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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Erasmus Alvey Darwin   25 [October 1822]



Dear Bobby.2

I feel sorry we sent to ye Glass House, for there is a shop here with every sort of thing, it quite made my mouth water to see all the jars & stopcocks & all sorts of things, graduated tubes, blow pipes, cubic inch measures, test tubes, & ye Lord knows what besides. There is one thing I shall certainly get, a thermometer graduated from 50 below Zero to ye boiling point of Mercury, & the bottom part of ye scale has a hinge so as to turn back & leave ye bulb exposed to be put in any corrosive mixture, & what is best of all it only costs £1’4. I have also found out another very nice little man. He was 14 years assistant to ye late Dr Clarke,3 ye great mineralogist. I have bought 2 or 3 litle stones from him; 2 specimens of uranite which is a very scarce stone, & some leaf copper, & a very odd looking thing like a petrefaction called a brain stone from its similarity to ye brain. He sells things very cheap & so if you will mention any stones I can probably get them.4 I saw some of ye fossil shells in chalk (1. shilling), which are ye latest formation I beleive. very pretty garnets ye same size as we saw at Mr Cottons5 at 1.s. a piece—

I forgot to tell you that I got a very nice little blow pipe made of glass for 1"6, which gives a great deal of heat, & will be very useful if we do not get a better one.—

Hary6 came down to Cam last night quite unexpectedly & made his bed upon a sofa in Henesly’s7 Rooms.—

If Blunt8 gets ye things before I come write me word what they are, every individual thing, that I may know wha⁠⟨⁠t⁠⟩⁠ to get, & whether they are nice ones.—

I am getting on very comfortably here Settlled in fruiterers, where ye jellies & puffs & cakes, & buns &c would tempt the most obdurate sinner, quite as much as ye Lumberland pigs with knives & forks stuck in their backs.—9

I know you dont like long letters & I have nothing more to say so good bye be a good boy & you shall have a sugar plum I remain yours | affect E. Darwin


Erasmus, CD’s elder brother, was admitted to Christ’s College, Cambridge, in February 1822 (Alum. Cantab.).
Members of the family called CD ‘Bobby’, as well as ‘Charley’, during his boyhood. The letter is addressed to ‘R. Darwin Esq. Revd Dr. Butlers, Shrewsbury’. CD was a boarder at Shrewsbury School, of which Samuel Butler was headmaster from 1798 to 1836. Under Butler’s direction Shrewsbury had become one of the leading schools in England.
Edward Daniel Clarke, Professor of Mineralogy at Cambridge, 1808–22.
In the Autobiography, p. 45, CD says that during his school years he ‘continued collecting minerals with much zeal, but quite unscientifically—all that I cared for was a new named mineral, and I hardly attempted to classify them.’
Identified in Judd 1909, p. 340, as Richard Cotton, a Shrewsbury naturalist. See Autobiography, p. 52, for CD’s account of the deep impression made by Mr Cotton’s solemn assurance ‘that the world would come to an end’ before anyone would be able to explain how the bell-stone, a well-known boulder, came to be at Shrewsbury, the nearest rock like it being no nearer than Cumberland or Scotland.
Henry Allen Wedgwood, cousin of the Darwin brothers. See genealogical chart.
Hensleigh Wedgwood, brother of the above.
Robert Blunt, Shrewsbury chemist.
A reference to Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s ‘Das Schlaraffenland’ or ‘Land of Cockayne’ (1567). The painting depicts, among other gluttons’ fantasies, pigs as described by Erasmus. ‘Lumberland’ is a slip either for ‘Slumberland’ or for ‘Lubberland’, a literal translation of the title.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Judd, John Wesley. 1909. Darwin and geology. In Seward, Albert Charles, ed., Darwin and modern science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Has found a shop with supplies of chemical equipment, and a mineral collector.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
C 26 OC 26 1822; Cambridge 52 1822
Source of text
DAR 204: 2
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2,” accessed on 23 July 2024,

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