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Darwin Correspondence Project

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Frank Chance

The Darwin archive not only contains letters, manuscript material, photographs, books and articles but also all sorts of small, dry specimens, mostly enclosed with letters. Many of these enclosures have become separated from the letters or lost altogether, but we always try to track them down. Some of the strangest were discovered when we edited two letters from the physiologist and Hebrew scholar Frank Chance (1826–97) who sent them after reading Darwin's Descent of Man.

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Titus Coan
https://archive.org/details/tituscoanmemoria01coan
Titus Coan
Image from archive.org. Digitised by The Library of Congress

Titus Coan

In 1874, when Darwin was preparing the second edition of Descent of Man, he received letters from all over the world in reply to his queries about human behaviour; one in particular would have stirred up unexpected memories of his own time among the native peoples of South AmericaTitus Munson Coan, an American doctor, passed on a message to Darwin from his father, also called Titus Coan, who, as a young missionary, had spent a few hazardous weeks among the indigenous peoples of Patagonia on the north shore of the Magellan Strait. Darwin’s queries about the practice of infanticide reached Coan in Hawaii where he and his wife had been running a mission station since 1835.  Through his son, he told Darwin that although infanticide was sometimes practised, it was not prevalent in Hawaii, and moreover didn’t favour the survival of one sex over the other as Darwin had suspected it might.

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Frances Power Cobbe
http://wellcomeimages.org/
Frances Power Cobbe, Fom: Life of Frances Power Cobbe by Herself, Published: 1894
L0010481
Wellcome Library, London

Frances Power Cobbe

Cobbe was born in Dublin, Ireland, and educated at home, at Newbridge House, county Dublin, except for two years at a school in Brighton: she hated the school. After she left, she kept house for her mother and father, and after her mother's death for her father alone, for nineteen years, while she energetically educated herself. Cobbe wrote that she inherited from her parents a physical frame which, 'however defective ...from the aesthetic point of view', had been, as regards health and energy, 'a source of endless enjoyment'.

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Richard Henry Corfield

Richard Henry Corfield was in his final year at Shrewsbury School when Darwin started there. It’s hard to say how well they knew each other, but fifteen years later Corfield appeared again in Darwin’s life as a surprisingly familiar face on the other side of the world. For when Darwin arrived in Valparaiso, Chile, in 1834, Corfield was living there and working as a shipping merchant. Corfield originally had neither warehouse nor business partner in the United Kingdom, so he used agents to obtain British products to trade in South America (Llorca-Jaña pp. 68-9).

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Syms Covington
Syms Covington from Ferguson, B. J. (compiler). Syms Covington of Pambula, assistant to Charles Darwin on the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, 1831-1836. Merimbula, N.S.W. The Society, 1988. Second edition, revised and enlarged.
Merimbula-Imlay Historical Society Inc.

Syms Covington

When Charles Darwin embarked on the Beagle in 1831 Syms Covington was ‘fiddler & boy to Poop-cabin’. Covington died in 1861 reportedly 47 years old, so he would have been 17; although if he was the Simon Covington born in Bedford on 30 January 1809, recorded in the birth register of the Old Meeting House there, he was CD’s contemporary rather than his junior. By May 1833 CD resolved to employ Covington as his servant: he had taught him to shoot and skin birds and it would suit to pay him for personal service too.

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Sir James Crichton Browne
http://wellcomeimages.org/
Sir James Crichton Browne, Photograph, ICV No 29012
V0028544
Wellcome Library, London

James Crichton-Browne

James Crichton-Browne became one of the most distinguished psychiatrists of the late nineteenth-century, but the letters he exchanged with Charles Darwin as the young and overworked superintendent of the largest mental asylum in England, are almost the only personal papers to survive from this stage of his career.  They are an extraordinary glimpse not only into Crichton-Browne's research and the development of Darwin's thinking, but into the everyday lives of the patients whose records Crichton-Browne sent on.

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Emma Darwin
Emma Darwin with Leonard Darwin as a child
CUL DAR 225: 93
Cambridge University Library

Emma Darwin

Emma Darwin, Charles Darwin's wife and first cousin, was born Emma Wedgwood, the eighth and youngest child of Josiah Wedgwood II and Bessy Allen. Her father was the eldest son of the famous pottery manufacturer, Josiah Wedgwood I. Her mother was one of eleven children brought up in a remote country house in Wales. Emma was part of a large and lively extended family, Unitarian in religion, liberal in politics, and with links to the intellectual elite of the country. Her immediate family lived at Maer Hall in rural Staffordshire, a few miles from the Etruria pottery works.

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Francis Darwin
Francis Darwin
CUL DAR 225: 42
Cambridge University Library

Francis Darwin

Known to his family as ‘Frank’, Charles Darwin’s seventh child himself became a distinguished scientist. He was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, initially studying mathematics, but then transferring to natural sciences. 

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Henrietta Emma Darwin
Henrietta Emma Darwin
CUL DAR 225: 52
Cambridge University Library

Henrietta Emma Darwin

Henrietta “Etty” Darwin (1843–1927) was the eldest of Charles Darwin’s daughters to reach adulthood. She married Richard Buckley Litchfield in 1871. She was a valued editor to her father as well as companion and correspondent to both of her parents.

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Lady Florence Caroline Dixie (née Douglas)
http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw74711/Lady-Florence-Caroline-Dixie-ne-Douglas?
Lady Florence Caroline Dixie (née Douglas), by Andrew Maclure, lithograph, published 1877, NPG D16189
mw74711
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Florence Caroline Dixie

On October 29th 1880, Lady Florence Dixie wrote a letter to Charles Darwin from her home in the Scottish Borders; “Whilst reading the other day your very interesting account of A Naturalist’s Voyage round the world,” she said, “I came across a passage…of the subterranean habits of the tucutuco”. The Tuco Tuco was, according to Darwin, a “curious, small” mole-like creature which “never comes to the surface of the ground“. Florence Dixie, however, disagreed;

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