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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Anthony Rich   7 December 1878

Chappell Croft | Heene, Worthing—

Decr. 7. 1878

Dear Sir,

Under an impression that this note—as being written in a hand unknown to you and signed by an equally unknown name—might be consigned to the wastepaper basket before it has been read—I may assure you at once that it is not a circular, a begging letter, an appeal for testimonials, &c &c &c but a simple matter of business in which you are yourself concerned. And this it is. The recent death of my brother, and of a nephew, the last of three children of an only sister, has left myself and her the sole survivors of our family; and to myself the ownership of some real property not altogether inconsiderable in value.1 I have bequeathed the reversion of this to you;2 because I consider that you, more than any man now living, have extended the boundaries of human knowledge, by surpassing genius, long years of persistent labour, unendowed, and in a worldly sense unremunerative; and because it affords me an opportunity of giving effect to a sentiment which I have long entertained and frequently expressed, that under circumstances like my own the first to be remembered should be those whose abilities and exertions have been devoted bravely and boldly and persistently for the benefit of all mankind instead of their own immediate advantage.

I have thought it best to break through ceremony, and address you directly and at once, rather than leave my intentions to come out as a surprise after my decease, for reasons which are obvious when one has to deal with real estate. And if you will oblige me wi1th a line to let me know that these lines have come into your hands and been read by yourself, I will in return make you acquainted with the nature and value of the property, and all the details which it will be advisable for you to know.

I am, dear Sir | Your obliged & obedt. Servt. | Anthony Rich

Charles Darwin Esqre | &c &c &c


Rich’s brother Francis Henry Rich had died in the summer of 1878, and his nephew William Edward Burnaby had died in 1876. Burnaby’s mother, Rich’s sister Emma Burnaby, had given birth to two other children, both of whom had died in infancy.
A reversion is an estate granted to one party and subsequently granted in turn or transferable to another, especially upon the death of the original grantee; the right of succeeding to, or next occupying, such an estate (OED).


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.


Informs CD of his intention to bequeath his property to him.

Letter details

Letter no.
Anthony Rich
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.12: 1
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11778,” accessed on 25 July 2024,