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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Krause   9 May [1879]1

Bassett, Southampton

May 9th.

My dear Sir

I am happy to answer your questions as well as I can.2 Dr. Darwin knew well during many years Boulton & Watt, for they were all members of the Lunar Socy; but I cannot say when he first became acquainted with them.3

Edgworth lived for a time at Lichfield, partly, I believe on account of the health of his wife & partly for the sake of my grandfather’s society: He then lived on his Estates in Ireland.—4

Old Mr. Galton was a rich Banker in Birmingham & a friend of my grandfather; one of his sons, Tertius Galton, married Violetta Darwin, daughter of Erasmus.—5 Mrs Schimmelpenninck was sister of Tertius Galton; but she was, as I hear from her own nieces & nephews, quite untrustworthy: she, also, expressly says she give in extreme old age her recollections as a child.—6

The Priory was left to my grandfather by his son Erasmus, who committed suicide, when insane.7 I shall show how false Miss Seward’s account is of my grandfather’s conduct—absolutely false.8

I shall enter into this subject in some detail.

My grandmother Mary Howard was no relation to the Philanthropist.—9

The father of Erasmus (Robert) was a Barrister or Lawyer, but he lived in the house of his elder brother; & the eldest son of Robert (ie the elder brother of Erasmus) ultimately inherited the estate of Elston.10 Sir Francis was merely knighted on presenting an address to the King, & I wonder that he condescended to accept so paltry an honour.11 He was in no sense a member of our nobility.— There is no known connection between Darwin & Derwent or Darwen.—12 But I strongly advise you to let me tell what is known about the family of the Darwins from the materials in my possession.

I intend to give an engraving of the Priory, (which was a curious old House) & had intended to quote Dr. D’ description, but will refer to the latter, as you intend to give it.—13

It is very kind of you to offer to allow me to alter your M.S, but this I cannot accept, for I shd never have thought of writing about my grandfather, had it not been for your essay.14

I much fear that there will be too much repetition in our two little essays; but as we shall view the subject from different points perhaps this will not much signify.— I cannot work in my materials without going through his whole life, & at present cannot see what will be the best plan.— We shall both be able to judge best when we have seen each other’s M.S.— Possibly you might like to take my M.S & cut it up & work it into your essay or give them as a Preface or as a supplement.; & I take parts of yours & work them into the English edition, or give them as a supplement.

This plan wd. waste a good deal of both our times; but it is useless to speculate what wd. be best till we have seen each other’s essays.

My dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I am inclined to think I must have 2 copies made in M.S of my essay & send one to you. This, however, will waste time..—

P.S. | If you approve or disapprove of my notice appearing after yours as a Supplement, please tell me: if I do not hear, I will understand that you are indifferent.— But please observe I have not yet thought enough. about it. Perhaps Mr Murray would object vehemently, & say that my name wd help sale!!15

But I would overrule this if we think this of “supplement” wd. be the best plan.— I shall be able to judge better when I can read rapidly in Translation whole of your article.—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Ernst Krause, 5 May 1879.
The Lunar Society was established in Birmingham around 1765; Erasmus Darwin, CD’s grandfather, had known Matthew Boulton from the late 1750s, and had met James Watt in 1767 (Schofield 1963, pp. 17, 19, 67–8).
Richard Lovell Edgeworth moved from Ireland to Shropshire in 1778 so that his wife, Honora, who had become incurably ill with tuberculosis, could be treated by Erasmus Darwin; when Honora died in 1780, Edgeworth followed her advice and married her sister Elizabeth Sneyd before returning to his Irish estate (ODNB).
Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck had criticised Erasmus Darwin in her autobiography (Hankin ed. 1858).
See letter from Ernst Krause, 5 May 1879 and n. 10. The younger Erasmus Darwin died by drowning in the river at the bottom of the garden at Breadsall Priory.
Anna Seward had accused Erasmus Darwin of being indifferent to his son’s death (Seward 1804, pp. 406, 408–9).
See letter from Ernst Krause, 5 May 1879 and n. 11. Mary Darwin, née Howard, was CD’s grandmother; ‘the philanthropist’ was John Howard (no relation).
Francis Sacheverel Darwin was knighted in 1820.
See letter from Ernst Krause, 5 May 1879 and n. 15. Darwen is a town in Lancashire.
The engraving of Breadsall Priory and Erasmus Darwin’s description of it appeared in CD’s section of Erasmus Darwin, pp. 124–6.
See letter from Ernst Krause, 5 May 1879. Krause’s account of Erasmus Darwin had been published in Kosmos (Krause 1879a). He was revising his essay for translation into English.
CD was preparing a biographical sketch of Erasmus Darwin for publication by John Murray (1808–92) together with the translation of Krause’s revised essay. In Erasmus Darwin, CD’s biographical sketch preceded Krause’s essay; this was also the case in the German edition (Krause 1880).


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

Hankin, Christiana C. ed. 1858. Life of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck. 2 vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts.

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.

Krause, Ernst. 1880. Erasmus Darwin und seine Stellung in der Geschichte der Descendenz-Theorie von Ernst Krause. Mit seinem Lebens- und Charakterbilde von Charles Darwin. Leipzig: Ernst Günther.

Schofield, Robert E. 1963. The Lunar Society of Birmingham. A social history of provincial science and industry in eighteenth-century England. Oxford: Clarendon Press of Oxford University.

Seward, Anna. 1804. Memoirs of the life of Dr. Darwin. London: J. Johnson.


Answers EK’s queries about Erasmus Darwin’s friends and relations. Will rectify Anna Seward’s false account of Dr Darwin’s conduct. Advises EK to leave to him the account of the Darwin family. Declines EK’s offer to allow CD to alter his MS. Fears repetition in the two essays. They can judge how best to present the material when they have seen each other’s manuscripts.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Ludwig (Ernst) Krause
Sent from
Source of text
The Huntington Library (HM 36182)
Physical description
ALS 10pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12042,” accessed on 18 September 2023,