skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Krause   14 March 1879

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Mar 14/79

My dear Sir,

I thank you for your most kind agreement to my request. I am delighted to hear that you intend your sketch a little, & I feel sure that it will be our best plan to wait until this is done.1 Before hearing from you we had decided that it would be useless to apply to the Fortnightly.2 I hope that you will be so good as to send us the sheets as they are printed off, so that the translation may be making progress. Unfortunately I have no copy of Miss Seward’s life, I have sent for one from a public library but I could not lend this copy.3 I will order a search for a second-hand copy, & if I succeed will send it you. But please to observe that I distinctly remember my father saying that this life was not only grossly incorrect, but maliciously false. When it appeared he threatened to publish some letters injurious to her Miss Seward’s fame if she did not publicly retract some of her statements, & I believe that she did so.4 A well known physician in London Dr Richardson, several years ago told me that he had collected materials for the life of Dr Darwin, but afterwards gave up the intention. I will write to him and ask whether he has any materials which he could put at your disposal.5 I am myself wholly & shamefully ignorant of my grandfathers life & I can be of no assistance to you in correcting your M.S; moreover I am a very poor German scholar, often make mistakes & read the language slowly. My brother has a good picture of Eras Darwin & we thought of getting autotype (photographic) copies made of it for the translation. I will get one of my sons who understands photography to see about it, & I will send you a specimen.6 My copy of the Bot Garden which seems to be the first edit was published in 1791.7

Believe me, my dear Sir | Yours faithfully | & obliged | Charles Darwin


See letter from Ernst Krause, 12 March 1879. CD had asked for permission to have a translation of Krause 1879a made. He accidentally omitted the words ‘to enlarge’.
CD and his brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin had earlier considered having a translation of Krause 1879a published in the Fortnightly Review, but Erasmus advised publishing the essay as a book (see letter to Ernst Krause, 9 March 1879, and letter from E. A. Darwin, 11 March [1879]).
In his letter of 12 March 1879, Krause had asked whether CD could lend him Anna Seward’s biography of Erasmus Darwin (Seward 1804).
For more on Seward’s retraction of her allegation that Erasmus Darwin’s second son (also Erasmus Darwin) had committed suicide, see King-Hele 1999, pp. 326–7, and Barnard 2009, pp. 141–3. The younger Erasmus had drowned after falling or throwing himself into the river at the bottom of the garden of Breadsall Priory, his recently purchased home in Derby. CD’s father was Robert Waring Darwin.
No earlier correspondence with Benjamin Ward Richardson on the subject of Erasmus Darwin has been found, but see the letter to B. W. Richardson, 14 March 1879.
E. A. Darwin’s picture of Erasmus Darwin has not been identified; for more on the portraits of Erasmus Darwin, see Keynes 1994. An engraving made from a portrait of Erasmus Darwin by Joseph Wright was used for the frontispiece of the translation (Erasmus Darwin). Autotype, a kind of carbon printing process for the monochrome facsimile reproduction of images, was patented in 1868 by the Autotype Company of London (OED). Leonard Darwin was an instructor in photography at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham.
Krause had asked for the correct publication date of The botanic garden; a poem in two parts (E. Darwin 1789–91); the second part of the work (The loves of the plants) was published in 1789 and the first (The economy of vegetation) in 1791. For the complete publication history, see King-Hele 1999, p. 401. CD’s annotated copy of E. Darwin 1789–91 is in the Darwin Library–CUL.


Barnard, Teresa. 2009. Anna Seward: a constructed life. A critical biography. Farnham: Ashgate.

Darwin, Erasmus. 1789–91. The botanic garden; a poem, in two parts. Pt 1. The economy of vegetation. London: J. Johnson. 1791. Pt 2. The loves of the plants. With philosophical notes. Lichfield: J. Jackson. 1789.

Keynes, Milo. 1994. Portraits of Dr Erasmus Darwin, F.R.S., by Joseph Wright, James Rawlinson and William Coffee. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 48: 69–84.

King-Hele, Desmond. 1999. Erasmus Darwin. A life of unequalled achievement. London: Giles de la Mare Publishers.

Krause, Ernst. 1879a. Erasmus Darwin, der Großvater und Vorkämpfer Charles Darwin’s: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie. Kosmos 4 (1878–9): 397–424.

Seward, Anna. 1804. Memoirs of the life of Dr. Darwin. London: J. Johnson.


Pleased to hear that EK agrees to CD’s request to have article on Erasmus Darwin translated. Will wait for EK’s enlargement. Has decided submission to Fortnightly Review would be useless.

Warns against Anna Seward’s biography of Dr Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Ludwig (Ernst) Krause
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (HM 36176)
Physical description
LS(A) 10pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11932,” accessed on 9 June 2023,