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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [13 March 1881]1

Ridgemount, | Basset, | Southampton.


My dear Father

I am obeying orders about not writing so that Lily is acting as secretary.2

The papers have just come from the Geological Society, and I feel proud of becoming a member.3

Thank you for all the trouble you have taken.

I have only been able to examine 29 more rhododendron leaves, as it hurts my head stooping; of these 18 were drawn in stalk downwards and 11 point downwards.4

I have always forgotten to say that I could not find the old piece of ploughed land on the common which you wanted me to look at.

I have proved Uncle Jos’s death in the North Eastern Railway Company, if you will send me a cheque for £149.10 before April the 1st. I will pay it.5

Please thank Mother for her kind letter; Sara is writing to her this evening.6 Our plans are a little vague as it depends on how my old head feels after a few days more light work.

Your affect son | W. E. Darwin


The date is established by a note in CD’s hand that reads, ‘William in letter dated March 13 1881 says he has looked at 29 more Rhododendron leaves & 18 were drawn in by base & 11 by top or apex.—’ (DAR 65: 44).
Elizabeth Gaskell Norton was known as Lily; she was Sara Darwin’s niece.
CD had organised the signing of the certificate for William’s membership of the Geological Society of London (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 25 January 1881).
For more on CD’s interest in rhododendron leaves, see the letter from W. E. Darwin, 3 February [1881] and nn. 3 and 4. Emma Darwin, in a letter to George Howard Darwin, 7 March 1881 (DAR 251: 1002) mentioned that William had been kicked off his horse, hitting his head, but that he was ‘not the least stunned’. In a letter of 16 March 1881 (DAR 210.3: 5), Emma mentioned that William was ‘a good deal troubled by the return of his old head symptoms which did not appear till 4 days after the fall from his horse’. William had earlier suffered a concussion following a riding accident in May 1876 (see Correspondence vol. 24, letter from James Paget, 30 May 1876).
See letter to W. E. Darwin, [27 February 1881]. William was probably authorising the purchase of shares for Emma Darwin’s trust; her trustees were Erasmus Alvey Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood III, who had died on 11 March 1880 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). William was Josiah’s executor. On 15 March 1881, CD recorded a payment under the heading ‘W. E. Darwin for alloted shares Trust N. E. Rd (Invested)’ in his Account books–banking account (Down House MS)). The transaction is also listed in CD’s Investment book (Down House MS), p. 152.
The letters from Emma Darwin and from Sara Darwin have not been found.


Cannot write so is using Lily as secretary. Proud to be member of Geological Society. Sends observations of rhododendron leaves. Could not find piece of ploughed land. Has proved Josiah Wedgwood III’s death in North Eastern Railway Company. Taking care because head hurts.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Ridgemount, Basset, Southampton
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 101)
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13141F,” accessed on 16 July 2024,