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Darwin Correspondence Project

From F. E. Abbot to W. E. Darwin   19 January 1876

Office of The Index Association| Boston, Mass.

Jan. 19, 1876.

Mr. W. E. Darwin, Basset, Southampton, England:

My dear Sir,

I was greatly surprised and delighted by the evidence of such sympathy and goodwill, on the part of yourself and your world-famous father, as was furnished by your letter of Dec. 20.1 How can I thank you warmly enough for such spontaneous generosity, transmitted in terms which went straight to my heart? That a gentleman whom I so reverence and love as your father should desire in this way to unite with his son in sending cheer and courage to one who has so many discouragements and difficulties to battle with, commands a gratitude I really know not how to express without seeming perhaps too demonstrative for our modern nil admirari2 manners; but I cannot disguise the exultation and pleasure I feel in the thought that Charles Darwin and his son should be moved of their own accord to do so kind a thing to my struggling little Index.3 Nobody will ever know what it has cost me, or how near to my heart lay the plans I had to sacrifice in order to establish it; but, also, nobody will ever know what heart-felt happiness has come to me from from such sympathy in my work as you now show. Take my poor words, and guess the rest.4

The cheque for £20, realised $109.20, receipt of which I hereby acknowledge. As you and your father are so kind as to ask me to use this money in any way I think best for the Index, I will devote it to the “Paid Contributors’ Fund,” for which I have been obliged to ask no appropriations for a long time, with a recent exception. This money, therefore, will not be turned into the general treasury, or acknowledged in our weekly “Cash Receipts,” but deposited in this fund, for the use of which I render a special report to the directors once a year. If I made it pay for a share of stock, it would go to the Treasurer5 at once, and be beyond my control; whereas now I can use it for literary purposes without asking an appropriation. All I have had for these purposes has for two or three years come in a similar way—not much, at that. But this is most opportune, I do assure you, and will greatly aid me. The stock, alas, would do you no good, it is not even “fancy” stock!6

Please give to Mr. Darwin my most grateful thanks, and believe me, yours with a full heart, | Francis E. Abbot.


Nil admirari: surprised by nothing (Latin).
William Darwin had sent Abbot a donation of £20 on behalf of himself and CD, to be used in support of Abbot’s weekly radical religious periodical, the Index (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter from W. E. Darwin to F. E. Abbot, 20 December 1875). For more on Abbot’s religious and philosophical views, his editorship of the Index, his financial problems, and his disagreements with the Unitarian church, see Ahlstrom and Mullin 1987 and W. Creighton Peden, ‘Francis Ellingwood Abbot’, Dictionary of Universalist and Unitarian biography, (accessed 6 January 2015).
Abbot founded the Index in Toledo, Ohio, in 1870 and moved it to Boston in 1873 (Ahlstrom and Mullin 1987).
Ralph Henry Ranney.
The term ‘fancy stocks’ originated in the US and was used for speculative investments where the value was determined by caprice rather than intrinsic worth (OED).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Thanks WED for his letter of 20 December 1875. Is surprised and delighted by the support from WED and CD for the Index.

Letter details

Letter no.
Francis Ellingwood Abbot
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Boston, Mass.
Source of text
DAR 210.7: 5

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10362G,” accessed on 27 November 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24