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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   21 [July 1857]1



My dear old Willy or William

I am delighted that you went to Manchester, & had so prosperous an expedition.2 You seem to have worked capitally & seen it well. We are amused at your adoration of the haughty Lady.3 I quite agree with your admiration of Gainsborough’s portraits: one of the Pictures which has ever most struck me is a portrait by him in the Dulwich Gallery.— By the way how stupid it has been in us never to have suggested your riding to Dulwich & seeing the capital publick Gallery there.4 Then, again, there are some few good pictures at Knole.—5

You want a jobation about your handwriting—dreadfully bad & not a stop from beginning to end! After severe labour in deciphering we rather think that your outlay was, 1 12 0 & accordingly I send that, but I hope it is too little to punish you for such a scrawl. I am glad that you were tipped but that makes no difference in my repaying your outlay.—

By the way have you no paper, so that you cross your letter, or do you think your handwriting is too clear? You want pitching into severely.—

I have had a letter from Mr Mayor6 (about his Bankers mistake) in which he says he has heard so grand an account of your future master’s, Mr. Temple, attainments, that he wants to persuade me to leave you at Rugby till October.—7 Mr Mayor says he shall very much miss you.— Think over this well & deliberately, & do not be guided by fleeting motives. You shall settle for yourself, whatever you think will be really best, not pleasantest, shall be done— The school would be least trouble & expence; but I cannot help rather thinking that the Tutor would get you on best.8 Let me hear before very long. And if you still think of tutor, talk to Mayor, & then I will write to the Tutor to know whether he can take you. When ought you to go? & what summer vacations?

Your most affectte | C. Darwin

PS. | Though I have abused you so for your bad writing, I must say that you were very good to send us such a capital account of all you did & saw.—


The date is provided by an entry in CD’s Account book (Down House MS), added to an earlier one of 10 July 1857, recording expenses for ‘Willy to Manchester’. On 22 July, there was a further entry of a payment to ‘Mayor’ for William’s school fees (see nn. 6 and 8, below).
The Art-Treasures Exhibition in Manchester, opened by Prince Albert on 5 May 1857 and visited by Queen Victoria on 29 June, contained over 5,000 paintings and drawings, over 1,000 of which were old masters. By the time the exhibition closed on 17 October, over a million people had attended. See The Art-Treasures examiner: a pictorial, critical, and historical record of the Art-Treasures Exhibition, at Manchester, in 1857 (Manchester, 1857).
Thomas Gainsborough’s ‘Portrait of the Hon. Mrs Graham’ was exhibited in the gallery of modern paintings at the Manchester Art-Treasures Exhibition. The reference to the ‘haughty Lady’ may have come from a description in one of the guide-books to the exhibition: ‘Who is there will bid farewell to our glorious Exhibition without taking a last fond look at pretty Mistress Graham … She looks petted and spoiled, made haughty by flattery and adulation.’ (The Art-Treasures examiner, p. 296).
The gallery at Dulwich College, built by John Soane, was the first public art gallery in England. CD had visited the picture gallery there in September 1847 (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Hooker, [12 September 1847]). Of the Gainsborough portraits at Dulwich, the most famous was the double portrait of Elizabeth Ann and Maria Linley.
Knole House, near Sevenoaks, Kent.
Robert Bickersteth Mayor was William’s housemaster at Rugby School.
Frederick Temple, who had obtained a double first class in mathematics and classics at Oxford and was a fellow of Balliol College, became headmaster of Rugby School on 12 November 1857.
CD refers to the forthcoming school year that ran from August 1857 to August 1858. He was undecided about whether to keep William at Rugby until 1858 or whether to take him away from school at the end of 1857 and send him to a private tutor for a few months prior to entering Cambridge University in October 1858. If the autumn term was to be William’s last at Rugby, his housemaster would need advance notice. However, CD was still undecided in October (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 29 [October 1857]).


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


Writes of WED’s recent excursion to Manchester and his future educational plans.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 16
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2097,” accessed on 20 May 2024,

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