to the visit of CD’s sonsto the United States (see n. 6, below).
The pamphlet was by Oscar Schmidt (Graz: Leuschner & Lubensky, 1871). CD’s copy is inthe Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Fleissigkeit: diligence.
Susan Norton’s husband was Charles Eliot Norton.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived at Weimar from 1775 to the end ofhis life in 1832.
Susan Norton’s sister was Sara Sedgwick. Her aunts were Anne and GraceAshburner. George Howard Darwin and Francis Darwin had visited theUnited States between August and October 1871 (letter to Asa Gray, 16 July [1871]).
Susan’s brother was Arthur George Sedgwick.
The Nortons had visited Down in 1868 and 1869 (see Correspondencevol. 16, letter to J. D. Hooker [8–10 September 1868], andCorrespondence vol. 17, letter to Asa Gray, 1 June [1869]).The novelist has not been identified.
Shady Hill in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the family home of theNortons (J. Turner 1999, p. 2).
Evidently Charles Norton’s mother, Catherine Eliot Norton.
Langweilig: boring.
The comet was named after the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Donati,who observed it on 2 June 1858. Norton probably refers to a long,curved ink blot on the second page of the letter.
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