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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Catherine Darwin   8 January – 4 February 1832


January 8th. 1832.

My dearest Charles.

I think you will get Caroline’s letter, which went off on New Year’s day, the same time as this, but you must read her’s first, that you may hear events in order. What a pleasure your first letter will be to us; you cannot think how I long for it— I assure you that I think of you, almost as much, as I am sure you must think of all of us. I feel like Ellen Tollet, that I will bear your long absence if I can.— I shall be very anxious to know how you continue to like all the Ship’s Company, and especially the inimitable Captain, in short, every thing, I long to hear about you.—

I must now begin and tell you Owen news, of which there is some very surprising, and extraordinary. Caroline spent two days at Woodhouse this week; she thought she should find them quite alone, & quiet, and what was her surprise, on entering the room, to find Mr Biddulph1 settled there.— You will be as much astonished as Caroline was, when Fanny took her out of the room, and told her that she was engaged to Mr Biddulph; he had proposed a few days before and been accepted, in the course of a secret ride, Fanny meeting him at the Queen’s Head.— You may imagine how amazed we were, when Caroline came home, and told us; and I may add how grieved I was, when I thought of his dissipated, gambling character, though I am rather more reconciled now, as every body agree he is very affectionate, and now talks of spending great part of the year at Chirk Castle2 quietly.— I do not think Fanny cares for him half as much as she did for John Hill;3 but she is so exceedingly annoyed now, at the prospect of what Sarah will feel, when she hears it, that she thinks more about that, than she does about Mr Biddulph. Mr and Mrs Owen and all the family are very much alarmed about Sarah; they say she will be so dreadfully mortified, and so tremendously angry with Fanny, as she will of course fancy that Fanny was treacherous to her, and tried to attract Mr Biddulph, at the time of Sarah’s flirtation with him. This is perfectly untrue, as Mr Biddulph declares, that his attachment to Fanny entirely arose from seeing Fanny’s distress at the time of John Hill’s desertion;—he was so charmed with her feeling and crying then, that he resolved he would try if he could not make her care as much for him; & from that time, his great anxiety was to shake off Sarah.— Mrs Owen is staying at Eaton now, to break it to Sarah; another and a great anxiety, as you may imagine, is that Mr Edward Williams should not find out that Sarah feels or cares about it. I think you will perhaps have a letter from Mr Owen by this Packet, as he said he would write to you, and I have no doubt, Fanny will write in it.— Your Portmanteau arrived safe the other day.— I must tell you that when Mr Biddulph first began to pay attention to Fanny, Mr Owen was so afraid that she should be “blown upon” again as Sarah was, that he woke Mrs Owen in the night, and declared, that if Mr Biddulph was only flirting again, he would call him out “and if I fall I shall leave my dying request to Owen, immediately to call him out again.—” Mrs Owen was much amused as you may imagine, at his midnight bloody thoughts.

January 29th. I must go on with my letter, and tell you all that has happened since I wrote; I know how much you care for Owen news. Mr Owen was the person who broke it to Sarah, and between being so sorry for her feelings, & so frightened, he actually cried very much, when he told her; however Sarah bore it very much better than any body hoped, and though she did not speak to Fanny for a day afterwards, she then shook hands with her. Mr Williams is happily kept quite in the dark, and Sarah really seems exceedingly attached to him, and he violently in love with her.— I don’t think Sarah feels much about this marriage, beyond anger and resentment at Mr Biddulph, having made her a “cat’s paw” last Winter; and of course she will get over that in a short time.— Caroline and I have been staying with Sarah one night, and Sarah says she will fulfil her old promise, and write to you. I begged she would, and we will give her your direction. I wish you could know how much Mr Owen talks about you, and how nicely and affectionately he always speaks about you; I quite love him for his feeling about you.— Mr Owen positively refuses to take back the Cloak, so it must be kept here in the Laundry till you come back.— Fanny’s marriage is to take place in March, I believe. They go first to Chirk Castle for a week, and then to London for the Spring.— I have been staying at Woodhouse some days, while Mr Biddulph was there, and certainly thought him very agreeable, and I cannot help hoping that with such an attaching wife as Fanny, he will reform, and become tolerably domestic, and I am in pretty good hopes about that dear Fanny’s happiness. You will find her a motherly old married woman when you come back. I hope it won’t be a great grief to you, dearest Charley, though I am afraid you little thought how true your prophecy of “marrying and giving in marriage” would prove.— You may be perfectly sure that Fanny will always continue as friendly and affectionate to you as ever, and as rejoiced to see you again, though I fear that will be but poor comfort to you, my dear Charles.—

