skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. E. Norton   16 March 1877

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

March 16 1877

My dear Mr. Norton

I am very much obliged for your kind present of poor Chauncey Wright’s works, received this morning.1 It is an exceedingly handsome memorial to him, & one which I cannot doubt he wd. have preferred to any other. I had no idea that he had written so much.— I have already read with very great interest your account of his remarkable character & attainments; & it makes one bitterly regret his early death.— Some of your remarks, I must add, make me feel not a little proud.2 I have not much strength for reading, which tires me more than writing, but I will certainly read some of the essays which are new to me & reread some of the old ones. So let me again thank you heartily for your kindness. I trust I may take the publication of this book as a proof that your health is fairly good, & so I hope is that of all your party. Pray give to them all our kind & cordial remembrances.

We go on in the same very quiet fashion, as when you were in England, & I have no news to tell.3 By the way your old landlord Mr. Thompson of Keston is dead of creeping paralysis, & poor fellow he is no great loss. His house has now been fitted up for a new person of the name of Huxley, who boasts that he is “no relation to that horrid Professor Huxley”,—so he won’t be much of a neighbour to us.—4 Our quiet, however, was broken a couple of days ago by Gladstone calling here.—5 I never saw him before & was much pleased with him: I expected a stern, overwhelming sort of man, but found him as soft & smooth as butter, & very pleasant. He asked me whether I thought that the United States would hereafter play a much greater part in the history of the world than Europe. I said that I thought it would, but why he asked me, I cannot conceive & I said that he ought to be able to form a far better opinion,—but what that was he did not at all let out.

Once again accept my thanks | & with all good wishes | believe me, Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


Wright had died suddenly at the age of 44 on 12 September 1875; see Correspondence vol. 23, letter from C. E. Norton, 22 September 1875. His articles were collected with a biographical sketch by Norton in Philosophical discussions (Wright 1877); CD’s lightly annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
In his biographical sketch of Wright (Wright 1877, p. xvi), Norton discussed the influence of John Stuart Mill and CD on Wright, praising both authors. Norton concluded: ‘their respective methods of investigation and of statement are of such excellence, and their desire for truth so sincere and impersonal, that their works would remain as models of scientific investigation and philosophic inquiry even though they should lose their doctrinal authority.’
Charles Eliot Norton and Susan Ridley Sedgwick Norton had visited Down several times in 1868 and 1869 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
In 1868, the Nortons had rented Keston Rectory in the village of Keston, two miles north-west of Down, for four months; see Correspondence vol. 16, letter to J. D. Hooker, [8–10 September 1868]. They rented the property from Joseph Thompson, rector of Keston, who died on 31 October 1876. Thomas Scott Huxley took over as rector in 1877. Professor Huxley: Thomas Henry Huxley.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), William Ewart Gladstone visited Down on 11 March 1877. The visit was part of a weekend party held by John Lubbock at High Elms; for an account, see Morley 1903, 2: 562. In his diary, Gladstone referred to CD’s appearence as ‘pleasing and remarkable’ (Foot and Matthew eds. 1968–94, 9: 199).


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

Morley, John. 1903. The life of William Ewart Gladstone. 3 vols. London: Macmillan Co.

Wright, Chauncey. 1877. Philosophical discussions. With a biographical sketch of the author by Charles Eliot Norton. New York: Henry Holt and Company.


Thanks for Chauncey Wright’s work [Philosophical discussions (1877)].

Gladstone visited recently, and they discussed the future role of the United States as a world power.

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: 1596)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10895,” accessed on 19 June 2021,