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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   30 May [1880]1


Sunday May 30th

My dear old George.

I am glad that you said what you did to Mrs Noel, about her grandfather; it is all strictly true & you might have added, though this would not have been complementary, that I had utterly forgotten that he was her grandfather or anybody’s grandfather.—2 There is something nice about her note; it is so simple though rather foolish.— What a strange thing it was to sell the old portrait &c &c.;3 I have often heard my father4 speak with indignation about it.— You have had such luck in your genealogical researches, that I believe you will find something wonderful at Lincoln or Marton or the other village with very old registers.—5

I am so very sorry my poor dear old fellow to hear so bad an account of yourself.— You have indeed much to endure; but I always go on hoping that you will be better some day. It is not as if your lungs were affected.

Private We were tremendously interested by your letter about the Farrers’ visit.6 Horace gave a rather better account of Effie than you did, but Ida gave to Henrietta as bad a one as yours.7 I am convinced that she is insane. She has been extra cordial & confidential with Leonard!8

We are enjoying ourselves here & to my surprise I find complete idleness not only endurable but very pleasant.9 The weather, however, has been dry & pleasant, though until to day extremely cold.— Mr Lowell is coming here today & he will be first-rate fun.—10 We like Miss Ashburne very much.—11

The more I think of Sir Thompson, the more I am charmed with him; & it is a real pleasure to have seen so great a man.—12 Be sure tell me whenever you have any luck or no luck with the pendulum.—13

I have subcribed 2.2.0 for the enclosed14

Farewell my dear old fellow; I do hope that you will get somewhat better soon.— | Your affectionate Father | C. Darwin

Frank starts tomorrow or Tuesday for Brittany: he has been having good luck with his Potash experiments lately, & the fact is an extraordinary one.—15

P.S. If you shd. find an Edit. of Botanic Garden about 1800, please look & see if there is a kind of Preface, headed


with some good philosophical remarks on use of Hypotoses.—16


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from G. H. Darwin, 28 May 1880.
Sarah Gay Forbes Noel was upset that her grandfather William Alvey Darwin had not received more attention in Erasmus Darwin (see letter from G. H. Darwin, 28 May 1880). She had a interest in the genealogy of the Darwin family (see Correspondence vol. 27, letter from E. S. Galton, 31 March 1879). ‘(Wm Alvey Darwin)’ was added in purple crayon in an unknown hand above ‘grandfather’.
‘(at Elston)’ was added in purple crayon in an unknown hand above ‘portrait’. Sarah Noel had sent George a catalogue of paintings sold, probably from Elston Hall (see letter from G. H. Darwin, 28 May 1880 and n. 3).
Manton is a village in Lincolnshire and the location of the Darwin family seat Cleatham Hall; Lincoln is the cathedral city of the county. George had long had an interest in the genealogy of the Darwin family (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter from E. A. Darwin, [before 20 February 1866?] and n. 2).
George’s letter has not been found. Thomas Henry Farrer had opposed his daughter Ida’s marriage to Horace Darwin. Emma Darwin thought this was because Farrer worried that all his family would be against it on either ‘worldly’ or religious grounds; she thought this placed Effie Farrer, Farrer’s second wife, Ida’s stepmother, and Horace Darwin’s cousin, in an awkward position, and that Effie, while disappointed by the match, was mainly concerned about losing Ida (letter from Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [4 August 1879] (DAR 219.1: 125), and letter from Emma Darwin to Ida Farrer, [September 1879?] (DAR 258: 653)).
Horace’s account and Ida’s view expressed to Henrietta Emma Litchfield have not been found; they evidently concerned Effie Farrer’s health.
CD and Emma Darwin were visiting Sara and William Erasmus Darwin in Southampton from 25 May to 8 June 1880 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
James Russell Lowell, the poet, visited on 30 May 1880 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
William and Frances Anna Thomson had lunched with the Darwins on 11 May 1880 (letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Litchfield, [11 May 1880] (DAR 219.9: 236)).
George and Horace Darwin were constructing a pendulum to measure the lunar disturbance of gravity (G. H. Darwin 1907–16, 5: l).
The enclosure was probably a request for contributions from fellows of the Royal Society of London for a portrait of Joseph Dalton Hooker, who had served as president of the society from 1873 to 1878. CD recorded a payment of £2 2s. on 31 May 1880 for ‘Hooker Portrait’ (CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS)). Hooker’s portrait was painted by John Collier in 1880.
Francis Darwin left for Brittany on 31 May 1880 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). Francis’s potash experiments probably related to his work on the bloom on leaves; in 1878, while Francis was working in Julius Sachs’s laboratory in Würzburg, Sachs had suggested that potash was exuded from leaves (as indicated by alkaline dew) and thus could provide a way of comparing leaves with bloom with those cleaned of bloom to see whether the function of bloom was to prevent water dissolving anything out of the leaves (see Correspondence vol. 26, letter from Francis Darwin, [4–7 August 1878], and Correspondence vol. 27, letter to Edward Frankland, 8 February 1879).
Hypotoses: hypotheses. The 1799 edition of Erasmus Darwin’s two part poem The botanic garden (E. Darwin 1799, pp. xvii–xviii) contained an ‘Apology’ on the use of ‘conjectures’ and ‘extravagant theories … in those parts of philosophy, where knowledge is yet imperfect … as they encourage the execution of laborious experiments, or the investigation of ingenious deductions’.


Darwin, Erasmus. 1799. The botanic garden, a poem. Pt 1. The economy of vegetation. Pt 2. The loves of the plants. With philosophical notes. 4th edition. London: J. Johnson.

Darwin, George Howard. 1907–16. Scientific papers. 5 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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


Discusses GHD’s genealogical researches

and his health.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 93
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12619,” accessed on 29 May 2023,