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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   5 May 1879

Trin Coll.

May 5. 79

My dear Father,

I have found the article— at least I believe so. The book I looked at in London was something different from the one in our Library & I think must have been the Monthly Review whilst this is the Monthly Magazine. It is a biographical sketch of E.D.. I have not read it but am having it copied. I saw something about a £100 promissory note given by Col. Pole to his wife, which I guess is the calumny.1 I daresay I shall have the copy tomorrow.

Jackson has given me a copy of Eras. D.’s book about female education. Do you see the advertisement of the Miss Parker’s at the end— was it written as a puff of their school—& is’nt there some story of their being his natural daughters. I think old Mrs. Greaves of Cheltenham told us something about it.2 Her letters to me are in the tin pedigree box in my bedroom, perhaps you might look at them.3

Bradshaw says he knows nothing of any letters of Dr. Okes’ in the University Library & so we shall not find them—4 The Provost of King’s was one of 23 children & so the letters may be in possession of the other 22 or their descendants—for the old fellow is over 80.5

Has a book come for me at Down, for I have received a post card forwarded from Down saying that a presentation copy of Thomson & Taits Nat. Philos. has been sent me.6 I shd. like to have it forwarded if it has come & to know at once if it has not.

I am very much pleased that Thomson shd. have thought me worthy of a copy.

I believe I have made a little astronomical discovery as to a correction which ought to be applied on taking observations of the Sun— I had never seen it in text books but I cdn’t conceive that it was new, until I found two astronomers here who had never heard of it. One of them a Mr. Knobel is going to ask a Mr. Marth who was the great Bessel’s assistant if it is known & to let me know.7 It would be very funny if I have really hit on anything new in such a very old subject—& moreover it is founded on such very simple considerations   I can’t however think it is new as yet.

If it is so, however I shall sent a note to a German Astron. Journal to try to stir up the German Astronrs. to examine the Solar observations to search for the theoretical inequality in the Sun’s motion

I have begun doing arithmetic in my work & my first attempt (which is always wrong however) makes it look as though the results would fit to a T into what I thought might be the case & if they do I think my theory wd. be almost established.

Your affectionate Son | G. H. Darwin


CD had asked George Darwin to find an article in the Monthly Magazine in which Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802) had been maligned (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 3 May [1879]). In the ‘Biographical memoir of the late Dr. Darwin’, the anonymous author stated that when Erasmus married Elizabeth Pole, he made sure that a £100 promissory note to his wife from her deceased former husband was valid (Anon. 1802, p. 458). However, the calumny was the claim that Erasmus’s death had been hastened by ‘a violent fit of passion’ directed towards a servant (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 3 May [1879] and n. 3).
Henry Jackson, like George, was a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Erasmus Darwin had purchased some property and wrote out his ideas on the education of women in order to help his illegitimate daughters, Susanna Parker and Mary Parker, establish a girls’ school in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, in 1794. After taking account of comments from parents, Erasmus published his enlightened views on education under the title A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools (E. Darwin 1797). The main text was followed by an advertisement for the school (ibid., p. 128). Elizabeth Anne Greaves was the niece of Henry Hadley; after Hadley married Susanna Parker, Elizabeth Greaves was brought up in their household (King-Hele 1999, p. 357).
For one of Elizabeth Greaves’s letters, see Correspondence vol. 26, letter from E. A. Greaves to G. H. Darwin, 26 June 1878.
George was hoping to find a letter to Thomas Okes from Erasmus Darwin (see letter from Richard Okes to G. H. Darwin, 29 April 1879). Henry Bradshaw was the librarian at Cambridge University Library.
Richard Okes (grandson of Thomas Okes, 1730–97) was provost of King’s College, Cambridge; he was the nineteenth of Thomas Verney Okes’s twenty children (ODNB).
The first volume of a new edition of William Thomson and Peter Guthrie Tait’s Treatise on natural philosophy was published in 1879 (W. Thomson and Tait 1879–83). Thomson had been impressed by George’s work the previous year; see Correspondence vol. 26, letter from G. J. Romanes, 17 August 1878, letter to G. H. Darwin, 29 October [1878] and n. 3, letter from G. H. Darwin, 7 November 1878, and letter to G. H. Darwin, 8 November [1878].
Edward Ball Knobel was on the council of the Royal Astronomical Society of London. Albert Marth was briefly the last student of Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel at Königsberg University. George’s correction on taking observations of the sun has not been identified in his publications.


Anon. 1802. Biographical memoirs of the late Dr. Darwin. Monthly Magazine; or, British Register 13: 457–63.

Darwin, Erasmus. 1797. A plan for the conduct of female education in boarding schools. London: J. Johnson.

King-Hele, Desmond. 1999. Erasmus Darwin. A life of unequalled achievement. London: Giles de la Mare Publishers.

Thomson, William and Tait, Peter Guthrie. 1879–83. Treatise on natural philosophy. New edition. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Sends CD an article on Dr Erasmus Darwin [from Monthly Magazine, see 12028].

Tells of a "discovery" he has made about taking observations of the sun. Does not know yet whether it is new.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Trinity College, Cambridge
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 75
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12034,” accessed on 23 May 2022,