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Darwin Correspondence Project


To Emma Darwin   [20 April 1851]



My dear Emma

I had not time to send a second later letter yesterday. I do not know, but think it is best for you to know how every hour passes. It is a relief to me to tell you: for whilst writing to you, I can cry; tranquilly. I forget whether I told you that she vomited yesterday evening & slightly a second time. A second injection produced no sort of effect & did not relieve, but seems unimportant We then had to get Surgeon to draw her water off: this was done well & did not hurt her, but she struggled with surprising strength against being uncovered &c. soon it evidently relieved her. All night she has slept tranquilly except for about 10 minutes, when she wandered in slightly excited manner. Dr G. came at 11o 30’ & again said not worse. She has, however, taken less gruel this night & is fearfully prostrated. Yet when Brodie sponged her face, she asked to have her hands done and then thanked Brodie. & put her arms round her neck, my poor child & kissed her—

She vomited a mouthful this morning. It is certain she suffers very little—dosing nearly all the time: occasionally she says she is very weak. I expect Dr G. immediately. Last night Dr G. said, “you must not trust me, for I can give no reason for my intuition, but yet I think she will recover” Fanny H. sat up till 2 oclock God bless her. she is most sympathetic yet encouraging. Poor dear devoted Miss Thorley thus had one entire nights rest.—

8 oclock. A.M. Dr G. has been & again he says positively no symptom is worse, but none better: he cares less about food than I expected: if she can weather the fortnight, he has some hopes.— Your two heart-moving notes have come. My dear dear wife.— I do not sit all the while, with her, but am constantly up & down: I cannot sit still.—

10 oclock. I grieve to say she has vomited rather much again: but Mr Coates1 has been & drawn off again much water & this he says is a very good symptom. Last night he seemed astonished at her “fearful illness” & he made me very low; so this morning I asked nothing & he then felt her pulse of his own accord & at once said, “I declare I almost think she will recover”. Oh my dear was not this joyous to hear.— He then went on to say (& I believe him from what my Father has said) that Fever at the same period is generally either fatal to many or though appearing very bad does not kill one: & now he himself has had 6 or 7 most severe cases in the low country beneath Malvern & not one has died.—

She has her senses remarkably today which is very good as showing head not affected: she called Papa when I was out of room unfortunately & then added “is he out?” This & her speeches to Brodie show more clearness of mind than I have seen, & she knew what Mr Coates was going to do.— Several of Mr Coates fever patients have had their bladders paralysed the whole time. Oh I do wish for Tuesday the fortnight to be over.— But I must not hope too much.— These alternations of no hope & hope sicken one’s soul: I cannot help getting so sanguine everynow & then to be disappointed.

12 oclock. Again she has vomited & complains of fatigue rather more. She is very sensible; I was moving her, when she said “Dont do that please” & when I stopped “thank you”.—

2 oclock, again she has vomited but again Dr G. who has just been here says her pulse is rather better, certainly not worse.— We have put mustard poultice on stomach, & that has smarted her a good deal,—which shows more sensibility than I expected.—

3 oclock; she is a little chilly & we have given her a little Brandy—& hope she is asleep & I trust will warm.— I never saw anything so pathetic as her patience & thankfulness; when I gave her some water, she said “I quite thank you”.— Poor dear darling child. The Dr will come at 7 again.—

4o 30’ The chilliness has pretty well gone off & no more sickness, refreshing sleep.

I will write again, if I have time | Yours | C. D


Mervin G. Coates was medical officer to the Great Malvern Dispensary.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Darwin, Emma
Sent from
Physical description


Reports on Anne’s health throughout the night and from 8 a.m. through to 4.30 p.m.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1406,” accessed on 12 February 2016,