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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Darwin   [20 April 1851]



My dear Emma

I had not time to send a second later letter yesterday. I do not know, but think it is best for you to know how every hour passes. It is a relief to me to tell you: for whilst writing to you, I can cry; tranquilly. I forget whether I told you that she vomited yesterday evening & slightly a second time. A second injection produced no sort of effect & did not relieve, but seems unimportant We then had to get Surgeon to draw her water off: this was done well & did not hurt her, but she struggled with surprising strength against being uncovered &c. soon it evidently relieved her. All night she has slept tranquilly except for about 10 minutes, when she wandered in slightly excited manner. Dr G. came at 11o. 30’ & again said not worse. She has, however, taken less gruel this night & is fearfully prostrated. Yet when Brodie sponged her face, she asked to have her hands done and then thanked Brodie. & put her arms round her neck, my poor child & kissed her—

She vomited a mouthful this morning. It is certain she suffers very little—dosing nearly all the time: occasionally she says she is very weak. I expect Dr. G. immediately. Last night Dr. G. said, “you must not trust me, for I can give no reason for my intuition, but yet I think she will recover” Fanny H. sat up till 2 oclock God bless her. she is most sympathetic yet encouraging. Poor dear devoted Miss Thorley thus had one entire nights rest.—

8 oclock. A.M. Dr G. has been & again he says positively no symptom is worse, but none better: he cares less about food than I expected: if she can weather the fortnight, he has some hopes.— Your two heart-moving notes have come. My dear dear wife.— I do not sit all the while, with her, but am constantly up & down: I cannot sit still.—

10 oclock. I grieve to say she has vomited rather much again: but Mr Coates1 has been & drawn off again much water & this he says is a very good symptom. Last night he seemed astonished at her “fearful illness” & he made me very low; so this morning I asked nothing & he then felt her pulse of his own accord & at once said, “I declare I almost think she will recover”. Oh my dear was not this joyous to hear.— He then went on to say (& I believe him from what my Father has said) that Fever at the same period is generally either fatal to many or though appearing very bad does not kill one: & now he himself has had 6 or 7 most severe cases in the low country beneath Malvern & not one has died.—

She has her senses remarkably today which is very good as showing head not affected: she called Papa when I was out of room unfortunately & then added “is he out?” This & her speeches to Brodie show more clearness of mind than I have seen, & she knew what Mr. Coates was going to do.— Several of Mr. Coates fever patients have had their bladders paralysed the whole time. Oh I do wish for Tuesday the fortnight to be over.— But I must not hope too much.— These alternations of no hope & hope sicken one’s soul: I cannot help getting so sanguine everynow & then to be disappointed.

12 oclock. Again she has vomited & complains of fatigue rather more. She is very sensible; I was moving her, when she said “Dont do that please” & when I stopped “thank you”.—

2 oclock, again she has vomited but again Dr. G. who has just been here says her pulse is rather better, certainly not worse.— We have put mustard poultice on stomach, & that has smarted her a good deal,—which shows more sensibility than I expected.—

3 oclock; she is a little chilly & we have given her a little Brandy—& hope she is asleep & I trust will warm.— I never saw anything so pathetic as her patience & thankfulness; when I gave her some water, she said “I quite thank you”.— Poor dear darling child. The Dr. will come at 7 again.—

4o. 30’ The chilliness has pretty well gone off & no more sickness, refreshing sleep.

I will write again, if I have time | Yours | C. D


Mervin G. Coates was medical officer to the Great Malvern Dispensary.


Reports on Anne’s health throughout the night and from 8 a.m. through to 4.30 p.m.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.13: 18
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1406,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5