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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Adam Sedgwick   11 October [1850]1

Down Farnborough Kent

Oct. 11th.

My dear Professor Sedgwick

Having sent yesterday to the Geolog. Soc. for parcels, I was surprised & delighted at receiving your Discourse2 this morning.

I thank you cordially for this act of kindness & for your remembrance of me.— By an odd chance about a fortnight since, seeing your Book advertised, I was speculating how I could borrow it.— It has wonderfully grown since I read it as a first Edition.3

I have got to decide upon what school to send my eldest Boy of eleven, & I have been thinking of sending him not to a purely classical school; so that I shall read your ideas on Education with a practical end in view.—4

I most sincerely hope that your health is pretty good: mine is much better, thanks to the inestimable Water Cure,5 than it has been for several years, but I see that I shall never have a sound stomach & therefore never be really strong again.

Accept my sincere thanks for your kindness & believe me, | Your’s truly obliged, | Charles Darwin


The year is established by the reference to the fifth edition of Sedgwick’s Discourse on the studies of the University of Cambridge (Sedgwick 1850; see n. 2, below).
Sedgwick 1850. CD’s annotated copy, inscribed ‘From the Author’, is in the Darwin Library–CUL; see Marginalia 1: 749–52. CD recorded reading this edition on 12 November 1850 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 22a).
Sedgwick 1833. The fifth edition (Sedgwick 1850) was expanded by a preface of 442 pages, longer than the original work, which, as reproduced in the fifth edition, runs to 322 pages. There is no record of the date on which CD read the first edition, although it was recommended to him by his sister Caroline Darwin in 1834 (Correspondence vol. 1, letter from Caroline Darwin, 9–28 March [1834]).
CD refers to his eldest son, William Erasmus Darwin. William was still 10 years old at the time this letter was written, reaching his 11th birthday on 27 December 1850; he entered Rugby School in 1852. On the question of William’s schooling, see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to W. D. Fox, 10 October [1850] and n. 2. Sedgwick, in the first edition of Discourse on the studies of the University of Cambridge (Sedgwick 1833), promoted the teaching of the natural sciences, alongside the traditional subjects of mathematics and classics, believing that a better understanding of the natural world would serve to reinforce a belief in divine providence. The preface to the fifth edition (Sedgwick 1850) expands on the same theme, containing a lengthy refutation of the theory of transmutation of species proposed in Vestiges of the natural history of creation ([Chambers] 1844), but welcoming the recently established natural sciences tripos at Cambridge University.
CD had first tried the water cure in 1849 at James Manby Gully’s hydropathic establishment at Malvern in Worcestershire (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to Susan Darwin, [19 March 1849]). He visited Malvern again from 11 to 18 June 1850 (ibid., Appendix I) and had also been practising the cure at home (see ibid., letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 June [1850], and letter to W. D. Fox, 4 September [1850] and n. 2). See also Browne 1990.


Browne, Janet. 1990. Spas and sensibilities: Darwin at Malvern. In The medical history of waters and spas, edited by Roy S. Porter. Medical History, supp. 10. London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine.

Sedgwick, Adam. 1850. A discourse on the studies of the University of Cambridge. 5th edition. London: John W. Parker. Cambridge: John Deighton.


Thanks AS for a copy of his book, Discourse [on the studies of the University, 5th ed.].

Thinking of not sending his eldest son [William] to a classical school.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Adam Sedgwick
Sent from
Source of text
Rensselaer Libraries, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Gerald and Sue Friedman manuscript collection MC 72 Box 1)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1369F,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13 (Supplement)