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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Krause   19 March 1879

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

Mar 19. 79

My dear Sir,

I send by this post a duplicate copy of a lecture published in 1861, which I remembered after writing to you. I have not yet succeeded in getting a copy of Miss Seward for you.1 I have now reread it, & it is a wretched production. I have also read the correspondence which passed between my father, other members of the family & Miss Seward, they are unanimous that it is full of inaccuracies even to his age when he died. Unfortunately they do not give particulars with the exception about one malignant account of my grandfather’s behaviour on hearing of his son’s death; & this they prove by witnesses to be absolutely false.2

Miss Seward published a retractation, but this seems to have been universally forgotten.3 In order to have an opportunity of contradicting Miss Seward, I intend to publish a short preface to the translation of your essay; & in this I will give a few particulars about the family, together with a few remarks by my father with respect to Eras Darwin, & possibly two or three letters.4 I do not think you could work up these scanty materials in your account, because I must give them on my own authority. I doubt whether my preface will be worth translating into german, but when written I would of course send it to you, if you so wish, either to read or to have translated.5 I have written to two gentlemen for the chance of getting more materials, and intend to consult one or two likely books.6 For these reasons & from being very busy at present, I have thought of not writing the preface until I leave home towards the end of april.7 My son is going to take steps as soon as he can about the photograph of the picture8

Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin

P.S | There is one little error in your essay. My grandfather’s house was within Lichfield & it was a sort of villa & botanic garden which were at the distance of about one or two miles out of the town.9

The above was written before your kind letter of 17th arrived. The story about the drunkenness is quite incorrect.10

The Botanic Garden was written in due order, but he thought that the second part would be more popular than the first, & therefore published the second first.11

I will look to M.S of translation before it goes to press; & I am glad that you are not in a hurry.

From what you say I have thought that you would allow me to strike out the note about Miss Seward.12 You are the best & sole judge, but I should think that if you discuss the writings of all the predecessors of Lamarck, the Essay would cease to be a life of Dr Darwin.13

Would it not be better to reserve this discussion for a separate essay? Small books for some reason never sell well in England, but should your Biography pay more than the expences of publication, which is very unlikely, the balance will of course be handed over to you.14

I must apologise for the unreasonable length of this letter, but I must trouble you on one other point, for I do not quite understand whether the sheets with the footnotes received yesterday are in their final state & ready for the translator.15 Will you kindly inform me on this head, & then I hope to cause you no more trouble.

My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin

CD annotations

4.2 a sort of] above del ‘his’ in CD’s hand
4.3 one or two] over ‘a’ in CD’s hand
4.3 miles] altered from ‘mile’ in CD’s hand


CD sent John Dowson’s lecture to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Whitby Erasmus Darwin: philosopher, poet, and physician (Dowson 1861); no copy has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL. CD was trying to find a copy of Anna Seward’s biography of Erasmus Darwin (Seward 1804) for Krause (see letter to Ernst Krause, 14 March 1879).
Seward’s retraction appeared in a footnote to the essay review of her book in the Edinburgh Review ([T. Thomson] 1804, pp. 236–7 n.).
In his introductory sketch of the life of Erasmus Darwin, CD quoted from Seward’s account of his grandfather’s behaviour and from that by Emma Georgiana Elizabeth Darwin, who was with Erasmus when he heard the news of his son’s death (Erasmus Darwin, pp. 70–4). CD’s published introduction ran to 127 pages, while Krause’s expanded essay on the scientific works of Erasmus Darwin was 87 pages long.
A German translation of Erasmus Darwin appeared in 1880, titled Erasmus Darwin und seine Stellung in der Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie von Ernst Krause. Mit seinem Lebens- und Charakterbilde von Charles Darwin (Krause 1880). Krause expanded his part of the work, adding a section on precursors to Erasmus Darwin (ibid., pp. 78–124).
See letter to B. W. Richardson, 14 March 1879, and letter to Francis Galton, 22 March 1879. No published references other than Seward 1804 and Dowson 1861 are mentioned in the preface to Erasmus Darwin.
In the event, CD was away from home from 6 to 26 May 1879 visiting friends and family (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
See letter to Ernst Krause, 14 March 1879 and n. 6. The son was probably Leonard Darwin; the picture was a portrait of Erasmus Darwin by Joseph Wright.
CD evidently refers to a now missing revision of Krause 1879a (see n. 15, below); in the published version, Krause had only noted that Erasmus Darwin settled in Lichfield (ibid., p. 398).
Krause had added a footnote to his revised version of Krause 1879a discrediting Seward 1804 (see letter from Ernst Krause, 17 March 1879).
Krause suggested adding an account of the views of several predecessors of Jean Baptiste de Lamarck (see letter from Ernst Krause, 17 March 1879 and n. 4).
Krause added a section on Erasmus Darwin’s precursors to the German translation of Erasmus Darwin (Krause 1880; see n. 5, above). CD’s prediction about sales was accurate; in his ‘Recollections’, p. 419, he stated that by 1881 only 800 or 900 copies of the book had been sold.
Krause had evidently sent a revised version of Krause 1879a; CD had asked for sheets to be sent as they became available (see letter to Ernst Krause, 14 March 1879).


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.

Dowson, John. 1861. Erasmus Darwin: philosopher, poet, and physician. A lecture to the Literary and Philosophical Society of Whitby. London: H. K. Lewis.

Erasmus Darwin. By Ernst Krause. Translated from the German by W. S. Dallas, with a preliminary notice by Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1879.

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.

Krause, Ernst. 1880. Erasmus Darwin und seine Stellung in der Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie von Ernst Krause. Mit seinem Lebens- und Charakterbilde von Charles Darwin. Leipzig: Ernst Günther.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.

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

[Thomson, Thomas.] 1804. [Review of Memoirs of the life of Dr Darwin by Anna Seward.] Edinburgh Review 4: 230–41.


Sends copy of a lecture [by John Dowson, see 11949] published in 1861.

Has not yet found a copy of Anna Seward’s biography for EK. It is a wretched, inaccurate book. To contradict Anna Seward’s version, CD intends to write a short preface to the translation of EK’s essay. Doubts that it will be worth translating into German.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Ludwig (Ernst) Krause
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (HM 36177)
Physical description
LS(A) 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11944,” accessed on 23 July 2024,