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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Sarah Williams   21 October 1833


Monday 21st. October | 1833.

I cannot tell you, my dear Charles, how very glad I was to see your handwriting once again, your nice long letter reached me about 10 days ago, & two or three days before your Family received any of your despatches. I was very proud to be able, condescendingly to assure them that their Brother was quite well, & had written to me — What a long time my letter took to travel to you, that Valparaiso Post is certainly a very slow one, & though you see I lose no time in answering your letter, how many months must elapse before it reaches you!!— I do not like to think of your distance from all of us, I will only look forward to your return, which according to your promises & my calculations cannot be delayed more than two years from this time, & about December 1835, I shall expect every rap at the door of No. 1. Belgrave Street, will produce the celebrated South American Traveller & Naturalist, & that he will graciously condescend to dine; & then accompany the poor ignorant natives to the Play— You are very kind to make so many enquiries after my health, the Owen Constitution has at last shewn itself worthy of its former reputation, & I am now quite myself again, but indeed till within the last three months, I have never known what it was to be quite well. I have at last turned over a new leaf, & hope never to relapse into my old ways again— I wish I could say as much for Fanny, who is very far from well. She suffers sadly from Ague in her head, which she has had for many months, but as she is now under your Father’s care, I have no doubt he will soon set her on her legs again— She is now at Chirk—where she leads but a melancholy life with her old Mother in Law— We remained in London this year till the beginning of September, & are now comfortably settled at Eaton till (I hope) the end of January. Emma was with me all the Year in London; she is now a Young Lady, full fledged so grown & improved, you would hardly know her— Woodhouse certainly is an altered place, though Caroline exerts herself wonderfully & has gained much spirit since she came to her title. Francis is still at home, waiting for a commission, & Charles & Henry at school at Mr Burd’s— Baby is grown almost a big Girl, & quite the Governor’s right hand. I do not know what would become of him without her, & she completely manages the Family, though she is wonderfully good, & does not presume on her influence— Of course Susan & Cath— have written you a circumstantial account of their London expedition this Spring with Mr. & Mrs. Harry Wedgwood. Catherine’s passion for Pasta still continues in full-force, & as Harry Wedgwood said, they all agreed to act upon the intensely selfish principle, & each go their own way. I don’t think they spent more than two Evenings at home during their stay in Town, & enjoyed every thing exceedingly— Has Susan let you into any of her Secrets respecting Mr. Panting, who of course you know, she has certainly behaved very cruelly to him, in spite of all we ventured to say to her, for we thought him a very nice person, & I have no doubt she would have been very happy, but now it seems all at an end, & “bygones must be bygones”— if Susan has not told you anything herself, pray do not mention my having done so, but I cannot resist mentioning it to you, as you remember we have held many confidential conversations together, in our walks in the Forest, & scrawls on the wall— I very very often think of you, & the merry days we have passed together, & when you return, you will find Sarah Owen unchanged I assure you, though Catherine says “it’s wonderful what excellent Wives those Owen’s make”— I am as happy as possible, & am convinced that as long as I live, I shall never have reason to repent the rash step I took on the 22d. November 1831—now nearly 2 years ago— I have a “very proper influence”, (which we used to talk of) though I think you will most likely hear me pronounce Shrewsbury like the e in Shrew, this we settled was to be the criterion of my proper influence, & I own I have not shewn the Owen spirit in this one instance— Of course you have heard of Louisa Leighton’s marriage, the Quarry Place party seem much pleased with it, but as you know I never did admire either of “those fond Hopes” tho’ I think Louisa’s better than the Beetle Hunter. the happy pair are now wintering in Italy, & I heard a very good & true story of them the other day— They were travelling in Germany, & arrived at a Town, which they walked about all day, & at last sat down to dinner at the Table d’Hote— in the course of conversation, Mr. Hope observed to his next neighbour that he “hoped to get to Heidelburg the following day,” when his Friend exclaimed in astonishment, “Why, you are now there,” & it seems they had inspected the whole Town, without discovering where they were— This does not speak much for the brightness of the Hopes — Clare is very flourishing, I hear of no match for her— That “rising star of Ton” Matty Cotton is to astonish the County by her appearance at the Hunt. We are at present at Daggers drawn with her, as she chose lately to abuse all of us shamefully, & tell dreadful stories. I think the Feud will never end, though Dr. Darwin strongly recommends a Truce being concluded for 2 years— I have not rode much lately, but I have a very nice horse of my own— I have taken violently to gardening, & work very hard in the Garden here, which is much improved & looks very pretty indeed— Do pray write to me again; my dear Charles. I am sure you would do so by return of Post, if you knew the pleasure it gives me to hear from you—always direct to Belgrave St. as even if I am not there, the letter will be forwarded to me— If you capture any Poll Parrots or other bird or beast, you may forward them to me, even the smallest monkey will be thankfully received, but I suppose you despise such common things, & do not admit them into the Darwin Museum— I laughed much at your description of your long beard &c, but I think you seem tolerably comfortable, & I hope & trust you have never repented your voyage, or leaving the Land of your Fathers— I am going to send this dull effusion to Catherine to enclose in a packet she tells me she is to despatch to you tomorrow, I wish I could have sent you a more entertaining letter, but what can you expect from a stupid old married Woman like myself— I shall live in hopes of hearing again from you. Edward tells me to send his best remembrances to you, he wonders what I can find to tell you, to spin out so long a letter— God bless you, my dear Charles, I hope this may find you as well & happy as it leaves me. Believe me always your affectionate old Friend | Sarah—

I will write whenever I hear of an opportunity. I hope you will do likewise


News of Fanny Biddulph and other Owens; Susan Darwin has declined a marriage offer. Other gossip about Shrewsbury acquaintances.

Letter details

Letter no.
Sarah Harriet Mostyn Williams
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 62
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 220,” accessed on 5 June 2023,

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