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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   11 August [1878]1

Leith Hill Place | Dorking

Aug. 11th.

My dear Huxley

I cannot tell you how sorry we are to hear about Marian, for we had thought that by this time she must have been quite well. Thank God that the paralysis after diptheria is not, as you say, permanent.—2 What an extraordinary physiological fact it is that the poison should so long afterwards bring on such serious evil consequences.— It seems in this respect like scarlet fever; & we know how serious are the secondary symptoms of this accursed fever.—3

Very many & true thanks for your congratulations: I cannot say that I care sixpence for my election, but the sympathy of a few friends on the occasion has been very dear to me.—4 It is funny the Academy having elected a man as Corr: member in Botany, who does not know the characters of a single natural order!5 We are out for holidays, which to me is very serious work, for 3 weeks at the Houses of several relations; & tomorrow we go to Abinger & on the 27th, thank Heaven back to Down & work.6

Ever my dear Huxley | Yours very truly | Charles Darwin

I need not say how deeply interested Emma has been about Marian.—


The year is established by the address; CD stayed at Leith Hill Place, Surrey, the home of his sister, Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, and her family from 7 to 12 August (see also n. 6, below).
Huxley’s daughter Marian had been dangeously ill with diphtheria and suffered from paralysis related to the disease for several weeks (see A. Desmond 1994–7, 2: 113–14).
Huxley’s first son, Noel, had died of scarlet fever in 1860 at the age of 3 (see A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 286–7).
No letter from Huxley congratulating CD on his recent election as a corresponding member of the botanical section of the Académie des sciences of the Institut de France has been found. CD was elected on 5 August 1878 (see letter from J.-B. Dumas and Joseph Bertrand, 5 August 1878 and n. 2).
CD alludes to the fact that he had never worked on taxonomy in a botanical context; all of his botanical research was on various aspects of plant physiology.
From 12 to 15 August, the Darwins stayed at Abinger Hall, Abinger, Surrey, the home of Thomas Henry and Katherine Euphemia Farrer, who was Emma Darwin’s niece. Then they travelled to Barlaston, Staffordshire, the home of Emma’s brother Frank Wedgwood and his family, and returned home on 22 August (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Desmond, Adrian. 1994–7. Huxley. 2 vols. London: Michael Joseph.


CD’s election to Botany Section of French Academy amuses him, because he "doesn’t know the characters of a single natural order!".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Leith Hill Place
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 326)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11651,” accessed on 28 February 2021,