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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   22 [September 1858]



My dear William

We got your rather short note this morning. I am surprised at your having killed even one bird, for I suppose it was nearly the first on the wing you ever shot at, & partridges are not very easy birds, I think.— We had terrible bother with your mare; she was so terrified that she tried to leap a door 8 ft high (so Parslow reports) & got her front legs over. Parslow saw her leap like a flash of lightning over a five-bar gate & go off into endless space; but she was caught near Southend.—1 I have sent Sam Jones over with her these two days; for she would not eat there ie Beckenham: but oddly enough she is pretty quiet as long as anyone is with her, & Jones sat on her back, whilst a tram went under a bridge on which she was.—2 I hope we shall anyhow improve her; & I am as loth as you can be to part with her.—

We can guess about your linen; but please write to Ernest3 & ask what plate & knives & forks you ought to have, as Parslow could get better & cheaper articles than you could.—4 I have not yet arranged about the Bank; & if I do not go to London, I must send you in registered letter some money.— I am not sure whether it would not be simplest plan for you to have account at Union Bank, for they could send you money in registered letters & you could, I shd. think pay any largish account, as your tutor’s bill by a draft on your London Banker, which sounds very grand.—

Pouter5 is pretty hearty again & very eager over Homoptera, Hemiptera & Orthoptera! & he relishes much these big word. Franky is mad over beetles, & he froths at the mouth sometimes in telling me his success.6 We have been very anxious about Lizzie; who for several days has had weak, irregular pulse with other symptoms exactly like the others; but today she is extraordinarily well; but I fear it will return.—7 How strange & unhappy it is that now we have had five children all failing in precisely the same way.—8

I am very hard at work on the abstract of my Book, which will make a large-sized pamphlet.

Do not forget Donkeys & Horses stripes.—9

If you go out shooting look at Birds’ feet & see if any dirt sticks to them: I want to collect such dirt, & see if by any splendid chance a plant would come up, for then could I not carry seeds across the sea!—10

Farewell | My dear old man | Yours affect | C. Darwin

N.B | Tell us, as soon as you know certainly when you go to Cambridge.—


Joseph Parslow was the butler at Down House. CD recorded a payment of £31 10s. on 21 August 1858 in his Account book (Down House MS) for a new horse. Southend is a small village in Kent close to Eltham.
Samuel Jones entered CD’s employ in 1858 in connection with caring for the horses: there are several entries in CD’s Account book (Down House MS) in 1858 and 1859 for wages paid to Jones. In 1858 a ‘tram’ was a small cart or barrow on which coal was transported: ‘a narrow framework of wood mounted on four low wheels’ (OED).
Ernest Hensleigh Wedgwood, William’s cousin, had entered Trinity College, Cambridge in 1856 (Alum. Cantab.). They had attended Rugby School together.
William was preparing to take up residence at Christ’s College, Cambridge. On 8 September 1858, he left Down for the village of Forncett, Norfolk, to resume his tutorials with William Greive Wilson for a short time (Emma Darwin’s diary). CD paid £11 10s. on 10 October 1858 for ‘plate for William’ (CD’s Account book (Down House MS)).
Probably a nickname for Leonard Darwin, 8 years old.
Francis Darwin, aged 10.
Elizabeth Darwin, aged 11. On 19 September 1858, Emma Darwin recorded in her diary: ‘Lizzy poorly since Monday’.
CD had come to believe that his children had inherited his ill-health. See Correspondence vol. 5, letters to W. D. Fox, 24 [October 1852] and 17 July [1853]; and vol. 6, letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 September [1857].
For CD’s researches into the means of geographical dispersal, see Correspondence vols. 5 and 6. The results are given in Origin, pp. 356–65. See also letter to T. C. Eyton, 11 October [1858].


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.

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

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Discusses domestic affairs.

Is working at the abstract of his book [Origin].

Asks WED to examine birds’ feet for dirt sticking to them, as this may represent a means of seed dispersal across seas.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 29
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2328,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7