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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Reginald Darwin   9 April 1879

Derbyshire Club

April 9 | 1879.

My dear Cousin

I have found amongst some Medical Pamphlets which belonged to my Father, one relating to Charles Darwin, which was previously unknown to me— It was printed at Lichfield in 1780, & consists of a beautiful letter of dedication from Dr Darwin to Dr Duncan, the Thesis translated into English, & a sketch life of Charles, with a short account of his last illness—1 I see he lived at least a fortnight after receiving the virus when dissecting the Brain of a Child— The title page has an engraving of the Medal gained by him—2 If you have not got this Pamphlet I shall be most happy to send it to you— I am here for the day on Sessions business, & have seen my sister, who is deeply interested in your work.3 She has done a charming little picture of the Priory for you, & has found two early records of Dr Darwin: one, some verses to a Chesterfield school fellow about 1749; & another, a long letter & verses to Dr Burrows the Schoolmaster, & written from St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1750.4 She proposes sending you these, with a Manuscript book of Dr D.’s.—5

Affectly yours | R Darwin


Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802) wrote a short biography of his eldest son, Charles (CD’s uncle), which he published together with Charles’s dissertations ‘An account of the retrograde motions of the absorbent vessels of animal bodies in some diseases’ (translated into English from its original Latin) and ‘Experiments establishing a criterion between mucaginous and purulent matter’ (E. Darwin ed. 1780). Andrew Duncan had taken care of Charles during his fatal illness and had buried him in the Duncan family vault in Edinburgh (see letter from Reginald Darwin, 7 April 1879 and n. 5).
Charles Darwin had been awarded the first gold medal given by the Aesculapian Society in Edinburgh for his dissertation on the distinction between pus and mucus (E. Darwin ed. 1780, pp. [i], 135).
The Derby Mercury, 9 April 1879, p. 8, recorded that Reginald Darwin was present at the Derbyshire April Sessions. Sessions are periodical court sittings held by justices of the peace, who have jurisdiction over minor offences and certain civil and administrative matters (OED). Violetta Harriot Darwin lived in Derby.
Violetta Darwin’s drawing of Breadsall Priory was reproduced in Erasmus Darwin, p. 125. Erasmus Darwin attended Chesterfield School from 1741 to 1749 before being admitted to St John’s College, Cambridge, in June 1750. In Erasmus Darwin, p. 21, CD mistakenly stated that the 1749 letter was addressed to an undermaster at Chesterfield School, instead of Erasmus’s school-friend Samuel Pegge (King-Hele ed. 2003, p. 106). The 1750 letter was to William Burrow, headmaster of the school from 1722 to 1752.
The manuscript book has not been identified.


Darwin, Erasmus, ed. 1780. Experiments establishing a criterion between mucaginous and purulent matter: and, an account of the retrograde motions of the absorbent vessels of animal bodies in some diseases. Lichfield: J. Jackson.

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

King-Hele, Desmond, ed. 2003. Charles Darwin’s ‘The Life of Erasmus Darwin’. First unabridged edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Has found a pamphlet of 1780 about Charles Darwin [1758–78].

RD’s sister, Violetta, has found some early verses and a MS by Dr Erasmus Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Reginald Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Derbyshire Club
Source of text
DAR 99: 152–153
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11983,” accessed on 29 May 2023,