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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Wedgwood  [30 November – 1 December 1838]

[36 Great Marlborough Street]

Friday Evening

My dear Emma

I listened for the Postman’s knock with some anxiety this morning, & when I received a letter & saw Catherine’s hand writing, of course I was very glad, like an affectionate brother, though that was not the handwriting, I wished to see.— I hope tomorrow I shall be rewarded; for I have been a good boy, as you told me to be when at Shrewsbury, & have been working away right hard for these two last days, & have cleared away some of the weeks accumulation.— I long to pay Maer a visit, so that I have a good stimulus to keep me to the collar, now that I have at last put myself to it: the tiresome printers, have not, however, sent me a sheet of the Appendix to my journal.— I have done nothing about houses, excepting taking another walk in out of the way places, for the chance of something good turning up.— I have thought over what I wrote to you about our plans, & like most folks, when they come to an opinion, think it a very wise one.—

In Catherines letter, she tells me Susan is at Maer: I am glad of it, for I shall now have double letters from Maer.— I have asked Susan to come if possible, to London for a week in early January to buy a few pots & pans &c &c.— do try & persuade the good dear old soul to do so, for she will save us much trouble, & will do it, I daresay, very well. In your last letter you say “poor old gentleman”, when you hear of my long walks, but I will have my revenge, & when I see you puzzling over furniture, trying to get beautiful things for no money, I shall say poor dear old lady, you ought to have thought of this before:— I fear you will say I am most tedious, the way I go on prosing about houses: but a great dilemma has come across me to day, & it is, supposing I should see a very nice house tomorrow, would it not be dreadfully extravagant to take it now two whole months, before the day of days? I think I had better not actually look into houses, not until the latter end of the month, for would it not be intolerable to discover a good house, & then not to take it for a month, but to be waiting in agony lest someone else should?— I think it will be best to go on acquiring enlarged philosophical ideas about houses, & situations, & then towards the end of the month astonish the House-agents by my skill & sagacity.— By the way, I was amused the other day at Robert Mackintosh’s greatness of soul, when I told him I thought the house in Tavistock Square, at 150£ per annum was too dear; his contempt at such paltry economy was really quit〈e〉 edifying.— one would have supposed he had never 〈sp〉ent less than 3000 a year.—

One more piece of s〈c〉rattle, & I have done, I have heard from Shrewsbury of a man-servant who promises very well for us, & have accordingly written to tell them to make some more enquiries & then secure him.— I mean to have him in London early in January, that he may learn his way about. If we succeed in getting a house early in January & you succeed in getting a housekeeper, I should think it would be a good thing to enlarge her soul with a week’s residence in this instructive city.—

Powers of sentimentality forgive me for sending such a letter: it surely ought to have been written on foolscap paper, & closed with a wafer.— I told you I should write to you, as if you really were my own dear dear wife, & have not I kept my word most strictly?— My excuse must be, I have seen no one for these two days; & what can a man have to say, who works all morning in describing hawks & owls;1 & then rushes out, & walks in a bewildered manner up one street & down another, looking out for the word “To let”.— I called, however, to day, on the Lyells.— I cannot tell you how particularly pleasant & cordial Lyell’s manner has been to me: I am sure he will be a steady & sure friend to both of us. He told me he heard from his sister, (whom I know) in Scotland this morning, & she says “So Mr Darwin is going to be married; I suppose he will be buried in the country & lost to geology”.— She little knows, what a good strict wife, I am going to be married to, who will send me to my lessons, & make me better, I trust, in every respect, as I am sure she will infinitely happier and happier, the longer I live to enjoy my good fortune.—

Lyell & Madam gave me a very long & solemn lecture, on the extreme importance, for our future comfort during our whole London lives, of choosing slowly & deliberately our visiting acquaintance: every disagreeable or common place acquaintance, must separates us from our relations & real friends, (that is without we give up our whole lives to visiting), for the evening we sacrifice, might have been spent with them. or at the theatre Lyell said, we shall find the truth of his words, before we have lived a year in London.—

How provokingly small the paper is, my own very dear Emma | Good Night, C. D.

Saturday Morning. I was delighted to receive your letter: nothing in the world could be more fortunate than your being able to come to town. I had thought of asking you to do the very thing. I have not time to write by this days post, I will by tomorrow or rather that is Mondays. I want very much to know which day you will come.— You will have heard, that Dr. Hollands baby is dead.

Every your | C. D.


Birds, No. 2, was published January 1839.


His search for a London house. He visits the Lyells, who give solemn advice to choose their London acquaintances carefully.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
DAR 210.8: 7
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 448,” accessed on 18 April 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2