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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. W. Salter   14 May 1867

8 Bolton Road | St Johns Wood.

May. 14/67.

Dear Mr Darwin

You bade me apply to you if I wanted help. And this generosity has prevented me till I have tried every other means—1 Those who should have aided me for kin’s sake would do nothing when I left the Survey—except old Mr Sowerby and he could not.2 I can borrow no money— I cannot sell my English Botany nor carry it on—& serious & frequent illness prevents me doing half that I ought, even in my precarious occupation.3 And not one of my monied friends but are themselves in difficulties   four men who would gladly aid me—and who had thousands, are now borrowing money.— And now I have my family engaged in schoolkeeping—my house partly let, & retrenchment in every sort— I am still heavily in debt, & have no means of getting out of it.4

I know not what I can do for you in return for any aid, unless your library wants the English Botany.— it is the only thing in my power. Pray let me send it you if you have it not.5

I dont think I should have written now, had not a dear sister, as poor as myself, been in the last stage of illness—6 I shall probably have to follow her to the grave directly—& you know what all this involves.

Aid me, if you can, & command me in any way in return.

I am, Dear Sir | Yours gratefully | J W Salter

C. Darwin Esqr.


Salter had asked CD for financial help in his letter of 31 December 1866 (Correspondence vol. 14), and CD recorded payments to him of £10 on 1 January 1867 and £5 on 19 May (CD’s Account books– cash account (Down House MS); see also letter from J. W. Salter, 4 January [1867]). No letters from CD to Salter have been found.
Salter had resigned his post as palaeontologist to the Geological Survey in 1863; he had earlier been apprenticed to the naturalist and scientific illustrator James de Carle Sowerby, and was also his son-in-law (ODNB).
After resigning from the Geological Survey, Salter worked at local museums arranging their palaeozoic invertebrates (ODNB). On Salter’s work on the ‘English Botany’, see the letter from J. W. Salter, 4 January [1867] and n. 6; on Salter’s illness, see Secord 1985.
See Correspondence vol. 14, letter from J. W. Salter, 31 December 1866. Salter and his wife, Sarah, had seven children (ODNB); on his wife’s keeping a school, see also J. Secord 1985, p. 62 and p. 73 n. 26.
There are copies of the five volumes of the Supplement to the English botany (W. J. Hooker and Sowerby [et al.] 1831–63) in the Darwin Library–CUL. Volumes 3 and 5 are in the form of monthly parts. A printed sheet at the back of the last part of volume 5, dated June 1865, contains an offer by Salter to make up incomplete editions. See also letter from J. W. Salter, 18 June 1867.
Salter’s sister has not been further identified; two had survived to maturity (Secord 1985, p. 62).


Having tried all other sources for aid, JWS is forced to turn to CD’s generosity. His financial position is bad; frequent and serious illness prevents him from working properly.

Letter details

Letter no.
John William Salter
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
St John’s Wood
Source of text
DAR 177: 13
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5535,” accessed on 18 February 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15