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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. T. Crabbe   27 November 1881

8, Railway Approach | London Bridge, | S.E.

Nov. 27, 1881.


I am the possessor of a very valuable manuscript poem of 1074 lines entitled “Materialism”, the composition, and entirely in the handwriting of, Erasmus Darwin, the poet.1 It consists of 118 quarto pages written on one side of the paper only and is bound in old calf in a good state of preservation. This long poem is written in what is known as the heroic measure and is undoubtedly worthy of its great author. In my judgment, formed after repeated perusals of the poem, the tenets of its author nearly approximated to the science whose name gives title to the poem. I have carefully searched the British Museum catalogue, but cannot find that any copy of the poem, printed or manuscript, is preserved there. Upon three occasions, however, Dr. Darwin alludes in his letters to his poem of “Materialism” being in course of composition; but beyond this I am unable to find any reference to the poem, and am inclined to believe that its author may possibly have been induced by the advice of some reverend friend or friends to abandon its publication.

I am a collateral descendant of George Crabbe, the poet, amongst whose books which have recently come into my possession is the poem “Materialism”. The poem is signed in full by Dr. Darwin, and contains also the signature on the fly leaf of George Crabbe, the poet, with the addition of “Aldborough, Suffolk”.

I beg to offer this manuscript to you, Sir, for the low price of £10, and if you care to purchase it, and will forward to me a Post Office Order for this amount, the same shall without delay be duly packed and forwarded to you by post, registered.

Should you decline to purchase the poem, I shall be happy to make a copy of it and forward the same to you gratis upon your expressing a wish to possess a copy. In the event of your not purchasing the poem, I think I shall endeavour to find a publisher for it, it being a pity in my opinion, that it should any longer rest in undeserved oblivion.

I remain, | Dear Sir, | Your obedient Servant, | Edmund Thornton Crabbe, | L.R.C.S.2

Charles Darwin, Esq.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Swindle | he never answered inquir⁠⟨⁠y⁠⟩⁠’ in Francis Darwin’s hand, blue crayon


Crabbe has not been identified. No poem titled ‘Materialism’ by Erasmus Darwin has been found.
LRCS: licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons.


Offers for sale a MS of lost Erasmus Darwin poem on materialism [Francis Darwin note: "Swindle"].

Letter details

Letter no.
Edmund Thornton Crabbe
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 228
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13515,” accessed on 28 September 2023,