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Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. E. Norton   7 October 1875

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Oct. 7. 1875

My dear Mr Norton

I am very much obliged for your kind letter. I had already heard with great regret the news of Chauncey Wright’s sudden death.1 In my answer to my informant, I am glad to think that I used almost the same words which you do in your letter, for I spoke of my admiration for his high intellectual powers & of his great kindness of heart. It is touching to me to hear that he felt so kindly towards me, & that he died with my last book before him.2 I had no idea that he would have cared for it, otherwise I would assuredly have sent him a copy. I must try to see his “Darwinism in Germany” in the Nation.3 I entirely agree with you about the power shewn in many of his almost casual remarks, & I see that others have been struck with them, for Prof. Rolleston, in a recent address, alludes with admiration to one on the relation of the brain of Man to his power of acquiring language.4

As for myself I have nothing to say, except that I am able to go on working daily with much enjoyment, yet with many groans & sighs.

You say nothing about your own health, which I sincerely hope is better than when you were in England.

Pray give our kindest remembrances to all your party. We have a very pleasant remembrance of your stay at Keston—5

Leonard, to whom you & the Sedgwicks were so very kind, started about 3 weeks ago for Malta, where he will be stationed for some years.6

Believe me my dear Mr Norton | yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin

P.S. That is a very striking & nice article, whoever wrote it, in the Boston Advertiser, which I suppose I owe to you—7


CD’s response to Woodward Emery has not been found. Emery had noted in his letter of 17 September 1875 that Wright was reading Insectivorous plants at the time of his death; so had Norton in his letter.
Wright’s article, ‘German Darwinism’ (C. Wright 1875), appeared in Nation, 9 September 1875.
George Rolleston, in his address to the department of anthropology at the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Rolleston 1875, p. 150), had referred to Wright’s ‘brilliant suggestions’ concerning the ratio of brain to body size in the human species compared with its close relatives as an explanation for the development of language in humans. Rolleston had sent CD a copy of his address (see letter from George Rolleston, 30 August 1875).
Norton and his wife, Susan Ridley Sedgwick Norton, had stayed for four months at Keston Rectory near Down in 1868 (see Correspondence vol 16, letter to J. D. Hooker, [8–10 September 1868]). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), the Darwins saw the Nortons several times during their stay.
In May 1875, Leonard Darwin had visited the Norton family in Boston on his return journey from the transit of Venus expedition in New Zealand; he mentioned meeting Sara Price Ashburner Sedgwick, the sister of Susan Ridley Sedgwick Norton, who had died in 1872 (letter from Leonard Darwin to Emma Darwin, 20 May [1875] (DAR 239.1: 2.13)). Leonard, who was an officer in the Royal Engineers, arrived at his posting in Malta on 16 September 1875 (letter from Leonard Darwin to Emma Darwin, 14 and 17 September [1875] (DAR 239.1: 3.2)).
The article in the Boston Daily Advertiser has not been identified.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Wright, Chauncey. 1875. German Darwinism. Nation, 9 September 1875, pp. 168–70.


Comments on the sudden death of Chauncey Wright.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Eliot Norton
Sent from
Source of text
Houghton Library, Harvard University (Charles Eliot Norton Papers, MS Am 1088.14: 1595)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10185,” accessed on 24 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23