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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Wheler   17 April 1879

3 Bertie Terrace

17 Apl 1879

My dear Cousin,

I wrote last week to my Cousin Mrs. Nixon, & enclose you her reply.1 She is Daughter to the late Mr. & Mrs. John Gisborne, & her mother was Millicent Pole, my grandmother’s youngest Daughter, by her first marriage.2 Mrs. Gisborne was nine years older than my mother, & was very fond of talking over old times with her Daughter Mrs. Nixon. You will see she gives a different version of the cause which drew Dr. D. to Newmarket, & which certainly sounds more probable tho’ my mother always said it happened on his way to Margate.3 Mrs. Nixon spoke to me once about my Uncle Erasmus Darwin’s sad death, & said it was Mrs. Pole of Radbourne (Daughter in law to my gdmother) who by her impatience to have some law matters settled caused him to overwork his brain.4

Another anecdote came into my mind the other day, shewing how much my grandfather was appreciated. Lady Charlotte Finch, governess to Queen Charlotte’s Daughters, had two granddaughters, the Miss Fieldings, who were much at court.5 Mrs. Fielding brought one of her Daughters to Derby to consult Dr. D. & the Miss Fieldings staid some little time at the House on a visit to my gdmother. When they returned home, they visited their gdmother Lady C Finch, & thro’ her, George the 3d. heard of Dr Darwin’s fame, & said “Why does not Dr. D come to London. He shall be my Physician if he comes”, & repeated this in his usual way. My mother said that he & my gd.mother disliked the thought of a London life so much, that the hint was not acted upon.6 I was talking to Emma about this, & she perfectly remembers my mother telling us this, & yesterday, on looking into Baroness de Bunsen’s memoirs, which we have just received, in page 68 she mentions Mrs. Fielding consulting Dr. D for her Daughter, & in page 38 she mentions paying a call at the Priory & being so struck with the beauty of the three Miss Darwins.7

You need not return Mrs. Nixon’s letter & with my kind remembrances to Mrs. Darwin

Believe me | very truly yours | E A Wheler

CD annotations

2.4 the … fame, 2.7] scored pencil
2.13 & being … Darwins 2.14] double scored pencil
Top of letter: ‘The King | Dr not vain | Not ambitious | the King often has expressed surprise of his not having gone to London | Beauty of the Miss Darwins’ pencil


Emma Nixon’s letter has not been found; Wheler later asked for it to be returned (see letter from E. A. Wheler, 18 April 1879).
Millicent Pole married John Gisborne in 1792; she was the daughter of Elizabeth Pole, who later became Erasmus Darwin’s second wife (King-Hele ed. 2003, p. 142).
CD noted that there were extreme variations in the details of the story about Erasmus Darwin’s being tipped off about a winning horse at Newmarket by a jockey whose mother had been treated kindly by Darwin during her illness (see Erasmus Darwin, pp. 63–4). Wheler’s mother was Frances Anne Violetta Galton.
Erasmus Darwin’s second son, Erasmus, was a lawyer. He had drowned in 1799 after falling or throwing himself into the river at the bottom of the garden of Breadsall Priory, his recently purchased home in Derbyshire. Mary Pole, wife of Sacheverell Pole of Radbourne Hall, Derbyshire, was Elizabeth Darwin’s daughter-in-law.
Charlotte Finch was the royal governess at the court of George III and Queen Charlotte; there were six princesses under her care. Charlotte Finch had three granddaughters, Sophia Charlotte Fielding, Matilda Fielding, and Augusta Sophia Fielding; their mother was Finch’s daughter Sophia Fielding.
CD quoted from this paragraph in Erasmus Darwin, pp. 69–70.
Emma Sophia Galton was Elizabeth Anne Wheler’s sister. Both the mention of Sophia Fielding’s consulting Erasmus Darwin about her daughter, and the visit to Breadsall Priory, occur on p. 38 in volume 1 of The life and letters of Frances Baroness Bunsen (Hare 1879); Elizabeth Wheler must have written p. 68 in error. The Miss Darwins were the three daughters of Erasmus and Elizabeth Darwin: Frances Anne Violetta Darwin, Emma Georgiana Elizabeth Darwin, and Harriot Darwin. According to Frances Bunsen, ‘the daughters of Dr. Darwin had a right to the inheritance of beauty from their mother’ (Hare 1879, p. 38).


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

Hare, Augustus J. C. 1879. The life and letters of Frances Baroness Bunsen. 2 vols. London: Daldy, Isbister & Co.

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


Relates more family history and anecdotes concerning Dr Erasmus Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Elizabeth Anne Galton/Elizabeth Anne Wheler
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.14: 23
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12000,” accessed on 13 September 2023,