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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Greaves to G. H. Darwin   26 June 1878

14 Pittville Parade,

June 26th. 1878

Dear Sir,

I am much pleased that you all like Dr. Darwin’s portrait, I had no fear about its being a valuable painting & I have heard that it was a good likeness taken by Wright of Derby when the learned Doctor was in advancing years—1 With respect to its pedigree: that unfolds a piece of family history at which I often wonder in amazement as to its results, and which I thought every member of the Darwin family knew— Portraits many are to be found in Derbyshire households of the higher class I believe for when the Doctor was in the hey day of prosperity, every one wished for his portrait & Wright must have realized a handsome fortune by them—but to return from this digression In the year 1772 May 16th. a daughter was born to the Dr. named Susanna. In the year 1774 May 20th. was born another daughter named Mary—the offspring of a young and beautiful woman of the name of Parker, she had some position in the family of Col. Pole of Radbourne Hall, the Doctor being frequently there as the Physician of the family— Of their early life I know little, they were educated & Dr. D: bought a very nice large house at Ashborne for them near Sir Brooke Boothsbys estate.2 They opened a school for young ladies & what with their superior talents & accomplishments educated the children of the higher families both in Derbyshire & elsewhere; partly owing to the learned Dr.s patronage & their own energies— They continued their school ’till Susanna married my Uncle Hadley a surgeon in the first practice, and a great friend of yr. ancestor; in the Zoonomia you will find his name mentioned, this was in the year 1809—3 Mary P. continued to reside at A. with two other sisters the Misses Day the daughters of the above mentioned person who after a while married a Mr. Day, & were half sisters—4 Two Pictures were given by Dr. E. D. to his daughters painted for them I expect, the one now in yr. possession was given to S: P. & at her marriage she brought it to Derby where during my Uncle’s life-time it hung over the Dining-room mantel-piece. After Aunt’s death her daughters had it, then it came to her brother Dr. Henry Hadley & he gave it to me—5 I highly prized it, and am heartily glad, it sd. be still valued—

The other Picture which belonged to Mary P. she gave to a niece the daughter of a brother of those two Days she did not turn out well, she however was fortunate in selling her Picture, it is in the National Portrait Gallery I saw it when in London, it is a lovely picture, painted when younger in a puce coloured coat— It is revarnished & re-gilt—6 These daughters were looked upon with much favour, they were no common women, and were frequently at the Priory, indeed old Mrs. D.7 used to conclude her letters to them as “yr affecte mother”. They used to visit the Galtons’, at the Larches8 & indeed all their pupils looked upon them with affection— To myself Aunt Hadley was as a Mother to me, committed to her care by my Grandmother Hadley9 on her death-bed— What I owe to her can no tongue can tell, and her sister was equally my friend— I believe I am the sole depository of this family history Dr. H. not mentioning it, neither Aunt, I learned it all from Miss Wharton, Miss P’s companion,10 whom she had educated—

Amongst my belongings I have a book written by Dr. E. D. on Education11 for these daughters, for it was education in those days—& other papers—some curious and not altogether papers elegant addressed “to Eliza’ Hadley12 by Edward Darwin of Mackworth near Derby, he was a great invalid dropsical, most kind and generous   Aunt used to drive over every week to see him, & I being at school at Mackworth was called for & what a day of delight we had Eliza, Henry & myself—! I have often thought what wd. become of these things, seeing the present generation know nothing of their Gd. Mother’s ancestry— & of her connexions. When I am tired of them or rather have done with them, wd. you care to receive them? I am a great person for family relics, & genealogies—

Sir Francis D.13 told Mr. Greaves14 & myself that Dr. E. D. died rather suddenly, but that he had good hope in his end— Mrs. Schimmel Pennick was too severe—15

You must please to excuse this scrawl, for the weather is just now rather trying & makes my hand tremulous | With kind regds. to yr. Father & yourself I am, dear Sir, | Your’s most truly | E: A. Greaves

There is a nice little account of Wright, “on a description of Derbyshire a small book which I will find

Wright the painter, better known as “Wright of Derby”, was born in 1734. He studied in London under Hudson,16 at the same time as did Sir Joshua Reynolds. Owing to the ill feeling which not infrequently exists among men of talent, as well as lesser minds, Wright did not receive the title of R.A. when he was proposed, & so deeply did he feel the slight that, on a subsequent occasion, when Newton,17 secretary to the Royal Academy, visited him at Derby with the offer of a diploma from the Society, he indignantly refused it. He died in 1797. From Black’s Tourist’s Guide.18

Dr. Erasmus Darwin born at Elston, near Newark, Nottinghamsh. Decr 12th. 1731

Died April 18th. 1802


In January 1878, CD had bought a portrait of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin by Joseph Wright of Derby from Greaves; see letter from E. A. Greaves, 3 January 1878.
Susanna Hadley and Mary Parker Jr were the daughters of Mary Parker Sr, who had worked on the estate of Edward Sacheverel Pole. Boothby lived at Ashbourne Hall, Derbyshire.
The school was established by Susanna Parker and Mary Parker Jr in 1794, and Mary took sole charge after Susanna married Henry Hadley in 1809. Henry Hadley’s experiments on the communication of smallpox via the blood are detailed in Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia (E. Darwin 1794–6, 1: 405–7).
Mary Parker Sr married Joseph Day in 1782; the daughters were probably Hannah Maria Day and Ann Day.
Greaves was brought up by her uncle Henry Hadley and his wife, Susanna; after Susanna’s death the painting passed to their daughter, Elizabeth Susanna Hadley, and son Henry Hadley (1812–74).
Mary Parker Jr’s picture was given to Anna Maria Jerome, daughter of Edwin Court Wilcox Day. Jerome sold the portrait in 1859 (National Portrait Gallery: NPG 88; see Ingamells 2004, p. 135).
Elizabeth Darwin (Erasmus Darwin’s second wife).
A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools (E. Darwin 1797).
In her autobiography, Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck had insinuated in a series of memories from her childhood that Erasmus Darwin was a glutton and a non-believer, who scoffed at conscience and morality (Hankin ed. 1858, 1: 152–4, 178–80, and 237–48).
Francis Milner Newton was the first secretary to the Royal Academy of Arts.
The quotation, with minor differences in punctuation, is from Black’s tourist’s guide to Derbyshire (Jewitt ed. 1868, pp. 163–4).


Darwin, Erasmus. 1794–6. Zoonomia; or, the laws of organic life. 2 vols. London: J. Johnson.

Darwin, Erasmus. 1797. A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools. London: J. Johnson.

Hankin, Christiana C. ed. 1858. Life of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck. 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts.

Ingamells, John. 2004. Mid-Georgian portraits, 1760–1790. London: National Portrait Gallery.

Jewitt, Llewellynn, ed. 1868. Black’s tourist’s guide to Derbyshire: its towns, watering places, dales, and mansions. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.

Letter details

Letter no.
Elizabeth Anne Hadley/Elizabeth Anne Greaves
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.14: 13
Physical description
ALS 14pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11568F,” accessed on 2 October 2023,