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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. S. Galton   12 November 1879

5, Bertie Terrace | Leamington

Nov: 12. 1879

My dear Cousin Charles—

My sister, Elizabeth Wheler & myself, are very much obliged to you for your kind present of our Grandfather’s life—of course still more acceptable as coming direct from you—which we greatly value.1 Pray accept our very best thanks—

My sister begs me to say, she would have written herself, but she is watching by the bedside of her dying Husband, who is now lying totally unconscious of all around him, & at the age of 81, Edward Wheler is not likely to rally— It is a case of decay of nature—

We have read your sketch of our Grandfather, & are most thankful for your publickly contracting Miss Seward’s cruel statements, & my Aunt, Mrs. Schimmelpennincks exaggerated disagreeable remarks—2 again & again as I read the pages of your book—I could not help wishing my mother3 had lived to see them, she would so truly have appreciated all you have stated.

One or two things have occurred to me—

Page 5. William Alvey Darwin died 1783—the year of my mother’s birth, so she never knew him— His daughter, Mrs. Fox certainly had a great love for machinery, seemed to understand it at a glance. She must have inherited this from her Father— Her mother (née Brown)—had nothing of it— You must have seen her, I think at Osmaston.4 She did not die till 1835—aged 91— She lived upstairs, being unable to walk—& when staying at Osmaston, we used to go & see her in an Eveng

Old Mrs. Darwin of Elston, (the mother of Dr. Erasmus Darwin)—who lived to a great age, had the habit latterly of thinking aloud—5 When my Grandmother & Uncles & Aunts6 went to pay their yearly visit at Elston, Mrs. Wm. Darwin made it a point to call on them—& old Mrs. Darwin (our Great Grandmother) much to the amusement & discomforture of the Bystanders, used to say—“I suppose I must ask Mrs. William to stay dinner— I hope she will not say yes—” then after repeating this 2 or 3 times—she would say aloud—“Will you stay dinner”—& Mrs. Wm. wisely declined—

Dr. Erasmus Darwin’s Brothers & sisters were very deaf, & when old Mr. Robert Darwin of Elston, wanted to lecture his sister Ann, he took her a drive, as the noise of the carriage wheels, enabled them to hear each other better—7

My mother used to say—her Grandmother (the Mother of Dr. Erasmus Darwin) was a charming old Lady—used to get up at 6. o’c. summer & winter—always in the nursery at 6. o’c—fed her pigeons till the day of her death. When her Grandchildren visited her—she used to come into their bedrooms at 6. o’c followed by her maid with a pillow, which was placed on the window seat—& she used to say, “My dears, are not you up yet?”—8

Page 5. John Darwin the rector of Elston, I have heard my Mother say, was a most excellent man—Doctor, Lawyer & Clergyman to the Parish—9 All went to him, when they wanted advice.

Page 6. My Mother used to say—her Father used to tell them, that when a Boy, he could not run up-hill—so when with his Brothers, & they came to a Hill, one or other, always took him on their backs—till they had surmounted the Hill—& then he could run on with them—

Mrs. Darwin of Elston (Mother of Dr. E Darwin) when her children were young, she always had them to come into her room every morng—to say their prayers—& then she pushed back their nails—

Page 36. Stepsons—would be Stepson in law—as Dr. E Darwin had but one Stepson & that was my Uncle Mr. Chandos Pole, who died in 1813— He had two Stepsons in law. Coll. Bromley of Abberley—& Mr. John Gisborne, who married Elizth. & Millicent Pole, daughters of my Grandmother—& Mrs. Nixon is one of Mr. John Gisborne’s daughters—but this does not signify10

Page 79. Mrs. Schimmelpenninck was the eldest sister of my Father.11 Mrs. Schimk: having been born in 1778—& my Father Saml. Tertius Galton, not till 1783—

My Mother used to say, our Grandfather Dr. E Darwin had a very great idea of his eldest Brother’s good sense & abilities, & never published any of his works, without asking for his Brothers criticism—12 Also my grandfather was afraid of publishing the Botanic Garden13 for some years, fearing it might injure his medical practice. Many might think a Poet, wd. not be a good Doctor—

Mr. Day, was at one time engaged to our Cousin Miss Hall—but it was off—owing to Mr. Day, insisting on Miss Hall parting with her diamond earrings— she faithfully promised never to wear them, but she had a great affection for them, as they were a gift of her Grandmother’s— Mr. Day—said—No wife must even have earrings in their possession—so she said—Then our intended marriage must never take place. Miss Hall was very indignant—& made not a brilliant marriage!! & accepted Mr. Vaughton in a hurry—14

I shall again read over your book with great interest—but I wanted at once to write, & tell you how much pleasure it has given my Sister & myself—

Pray give my kind love to your wife & daughter15 & believe me My dear Cousin | Yours very sincerely | E. S. Galton

How pleased my Brother Francis will be—at the kind way you mention him in yr. Book—16


The names of Emma Sophia Galton and her sister Elizabeth Anne Wheler are on the presentation list for Erasmus Darwin (Appendix IV).
CD was highly critical of remarks by Anna Seward in her biography of Erasmus Darwin (see Seward 1804, pp. 64–8 and 406), and by Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck in her memoir (Hankin ed. 1858, 1: 152–4, 178–80, and 237–48; see Erasmus Darwin, pp. 70–80). See also letter from E. S. Galton, 25 March 1879 and nn. 2 and 6.
William Alvey Darwin’s wife was Jane Darwin (née Brown); their daughter Ann married Samuel Fox (Darwin pedigree, pp. 8, 28). The Fox family lived at Osmaston Hall, near Derby.
Erasmus Darwin’s mother, Elizabeth Darwin, lived at Elston Hall until her death at the age of 94 (King-Hele ed. 2003, p. 102).
E. S. Galton’s grandmother was Elizabeth Darwin (Erasmus Darwin’s second wife). For the aunts and uncles, see King-Hele ed. 2003, p. 143.
Erasmus Darwin’s siblings were Robert Waring Darwin (1724–1816), who inherited Elston Hall, Elizabeth Hall (1725–1800), William Alvey Darwin, Ann Darwin (1727–1813), Susannah Darwin (1729–89), and John Darwin.
For the grandchildren of Elizabeth Darwin, see King-Hele ed. 2003, p. 143. The maid has not been identified.
For more on John Darwin’s parish work, see the enclosure to the letter from R. W. Dixon, 20 December 1879.
Erasmus Darwin’s stepson was Sacheverell Chandos-Pole. His stepdaughters were Elizabeth Ann Pole and Millicent Pole. Elizabeth married Henry Bromley, who inherited an estate at Abberley, Worcestershire. Millicent married John Gisborne; their daughter was Emma Nixon.
Robert Waring Darwin (1724–1816) shared Erasmus Darwin’s interest in poetry and botany.
The botanic garden was published in two parts (E. Darwin 1789–91).
Elizabeth Hall (b. 1754) married Roger Vaughton in 1777 (Darwin pedigree, p. 9). Her grandmother was Elizabeth Darwin (1702–97). Mr Day was probably Joseph Day.
Francis Galton is mentioned in Erasmus Darwin, pp. 88 and 110.


Darwin, Erasmus. 1789–91. The botanic garden; a poem, in two parts. Pt 1. The economy of vegetation. London: J. Johnson. 1791. Pt 2. The loves of the plants. With philosophical notes. Lichfield: J. Jackson. 1789.

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.

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

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


Thanks CD on behalf of herself and sister [E. A. Wheler] for the gift of Erasmus Darwin. Comments to amplify parts of it.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Sophia Galton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.14: 34
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12314,” accessed on 16 September 2023,