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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [12 or 19 July 1877]1



My dear Father

I was away on Friday Saturday, Sunday, Monday & on Tuesday I found the bason in which cleaned leaf was dried up having stupidly forgotten to tell them to give water. The leaf seemed all right & green except that there was a longish brown mark on one leaflet as if it was decayed, the uncleaned leaf seemed all right.2

I could start the thing again if you thought it worth while & will tell me as to cleaning.

When I got back on Monday I found poor Brindle had been taken ill moping on Saturday, & was very bad on Sunday foaming at the mouth & snapping and seemed almost dead by the evening, & on Monday morning Dick killed him— it sounds very like hydrophobia, & I see there have been mad dogs about. Mrs. C.3 says he snapped at Jet who was fastened to him on Sunday morning. So I have chained Jet up in dog kennel in back yard with a notice that no one should touch him. Mrs. C is anxious not to kill him straight off, so I shall wait & see if he mopes too much, as he is very miserable now. the back yard is more cheerful than the kennel & he is easier watched, & I think a strong chain is precaution enough with sheep hurdles to keep Dick away—

Your affect son | W. E. D

Dick does not think it was madness, but something to do with distemper his nose & face swelled up again as before


The date is established from the reference to Jet the dog’s possible infection with hydrophobia. In a letter to Emma Darwin of [24 July 1877] (DAR 210.5: 15, dated by a postmark), William wrote that he had killed Jet with prussic acid on the advice of a friend who thought that Jet certainly had hydrophobia. CD and Emma Darwin stayed with William until Wednesday 4 July 1877 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). There were three Thursdays between 4 and 24 July, but given William’s own recent absence, this letter could not have been written on the first Thursday, which leaves 12 and 19 July.
William was probably helping CD with experiments to see whether bloom on leaves protected them from water damage (see letter to Fritz Müller, 14 May 1877 and n. 2).
Mrs C.: Mrs Cutting (probably Mary Ann Cutting), William’s housekeeper (letter from Sara Darwin to Emma Darwin, [3 December 1877] (DAR 210.5: 23)). Dick was William’s manservant (letter from Emma Darwin to Leonard Darwin, 12 November [1876] (DAR 239.23: 1.52)). He has not been further identified.


Discusses an experiment.

His dogs appear to have rabies.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.5: 14
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10743,” accessed on 18 January 2022,