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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Galton   22 March 1879

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

Mar 22./79

My dear Galton,

Dr Krause has published in Germany a little life of Dr Eras Darwin, chiefly in relation to his scientific views; & to do our grandfather’s honour, my brother Eras & myself intend to have it published in English.1 I intend to write a short preface to it, chiefly for the sake of contradicting the chief of Miss Seward’s calumnies; & this I can do from having a letter from your aunts written at the time, & from my father’s correspondence with Miss Seward. But I further intend to add a few facts & add a few remarks about our grandfather.2 Can you aid me with any information or documents?

I have one nice & curious letter to Miss Howard which I will publish.3 Also many letters to Josiah Wedgwood and to the famous Reimarus, but I doubt whether any of these will be worth publishing.4 Do you know whether there are any letters in the possession of any members of the family which might be worth publishing; & would you take the trouble to assist me by getting the loan or copies of them?

Several years ago I read the memoirs of your aunt Mrs Schimmel-Penninck and as far as I can remember many of the stories about Dr Darwin seemed very improbable.5 Did you ever hear your mother speak of this book, and can you authorise me to contradict any which are injurious to his good name. I am sure you will forgive me for troubling you on this head as we have a common interest in our grandfather’s fame.

Yours very sincerely | Charles Darwin


For examples of Anna Seward’s negative portrayal of Erasmus Darwin, see Seward 1804, pp. 64–8 and 406. See also letter from Ernst Krause, 17 March 1879 and n. 3, and letter to Ernst Krause, 19 March 1879 and n. 4. CD’s published introduction to Erasmus Darwin ran to 127 pages. Galton’s aunts, Harriot Maling and Emma Georgiana Elizabeth Darwin, were Erasmus Darwin’s daughters from his second marriage. CD’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, had written to ask Seward to retract some of her statements (see Erasmus Darwin, p. 74).
The letter from Erasmus Darwin to Mary Howard, written shortly before their marriage, is published in Erasmus Darwin, pp. 21–4.
Letters exchanged by Erasmus and Josiah Wedgwood I, dated between 1765 and 1794, are in DAR 227.1 and DAR 227.3. Erasmus and Johann Albert Heinrich Reimarus met as students in Edinburgh in 1754; for more on their friendship, see King-Hele 1999, pp. 17–20. CD had made copies of six letters from Erasmus Darwin to Reimarus that he was sent in 1877 by Edward Henry Sieveking (the copies are in DAR 227.1: 12–13; see Correspondence vol. 25, letter to E. H. Sieveking, 11 December 1877).
In her autobiography (Hankin ed. 1858), Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck had insinuated, in recounting memories from her childhood, that Erasmus Darwin was a glutton and a non-believer, who scoffed at conscience and morality (ibid., 1: 152–4, 178–80, and 237–48).


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

Hankin, Christiana C. ed. 1858. Life of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck. 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts.

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.


Describes plans to publish English edition of Krause’s work on Erasmus Darwin.

Will correct Anna Seward’s calumnies [in Memoirs of the life of Dr Darwin (1804)].

Asks about family letters.

Doubts some stories about Erasmus Darwin [in Christiana C. Hankin, ed., Life of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck (1858)].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Galton
Sent from
Source of text
UCL Library Services, Special Collections (GALTON/1/1/9/5/7/25)
Physical description
LS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11947,” accessed on 12 September 2023,