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Darwin Correspondence Project

To George Howard Darwin and W. E. Darwin1   13 [November 1856]2


Thursday 13th

My dear Willy & Georgy.

I have thought that you would like to hear about poor Aunt Sarah’s funeral.3 Aunt Elizabeth, & Uncles, Jos, Harry, Frank, Hensleigh, & Allen all attended, so that we had the house quite full.4 The Funeral was at 3 olock, & Mr Lewis managed it all.5 We walked down to Petleys & there all put on black Cloaks & crape to our hats, & followed the Hearse, which was carried by six men; another six men changing half way.— At the Church Door Mr Innes came out to meet the Hearse.6 Then it was carried into the Church & a short service was read. Then we all went out, & stood uncovered round the grave whilst the Coffin was lowered, & then Mr. Innes finished the service, but he did not read this very impressive service well. Hemmings, Mrs. Moray & Martha attended & seemed to cry a good deal.—7 Then we all marched back to the House, Mr Lewis & his two sons carrying a sort of black standard before us; & we then went into the House & read Aunt Sarah’s will aloud. She desired her Funeral to be as quiet as possible, & that no tablet should be erected to her. She has left a great deal of money to very many Charities.—8

All the Uncles are gone away today. And I am going to London today, so cannot write anymore.9 Do you Georgy send this letter soon on to Willy. Hemmings & the maids will stay here about a month more I shd. think; so that you Georgy will see them again, but I fear Willy will not at present; but no doubt he will some time when visiting Barlaston.—10 They have behaved admirably toward Aunt Sarah; & she has left them a little money.—

My very dear Boys, Your affect. Father | C. Darwin


The letter indicates that CD sent it first to George Darwin, at school in Clapham, who was instructed to forward it to William Darwin, then at Rugby School.
Dated by the reference to the funeral of Sarah Elizabeth (Sarah) Wedgwood, who died on 6 November 1856.
Sarah Wedgwood, CD’s and Emma’s aunt, was the unmarried sister of Josiah Wedgwood II. She had moved to Petleys, a house in Down village, in 1847 (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter to Emma Darwin, [24 June 1846] and Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 105). The funeral had taken place on 12 November 1856 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
These uncles were Emma’s brothers and her cousin, John Allen Wedgwood. Aunt Elizabeth was Emma’s older sister, Sarah Elizabeth (Elizabeth) Wedgwood.
John Lewis was the carpenter and undertaker in Down village.
John Innes, perpetual curate of Down.
Henry Hemmings, Sarah Morrey, and Martha Morrey.Sarah Wedgwood’s servants, of whom the Darwin children were very fond. Henrietta Litchfield spelled ‘Moray’ as ‘Morrey’ when she recalled: ‘Mrs Morrey’s gingerbread was like no other we have ever tasted before or since, and Martha would sing us songs which only gained by repetition.’ (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 106).
Henrietta Litchfield later recalled that Sarah Wedgwood ‘lived in her books, and the administration of her charities, and her only society was that of my mother and a few old friends and relations. She had no gift for intercourse with her neighbours, rich or poor, and I do not believe ever visited in the village.’ (Emma Darwin (1915) 2: 105).
Although CD had told Joseph Dalton Hooker that he would not be able to dine with him, CD did go to London for the day on 13 November, as proposed in the postscript in the letter to J. D. Hooker, 11–12 November [1856]. His name appears in the Royal Society Philosophical Club minutes as having attended the 13 November meeting, and the expenses for the trip were recorded in CD’s Account book (Down House MS) on 15 November 1856.
The home of Francis Wedgwood near the family pottery works at Etruria, Staffordshire.


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

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.


Describes the funeral of Aunt Sarah [Elizabeth Wedgwood].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin; George Howard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 10
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1987,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6