To William Erasmus Darwin 14 February 1
My dear William
Lubbock tells me that the new microscope by Smith & Beck is to be Stereoscopic, with 3 object-glasses turning round, fixed to a circular plate;2 so that it sound stunning & all for 10 Guineas (if I am not mistaken) so it is rather aggravating that you have got yours.— Nevertheless I am pleased to hear that you have got one;, for the new one may not be on sale for many months to come; & then you can exchange,, if you find that you want it, for something still better. I am delighted to hear that you are beginning to work a little at Botany.3 You seem to me to have a taste for original research, & I believe such work will make your life much happier. I can well believe it must be a great relief having the mathematicks off your mind, & you must be glad that you did not shirk your degree.4 No doubt the Banking business will get to feel much easier, & after a year or two you will relish some extra work. Lord how proud I shall be if ever you write a Botanical paper!5
By the way, here is a trifling subject I wish in the summer you would look to: I asked Prof. Oliver whether there were any rudiments of ovules in such male plants as in the male of Lychnis dioica, & he looked for me at, I suppose, dried specimens,; & could see no difference in ovules of male & female!!6 This seems to me very odd. Begonia & some others might be looked at.— You seem to be leading a jolly dissipated life, & that was a jolly letter, which George forwarded to us.7 You seem to be well established in the best Society of the Place.— To return for moment to microscope; I know nothing about the polarising instrument; perhaps it would tell something of difference in contents or structure of cells.— Remember to buy some Phlox seed, mentioned by Lindley, & look at spiral ejected threads.8 When you have looked at some British forms, I could, if you cared for subject, get seeds of out-of-the way forms from Hooker & lots of seeds of the order could be bought at London seeds-men. I dare say Carter & Co could sell you 50 kinds of Compositæ all named.—9
We have been very miserable, & I keep in a state of almost constant fear, about poor dear little Skimp, who has oddest attacks, many times a day, of shuddering & gasping & hysterical sobbing, semi-convulsive movements, with much distress of feeling.10. These semi-convulsive movements have been less during these few last days, & are never accompanied by any loss of consciousness. Do you remember his being pitched out of the Truck: Mr Headland thinks his Brain probably suffered a little concussion;11 but I cannot help thinking that it is all due to some extreme irritation of stomach.— Miss Ludwig is unspeakeably kind to him, & he will remain with her all day & night.12 We shall have no peace in life till the poor dear sweet little man gets better.—
Tomorrow we are going to lunch with the John Lubbocks & Hooker will be there which will be a real pleasure.13 On Wednesday I have another lark to London to a Dentist, & be hanged to it, though it is only for stopping. Elizabeth is here & Mary Parker, who though dull is a nice girl.14
I have sent my Orchid M.S. to the Printers, & shall soon be hard at work correcting:15 whether my little Book has been worth writing, I know no more than the man in the moon.— I am now working & shall continue all this summer, a little at Dimorphism.—
Good night, my dear old fellow: I often rejoice that you are, I hope, fairly well & comfortably settled; but it is a dreadful loss that we cannot see you oftener, & for longer times.—
Goodnight. Your affect. Father | C. Darwin
Discusses WED’s growing interest in botany; would be grateful for certain observations.
Is much concerned about Horace’s illness.
Has sent Orchids MS to printers
and will work a little at dimorphism.