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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   9 January [1882]1

Jan 9

My dear Father,

I have the account of your splendid division which I will send on2

I am sorry to hear of your alarm about fire, I will look out the circular tonight & let you hear all about the hand engine.3

Sara4 has had sad news from America: the brother of the Mrs Ashburner who lives in London has just committed suicide  That will make the third brother who has committed suicide & Mrs A & her two sisters have tried to do it.5 It is very horrible for poor Mr A. as his son is dejected and out of health, and Mrs A may have another attack.6

I have cut the F.R.S. out of the inscription7

What a capital letter of George’s in Nature.8

Your affect son | W. E. Darwin


The year is established by references to the Ashburners (see n. 5, below).
CD wrote about the division of his surplus income in the letter to the Darwin children, 8 January 1882.
William had bought a hand-operated fire pump in 1881 and advised CD to get one (see Correspondence vol. 29, letter from W. E. Darwin, 13 January [1881]). A fire pump was installed in Down House in February (letter from Emma Darwin to G. H. Darwin, [20 February 1882] (DAR 210.3: 40)).
A letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Litchfield, 10 January 1882 (DAR 219.9: 283), mentions ‘Wm’s sad acct of the misfortune in Mrs Sam Ashburner’s family’. Mrs Ashburner was Anne Mead Ashburner; her brother John Sargent Barstow committed suicide on 25 December 1881. Of nine brothers, only one is reported to have committed suicide: Gideon Forrester Barstow (Massachusetts, town and vital records, 1620–1988;, accessed 14 July 2021). Annie had two surviving sisters: Eleanor Forrester Condit and Catherine Andrew Barstow.
Annie and Samuel Ashburner had two adult sons; the son in question was probably George, who was a student (age 27) living with his parents in Kensington, London.
The inscription was for Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s gravestone and the FRS (fellow of the Royal Society) referred to his father Robert Waring Darwin (1766–1848). See Correspondence vol. 29, letter from G. H. Darwin, 15 October 1881.
George Howard Darwin’s short article on the geological importance of tides was published in Nature, 5 January 1882 (G. H. Darwin 1882; see letter from J. W. Judd, 8 January 1882 and nn. 1 and 4).


Darwin, George Howard. 1882. On the geological importance of the tides. Nature, 5 January 1882, pp. 213–14.


CD’s division of his surplus income; fire engines; Sara Darwin’s relatives; GHD’s paper in Nature.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 112)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13672F,” accessed on 7 June 2023,