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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   1 March [1853]1


March 1st.—

My dear old Willy

We were very glad to get your note this morning with so good an account of your examination, & of things in general. I trust the rest of the half-year—may go as quickly as this first week. What a curious thing infection is, yesterday Backy & Lizzie2 plainly had got the mumps, & this was about as long since you had them, as your attack was from the time the Hensleighs3 were here. They have had it very slightly, even slighter than you, Etty & Georgy.—

I am glad you like the life of Napoleon; I thought it very interesting:4 I should be very glad to see you with more taste for reading; for by reading only can a man avoid being ignorant. A person, also, who reads on many subjects is interested in so many more things, & can talk so much more pleasantly than another who is ignorant: and the pleasure of knowing things always goes on increasing the more one knows.—

Georgy has learnt to slide & enjoys it very much, & goes down by himself to the village-pond: but this day’s heavy snow will stop sliding & your skating. Have you got a pretty good pond to skate on? I used to be very fond of playing at Hocky on the ice in skates. The weather is so bad, that I do not know when we shall be able to go & see the Crystal Palace building.5

Goodbye my dear Boy | Your affectionate father | Charles Darwin

Your note was well written


Dated from the similarity of the notepaper to that of the letter to Josiah Wedgwood III, 18 February 1853. The ink is also the bright cobalt blue occasionally used by CD in 1853.
Francis, aged 412, and Elizabeth, aged 512.
Hensleigh and Fanny Mackintosh Wedgwood and their family.
CD recorded having read the life of Napoleon ([Lockhart] 1829) on 25 April 1839 and 20 September 1843 (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV, 119: 5a, 13b).
The Crystal Palace, designed for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, was re-erected in Sydenham. Work began in 1853, and the opening at this site took place on 10 June 1854.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

[Lockhart, John Gibson]. 1829. The history of Napoleon Buonaparte. 2 vols. London.


Discusses WED’s affairs and events at Down.

Writes of the benefits of reading.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 5
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1639,” accessed on 12 September 2023,

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