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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Darwin   [25 May 1848]



My dear Mammy.

I keep very well, though unusually heavy.— My Father had fair night. Poor Catty, started this morning early, after the third consecutive most wretched night! She declares it has nothing to do with her health! did you ever hear anything so odd.— My Father was very cheerful at cards; but the day here is almost continual anxiety.— The Owens as usual have found me out: the Queen might as well come incognito here: I hope the Governor will not come over tomorrow.1

Your letters delight me & tell me all the things I most like to hear: I am very sorry that Annie cannot sing, but do not give up too soon.— You are a lovely girl, I have just written for you my third note to Mr Blunt.—2 Eras says, that the Lyells having gone to the Queen’s Ball,3 taken with the Prince’s speech about the Lodging Houses, show that the Court is determined to encourage the lower orders:4 I shd like to repeat this to the Lyells.— Give my love to A. Sarah,5 & tell her my Father sends his best love to her & has made many enquiries about her. It is going to be tremendously hot today.

Your old nigger—6 | C. D.

I am in love with M. de Sevigne; she only shams a little virtue.


Mr and Mrs William Mostyn Owen Sr, of Woodhouse, were close family friends of the Darwins. Before and during his undergraduate years, CD was a frequent visitor to Woodhouse (see Correspondence vol. 1). As the letters of that period make clear, the chief attractions were shooting and the Owen daughters, Sarah and Fanny.
Thomas Blunt, Shrewsbury chemist.
Queen Victoria gave a state banquet followed by an evening party on 13 May 1848 after the christening of Princess Louisa (Annual Register 1848, Chronicle, p. 68). Charles Lyell was shortly to receive a knighthood, see letter to Charles Lyell, [24 September 1848].
The speech was delivered before the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes on 18 May 1848. See Addresses delivered on different public occasions by H.R.H. the Prince Albert (1857), pp. 1–10.
Aunt Sarah, Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood.
CD used the word ‘nigger’ playfully to suggest that the status of a husband was that of a slave (Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, [9 November 1836]; Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix IV, ‘Darwin’s notes on marriage’). Emma Darwin referred to CD as her ‘nigger’ as a term of endearment (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 104).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.


Anxiety about R. W. Darwin’s health.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.8: 30
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1179,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4