Papa is quite well, and very fond of his Hothouse, which is finished, & very perfect, and some plants in it.— I do hope you will receive a good packet of Letters by this Packet. Erasmus and Charlotte will certainly write to you. Charlotte’s letter will very much surprise you, as it has every body else. Only think of Charlotte’s being going to be married after only a fortnight’s acquaintance, with a man, who was a perfect stranger to all her family. Charlotte’s letter too will give you an account of Hensleigh & Fanny Mackintosh’s marriage on the 10th of this month.— England is gone mad, with marrying, you will think. It is Leap Year, you know when the Ladies take their turn of proposing.

I believe Caroline gave you an outline of the beginning of the Quarrel between Dr Dugard and the Hills, which has caused such a sensation in Shropshire.— Dr Dugard has finished the Comedy now, by signing a formal recantation of every thing he has said against the Hills. Whether he has eat his own words, under the bodily fear of the Horsewhips of Capt & Major Hill, or whether some idea of his own Character came over him, is not known.— Altogether it was an extraordinary story, that interested Papa most exceedingly.—

Do tell us whether you get the Papers, to tell you any Public news; you will see that we are to have a general Fast Day, though on what account, I don’t exactly know, as the Cholera has almost completely died away.—4 You must read the melancholy account of poor Colonel Brereton putting an end to the Court Martial on him, by shooting himself through the heart. It is said that he would certainly have been broke, if he had lived.— This Capt Warrington, whose Trial is going on now, runs a very bad chance; he might have got off his Trial, it is said; but he insisted upon standing it, since Col Brereton’s death, as he fancied Col Brereton would have been the principal evidence It is said he will certainly lose his commission.—5

Harry & Jessie Wedgwood are here now; they came on Wednesday, and are very pleasant.— We heard the other day from the John Wedgwoods. Aunt Jane & Eliza begged us to send you their very best love and good wishes.— You will not much care, I guess, for their wishes.— If good wishes could be of use to you, you would have plenty of them; I am sure from many people in Shropshire, where every body liked you, and most loved you. What pleasure it will be to see you again, pleasure greater than anything else can give me, I am sure.—

I have been reading the account of the Mutiny of the Bounty, in the Family Library.6 You will see Pitcairn’s Island, perhaps. It gives such an excellent account of the goodness & religion of the people there, that I was very sorry to see, by an additional note, that the Missionaries had carried them off to Otaheite, where they will get depraved by those horrid Otaheitans. I was so much interested by the account Erasmus of the Sailor Missionary,7 you have on board. It will be an extraordinary thing if his enthusiasm lasts, when he has seen the Country again.—

Goodbye, my dearest Charles. Papa’s & every body’s most affectionate love.— God bless you, and pray remember, if you love us, take every care of yourself, and your health.— | Ever, dear Charles your most affectionate | E. Catherine Darwin— *S 2

February 4th.—


Welsh border castle near Denbigh, North Wales. The seat of the Myddelton Biddulph family.
On Hill’s intention to propose to Fanny Owen see letter from Susan Darwin, 12 February [– 3 March] 1832.
In 1831 the cholera had been confined mainly to North England and Scotland; in Newcastle alone there were 934 cases, of which 294 were fatal. As the epidemic spread, the King issued a proclamation directing that the 21st of March be observed throughout England as a day of fasting. For an account of the epidemic see Annual register, 1832, p. 47.
Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Brereton was tried for having failed in his duty to protect Bristol during the riots of 1831. Captain Warrington was found guilty of failing to order his troop out against the rioters. (Gentleman’s Magazine 102.1 (1832): 84, 171).
Richard Matthews, sent by the Church Missionary Society to accompany the Fuegians and to establish a mission at Tierra del Fuego.


Annual register: The annual register. A view of the history and politics of the year. 1838–62. The annual register. A review of public events at home and abroad. N.s. 1863–1946. London: Longman & Co. [and others].

Barrow, John. 1831. The eventful history of the mutiny and piratical seizure of HMS Bounty: its causes and consequences. London. [Reprint, edited and introduced by Stephen W. Roskill, 1976. London: The Folio Society.]


News of family and friends, much of it about forthcoming marriages: Fanny Owen and R. M. Biddulph, Fanny Mackintosh and Hensleigh Wedgwood. Charlotte Wedgwood will write to him of her own engagement to Charles Langton.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emily Catherine (Catherine) Darwin/Emily Catherine (Catherine) Langton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 83
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 154,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1