skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Wedgwood   20 September [1881]1


Sept. 20,

My dear Caroline

I have been deeply interested by your letter, but first for business.2 There will be no difficulty in your share being divided at once between your three daughters, as George tells me; so that I have told him, unless he hears to the contrary from you, that it is to be thus divided.3 It will, however, be impossible to make any division for some time. The present investments will be divided as far as this is possible, but some will have to be sold for cash to equalise the shares. My share is to be divided amongst my children, as you propose for yours.4

With respect to investments I am now a bad adviser, as for 2 years I have divided (and shall continue to do) the overplus of my income amongst my children. Consequently I have thought nothing about investments. I will, however tell you what I can; but William would give better advice, when he returns home in about a month’s time.5 He has been valuing my property to guide me in making a new will, and he says that at present prices fairly good securities pay only from 312 to 334 per cent. The N. S. Wales 5 per cent Bonds (of which I hold 10,000) will be paid off in 1888 or 1889; and this is an objection to buying them; nor do I know at what price they can now be purchased. I bought them long ago at about £105. If I had to invest I should go into “Metropolitan Consolidated Stock” of the City of London; but I believe it pays only or barely 312 per cent. I hold £6000 of this stock. Your bankers would tell you at once the price of any stock. I am not sure that I should not go into the ordinary Government 3 per cent. Stock; though this now pays only 3 per cent. I should be tempted by its security and facility of purchase or sale. My father6 used to say that every one ought to hold some of this stock.

I wish that I could have given fuller and better advice. I am extremely glad that the miniature is like my mother; for it shows a most sweet expression; and I was afraid that it might have been flattered.7 I value it much and so will my children. I grieve that I can remember hardly anything about my mother, except her black velvet gown and her work table and the death scene and talking to you of Marianne afterwards and you crying so much.8 It is strange that I cannot remember her face considering my age. I think my forgetfulness may be partly accounted for by none of you being able to endure speaking about so dreadful a loss.9 I cannot remember riding behind her; nor about guns or thunder. What you tell me is very pathetic and I am deeply glad to have heard it. I shall be glad to look again on her face in the miniature; but pray keep it as long as you like. If you wish it, I will return it to you again, after I have seen it and you may keep it for as long as you live; as it is necessarily more precious to you than to me. But I do not offer to give it, as I like the feeling of seeing it again, if I survive you.

I remember well that you always acted like a mother to me and Catherine.10

You affectionate brother | Charles Darwin.

I should like to have written more, but visitors are coming and I must not tire myself.11 Your letter is very valuable to me. (My black-edged paper is rather small, so that I have written on this).12


The year is established by the references to the distribution of Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s estate (see n. 3, below).
Caroline’s letter has not been found.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin had bequeathed one-sixth of his personal estate to his sister Caroline Wedgwood; she evidently wished her share to go to her daughters Sophy Wedgwood, Lucy Caroline Harrison, and Margaret Susan Vaughan Williams. George Howard Darwin was one of Erasmus’s executors.
William Erasmus Darwin was travelling on the Continent with his wife, Sara Darwin (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 13 September [1881] and n. 8).
CD and Caroline’s mother, Susannah Darwin, had died when he was 8 years old and Caroline was 16. CD presumably inherited the miniature from Erasmus Alvey Darwin. It is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Marianne Darwin (later Marianne Parker) was CD’s eldest sister; she was 19 when her mother died.
In 1876, CD had written about his mother in a very similar way in his ‘Recollections of the development of my mind and character’ (‘Recollections’, p. 356).
CD’s sister Catherine was just a year younger than him.
Emma Darwin reported that Francis Balfour and ‘a sensible German’, who had lived in Ischia for several years and been at the Naples Zoological Station, had visited Down House on 20 September 1881 (letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Litchfield, 21 September [1881] (DAR 219.9: 272)).
Black-bordered paper was used during mourning.


‘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.


Division of CW’s share [of E. A. Darwin’s estate]. Investment advice.

Recounts his memories of their mother and of her death. Remembers "her black velvet gown and her work table and the death scene", but cannot remember her face. Remembers that Caroline "always acted like a mother" to him and Catherine.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Darwin/Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Wedgwood
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 153: 5
Physical description
C 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13347,” accessed on 19 May 2024,