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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Reginald Darwin   8 April 1879


April 8, 1879.

My dear Cousin

Every word in your letter shows that you believe in the good Scotch saying “that blood is thicker than water.”1 Before receiving your letters we had resolved to beg you if you ever passed through London to pay us a visit; though unfortunately my head never allows me to enjoy a talk with anyone, except for a short time. Since my last letter I have made a strange discovery; for an old box from my father marked ‘Old Deeds,’ and which consequently I had never opened, I found full of letters—hundreds from Dr. Erasmus—and others from old members of the family: some few very curious. Also a drawing of Elston before it was altered, about 1750, of which I think I will give a copy.2 Your sister Violetta writes to me in the kindest manner, and she says that the engraving by Wedgwood would be much better to have photographed than a Picture.3 She has a copy, but I did not feel sure whether she meant to offer to lend it me. Would you lend me your copy and then my son Leonard, R.E., who is at the head of the Photographic Department at Chatham could judge whether it could be well reproduced.4 Your sister will kindly make drawing of The Priory, so I am now splendidly well off.5 George has come home and has been greatly interested by your big book.6 What an odd story in the Cotton M.S.; but George remarks that there is no evidence that this Mr. Darwin was W. Darwin of Cleatham.7 We are much puzzled whether Robert Darwin of Lincoln’s Inn and Father of Dr. Erasmus was ever owner of Elston as he died before his elder brother, and yet I have always understood that Dr. Erasmus was born at Elston.8 I have also written to Mrs. Darwin of Creskeld to ask about this point.9

By the way in the pile of old letters just discovered I have found out that our Grandfather did get to Edinburgh before Charles died.10 The more I read of Dr. D. the higher he rises in my estimation. At the suggestion of Emma Galton I wrote to Mr. Moilliet to know whether he had any letters of my Grandfather, but he has not answered me. Would you lend me the Memoir to which you refer?11

Pray forgive this very untidy letter, but I am very tired to death with writing letters; half the fools throughout Europe write to ask me the stupidest questions.—

Yours cordially obliged | Charles Darwin

P.S Very many thanks about the Seal; but we shd. not particularly value it.—12

Please sometime answer about address to “atheist”—13


The section ‘Since … a copy.’ was cut out of a copy of the letter in DAR 153, but was published in LL 3: 219. CD also mentioned his discovery of letters from Erasmus Darwin and others, and the drawing of Elston Hall in Robert Waring Darwin’s deeds box in his letter to C. M. C. Darwin, 6 April 1879.
On the engraving by John Allen Wedgwood, see the letter from V. H. Darwin, 4 April 1879 and n. 3.
Leonard Darwin of the Royal Engineers was an instructor in chemistry and photography at the School of Military Engineering at Chatham in Kent.
Violetta Harriot Darwin had offered to make a drawing of Breadsall Priory, Erasmus Darwin’s death place (see letter from V. H. Darwin, 4 April 1879).
George Howard Darwin had been in Algiers for several months; he was, as CD had anticipated, interested in Erasmus Darwin’s Commonplace book (Down House MS; see letter to Reginald Darwin, 4 April 1879).
Robert Bruce Cotton had recorded that a rare book on the history of Lichfield in his collection in the British Library had been found by a Mr Darwin (see letter to Reginald Darwin, 4 April 1879 and n. 9). William Darwin (1681–1760) was Erasmus Darwin’s uncle.
Robert Darwin (1682–1754) was Erasmus Darwin’s father; his brother was William Darwin (1681–1760). Their mother, Anne, lived at Elston Hall with her mother, Anne Lascelles, who had a life interest in the hall after the death of her son, John Lascelles of Elston. After Anne Lascelle’s death, Robert Darwin bought Elston Hall from the Lascelles (Elston Heritage Project, (accessed 23 November 2018)).
Erasmus Darwin’s eldest son, Charles, died in 1778, while a student at Edinburgh University. Erasmus arrived in Edinburgh shortly before Charles died (see letter to Reginald Darwin, 4 April 1879, n. 5).
It was Elizabeth Anne Wheler not her sister Emma Sophia Galton who suggested that CD write to James Keir Moilliet (see letter from E. A. Wheler, 25 March 1879). CD wished to borrow Sketch of the life of James Keir (Moilliet and Moilliet 1859), mentioned by Reginald Darwin in his letter of 7 April 1879.
CD had asked Reginald Darwin whether he would mind if Erasmus Darwin’s poem on the folly of atheism was published (see letter to Reginald Darwin, 4 April 1879). The first four lines appeared in Erasmus Darwin, p. 44.


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

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

Moilliet, Amelia and Moilliet, James Keir. 1859. Sketch of the life of James Keir, Esq., F.R.S., with a selection from his correspondence. London: privately published.


Details of family history. Has discovered Dr Darwin did get to Edinburgh before his son, Charles, died.

The more CD reads of Dr Darwin the higher he rises in his estimation.

Is tired of writing letters, "half the fools throughout Europe write to ask me the stupidest questions".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Reginald Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 153: 98; Lawrences Auctioneers (dealers) (2009); LL 3: 219
Physical description
C C 2pp ALS 3pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11982,” accessed on 13 July 2024,