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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   6 January 1881

Bank, Southampton,

Jany 6th 1881

My dear Father,

I have seen our lawyer; he says that a gift during life unless the articles are actually handed over & taken possession of is not legally valid, and would only be evading legacy duty. He says also that a codicil is much better and more likely to prevent confusion than a letter to Exōrs, and that such a Codicil need be no longer than a letter.1

Also that there is no occasion to appoint new Trustees under the circumstances, so that I have written to ask if there is any objection to Southampton Dock Deb: Stock and to say that it be invested in his name.2

The Lawyer says the articles should be specified in the Codicil

They are I suppose

Family papers & deeds

Autograph Voyage of Beagle

" Memoirs3

Scientific Library

Portraits of C. Darwin

" E. Darwin4

" R Darwin5

" J. Wedgwood6

? Picture of Foxgloves7

? Portrait of Wm Darwin from Uncle Eras8

As to plate I do not know whether the Royal Society Medal Candle Sticks & Soup Tureen from your Father should be considered heirlooms.9

I have sent on your Memorandum to Leonard.10

What a grand Division it is; We are the luckiest children in the world.

I am very glad. I am coming on Saturday. | Your affect son | W. E. Darwin

CD annotations

4.5 Scientific Library] ‘Diplomas’11 added above pencil
4.9 " J. Wedgwood] ‘& any other family Portraits’ pencil
4.10 Picture of Foxgloves] del ink
4.12 Royal … Sticks] ‘Yes’ in left margin pencil
4.12 Soup … heirlooms. 4.13] del pencil
End of letter: ‘Date of will. & Codicil’12 pencil


CD’s solicitor was William Mackmurdo Hacon. CD made a new will, dated 27 September 1881, in which he appointed his two eldest sons at the time of his death as executors and trustees (in the event, these were William Erasmus and George Howard Darwin).
William had suggested buying stock in the Southampton Dock Company (see letter from W. E. Darwin, 1 January [1881], and letter to W. E. Darwin, 3 January [1881]); the person in whose name the shares were to be purchased has not been identified.
CD’s handwritten copies of his Beagle diary (published in revised form as Journal of researches) and autobiographical memoir (‘Recollections’) are in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
Probably Erasmus Darwin; CD had purchased a painting of his grandfather in 1878 (see Correspondence vol. 26, letter from E. A. Greaves, 3 January 1878).
Probably the painting of CD’s father, Robert Waring Darwin, that is now in Darwin College, Cambridge.
Probably the painting of Josiah Wedgwood I that is now in Darwin College, Cambridge.
Trajan Hughes’s ‘Still life with insects on foxgloves’ (1723) is at Down House; the painting originally belonged to Robert Waring Darwin.
Probably the painting of William Darwin (1655–82) that is now in Darwin College, Cambridge. ‘Uncle Eras’ was Erasmus Alvey Darwin.
CD had been awarded the Royal Society’s Copley medal in 1864 (see Correspondence vol. 12). CD’s will mentions ‘silver candlesticks with an inscription presented to me by the Royal Society’. A soup tureen passed to CD after the death of his sister Susan Elizabeth Darwin (see Correspondence vol. 14, letter from E. A. Darwin, 11 October [1866]).
CD’s honorary diplomas are in the Darwin Archive–CUL; transcriptions appear in appendixes of the relevant volumes of Correspondence.
The will and codicil have not been found; in CD’s will dated 27 September 1881, he bequeathed his family portraits, family papers, medals, silver candlesticks, diplomas, and manuscripts of the voyage of the Beagle and of his autobiography to William (or his surviving eldest son); his scientific library was bequeathed to Francis Darwin.


Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.


Passes on legal advice.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 85)
Physical description
ALS 3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12980F,” accessed on 19 April 2024,