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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Hooker   23 [June 1858]



My dear Hooker

Poor dear Etty has been very seriously ill with Dipterithes1 (or some such name) but she is better this morning I am nearly sure. It has been a most suffering illness, with dreadful inflammation of whole throat. She will, I fear, be some time in getting her strength & will require constant attention. We are both rather knocked up & I have not spirits to see anyone, even you, at present. Fate seems determined to deny me the pleasure of seeing you.2 I fear that you will be wearied out with being put off.— It was very lucky you did not come here on last Saturday, for the attack began that morning, & our friends had to go. Some think the complaint infectious, which would be another reason for your not coming.— Thank God, I feel pretty sure, that all danger is over: but the Doctor has not been here yet & he damped us yesterday much.—

My dear friend | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin

For Dipterithes it was a mild attack; there was no actual choking, but immense discharge & much pain & inability to speak or swallow & very weak & rapid pulse, with a fearful tongue.—

The Dr. gives very good Report


Diphtheritis or diphtheria is a condition in which the air passages become covered with a leathery membrane. The condition was relatively unknown in Britain before the epidemic of 1857–8. Henrietta Emma Darwin had fallen ill on 18 June (Emma Darwin’s diary).
For CD’s invitation to Hooker, see letter to J. D. Hooker, 18 [May 1858].


Etty [Henrietta Darwin] very ill with diphtheria.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Joseph Dalton Hooker
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 114: 238
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2290,” accessed on 21 October 2018,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7