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Darwin Correspondence Project

To E. A. Wheler   12 April 1879

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

April 12th. 1879

My dear Cousin

I have been very neglectful in not having sooner thanked you & your sister Emma for all the very valuable assistance which you have given me.—1 But my excuse is that experiments in progress have kept me at extra hard work.

I am particularly glad to hear the curious story about Dr. Warren, as it shows how Dr. D was esteemed by his contemporaries. I return it now instead of hereafter with your other property: a copy has been made of it.— 2

Reginal D. has been most kind & has lent me the great book; & Violetta has likewise helped me & has made a drawing of Priory for wood cut.3

I wrote to Mr Moilliet, but he has not answered me.4 I made a few days ago a curious discovery of two Boxes marked “Deeds, Settlements” & which I had never opened since my Father’s death.5 I have now done so & they contain many scores, hundreds, I believe, of Dr. Ds letters & other odd old letters about the Family. Also a drawing of Elston before it was altered about the year 1750.6 This discovery has been of considerable use, but I have not yet looked through all the letters. But yesterday I found a very long one from Mr Keir to my Father with an excellent character of Dr. Erasmus.—7

Whether I shall succeed in making my Preliminary sketch of his life & character of any interest I am sure I do not know; but I will do my best.8

Yours affectionately obliged | Charles Darwin


Richard Warren was physician to George III, and the most sought-after society doctor in London. When suffering from a terminal illness he travelled to Lichfield to consult Erasmus Darwin, whom he thought ‘the greatest physician in world’ and the most qualified person to tell him truthfully when he might expect to die. CD recounted the story in Erasmus Darwin, pp. 105–6.
Reginald Darwin had lent Erasmus Darwin’s Commonplace (Down House MS) book to CD, and Violetta Harriot Darwin made a drawing of Breadsall Priory (Erasmus Darwin’s death place) for use in Erasmus Darwin (see letter from Reginald Darwin, 29 March 1879, and letter from V. H. Darwin, 9 April 1879 and n. 8).
Wheler had suggested that CD ask James Keir Moilliet whether he had the letters written by Erasmus Darwin to James Keir (see letter from E. A. Wheler, 25 March 1879 and n. 3. The letter to J. K. Moilliet has not been found.
CD’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, was Erasmus Darwin’s youngest son from his first marriage.
CD included an engraving made from this drawing of Elston Hall (Erasmus Darwin’s birthplace) in Erasmus Darwin, p. 3.
The letter from James Keir to Robert Waring Darwin, 12 May 1802, is in DAR 227.6: 76. See also letter to Reginald Darwin, 10 April [1879].
CD’s biography of Erasmus Darwin was intended as a preliminary sketch to the English translation of Ernst Krause’s essay on Erasmus Darwin’s scientific work (Krause 1879a).


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.


Thanks EAW for assistance. Describes plans for writing preliminary sketch [for Ernst Krause’s Erasmus Darwin].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Elizabeth Anne Galton/Elizabeth Anne Wheler
Sent from
Source of text
UCL Library Services, Special Collections (GALTON/1/1/9/1/1)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11990,” accessed on 4 June 2023,