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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   13 [December 1878]1

Basset, | Southampton.

Friday 13th

My dear Father,

I was greatly surprised and delighted by your letter.2 I am certain no one in the world so well deserves the honour Mr Rich has paid you as you do.3 It is a great happiness to us children to know that strangers recognize what your life has been. Mr Rich must be a magnanimous old gentleman and we all owe him respect & gratitude.

It is a splendid honour to science as well as to you, and is a good sign how the world is moving to put science in its right place. The fortune is very considerable and will be a fair increase to all our incomes.

In my will I have left a trifle (£250) to the Royal Soc. I shall ultimately make this £1000 or so as being the only thing I can do for science.4

Sara5 sends her best love and is heartily rejoiced as I am. We are both looking forward to Christmas when I shall be very curious to see Mr Rich’s letters.

I think you do not think well enough of the property; I should say houses in London E.C. with a good term to run are as good an investment as could be found any where.6 These are nervous times for Bankers, but we are perfectly right. and do not fear any run.7

Our love to mother | goodbye dear Father, your affect son. W E Darwin


The month and year are established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Anthony Rich, 7 December 1878.
Rich had bequeathed properties he owned in London to CD, in recognition of CD’s contribution to science (see letters from Anthony Rich, 7 December 1878 and 10 December 1878).
William was a partner in the Town and County Bank, Southampton. He had no scientific training, but he had assisted CD with botanical observations (see, for example, Correspondence vol. 14). He left the Royal Society of London £1650 in his will (The Times, 2 November 1914, p. 12).
Sara Darwin was William Darwin’s wife.
See letter from Anthony Rich, 10 December 1878. The properties were on Cornhill in the City of London.
William alludes to the after effects of the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1878. Over the winter of 1878–9 there were six further bank failures, provoking a general run for liquidity (see Acheson and Turner 2008).


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


Surprised and delighted by Mr Rich’s bequest as it will greatly increase his income. Intends to leave money to the Royal Society to contribute to science. Houses in London are a good investment even in times that are nervous for bankers.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Basset, Southampton
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 69)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11790F,” accessed on 19 May 2024,