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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emily Catherine Darwin   [12 November 1848]



My dearest Charles—

Many thanks for your affectionate note this morning.— I fear my account must be that he is weaker and weaker;—and that there is no sign of rallying.1 Our only comfort must be that he does not suffer quite so much both yesterday and this morning—as might be;—we do not think his countenance so distressed as it was on Friday;—his feebleness is excessive.— But last night was most distressing & suffering, as he could not lie down on first going to bed—but was obliged to be moved back into his Study, a great exertion the bed was altered, and after a time, he was mercifully able to lie down again;—and continued in bed till 3 o’clock, when his breathing again became so oppressed, he was obliged to be up for nearly 2 hours.— He cannot speak above a whisper, and that, very short, his breathing is so difficult.—

He is perfectly collected, and placid in his mind in every way—and one of the most beautiful and pathetic sights that can be imagined—so sweet so uncomplaining—so full of every body else—of all the servants—the servants’ children &c—

Susan was up all last night, and the greatest part of the night before;—she is wonderfully able to go through her most trying part, all his directions being given to her.— He attempted to speak about you—this morning, but was so excessively overcome he was utterly unable—; we begged him not to speak—as we knew what he would have said;—the least exertion or excitement exhausts him so, it is quite dangerous.—

You will suffer sadly, my dear Charles—but you will wish to hear every particular. I am so sorry to hear of your being so unwell— I hope you will have Emma returned very soon now.—2 Both Thurger and Mark3 are invaluable— they are perfectly devoted;—no words can describe it.— Mr Burd4 and Dr Parker5 both agree that nothing more can be done.— He is so excessively faint and exhausted often, and requires the air, that he is constantly wheeled into the Green House—and sits there,—it is a great blessing having it for him.— Dr Parker did not think him worse this morning;—he appears to me much more feeble.— If you mention anything, when you write, tell about your Windows6 he has asked about them.—

I cannot think of any thing else to tell you—

My dearest Charles I am afraid you will suffer most sadly.— You have not the consolation of being with him as we have.

Yrs ever | E. C. D.


CD’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, was near death.
According to her diary, Emma visited Hartfield, where both Elizabeth Wedgwood and Charlotte Langton lived, from 8 to 15 November.
Thomas Thonger and Mark Briggs were servants at the Mount. Mark Briggs was the family coachman.
Edward Burd, Shrewsbury physician (Bagshaw 1851).
Dr Henry Parker, R. W. Darwin’s son-in-law. He had married Marianne Darwin in 1824.
CD’s Account Book (Down House MS) has an entry for 12 October: ‘From my Father for new windows £10. Susan £2.’ On the 29th: ‘Lewis glass for windows [£]8’.


Bagshaw, Samuel. 1851. History, gazetteer, and directory of Shropshire. Sheffield.


Gives details of the illness of R. W. Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emily Catherine (Catherine) Darwin/Emily Catherine (Catherine) Langton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
V&A / Wedgwood Collection (MS W/M 279)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1206,” accessed on 28 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4