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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   14 [March 1859]1



My dear William

Uncle Harry, Louisa & John have been here,2 & I have thought that you would like to hear about Table.3 John thinks it a very good one. He is a goodish player, & one day made 33 points without a break or a fluke.— He is a much better player than I, yet I somehow generally beat him; I beat him in two games running of 30.—

You never saw anything like Georgy & the Billiards; I think on Saturday he played for 10 hours; one game of a 100 with Parslow took them, I think, two hours.—4 George has a nice notion of playing.— We have bought a stunning Book on Billiards, costing 21s, & it has nearly 200 diagrams of various strokes & accounts of famous games. Altogether the Table has been a splendid purchase; only I hope it will not make you lads a set of Black-legs.—

Mrs Grut is more “gruttish” than ever, & almost talks one deaf, & can be consumedly saucy.—5

I am, thank all the Powers, making rapid progress with my Book & in few days shall begin going over old chapters;6 but I cannot say much for my health.—

Poor old Mrs. Innes is dead, & Mamma has just gone to call on them.—7

I had a note last night from Mr Reed,8 which grieved us very much; announcing the death at Hastings of


Dated by the reference to visitors in the house (see n. 2, below).
Henry Allen Wedgwood and his children Louisa Frances and John Darwin Wedgwood visited Down from 10 to 14 March 1859 (Emma Darwin’s diary).
CD had recently purchased a billiard-table. See letter to G. H. Darwin, 24 [February 1859].
Joseph Parslow was the butler at Down House.
Mrs Grut had been engaged by Emma Darwin in January 1859 as a governess for the children in place of Mary Ann Pugh, who had been with the Darwins since April 1857. Miss Pugh, who apparently suffered from melancholia, left Down on 26 January 1859 to take up another position (CD’s Account book (Down House MS)). In a letter to William written in December 1858 (DAR 210.6), Emma Darwin wrote that she was ‘looking out for a Swiss for 6 months or so to set you all talking French & German.’ Subsequent letters to William indicate that Emma was dissatisfied with Mrs Grut’s behaviour, finding her volatile and insolent. Mrs Grut’s employment was terminated on 16 March 1859 (Emma Darwin’s diary) because of an incident that took place on 14 March, the day CD’s letter was written. Henrietta Emma Darwin recounted the incident in a letter to William (DAR 210.6): Solemn events have happened. Mrs Grut is gone for ever. this is how it came about. On Monday at breakfast mama said very civilly that she wanted some alteration in Horace’s lessons. Mrs Grut was evidently miffed at that, & then I said I thought s’eloigner wasn’t to ramble very mildly & that miffed her again & she made some rude speech or other ‘Oh very well if I knew better than the dictionary.’ … Nothing more came of it then, & all went smooth till I went up to my German lesson in the evening. When I came in I saw there was the devil in her face, well she scolded the children a bit & then sat down by me, when I showed her my lesson (a bit of very bad french) she said, if I knew better than she did it was no use her teaching me & so & so on, till it came to a crisis, & she worked herself into a regular rage… . I left the room then, & went down stairs to tell my injuries. . When Papa & Mama heard all about it they settled she shd go at once, so Papa wrote a letter telling her she shd have her 33£ & nothing more, … then Papa was to go upstairs & deliver the letter… . Papa got such a torrent, telling him he was no gentleman, & white with passion all the time, wanting to know what she had done, what he had to accuse her of—telling him he was in a passion—she would give him time to think … We had a very flustered tea, & all evening we sat preparing for the worst, what we shd do if she refused to go out of the house etc. However she did turn out much milder & sent us a letter to say she wd go on Wednesday.
CD recorded on 19 March 1859: ‘Began relooking over first M.S. Chs. & finished last Chapter.’ (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
George Varenne Reed, rector of Hayes, Kent, ran a private school for boys. He had been George Howard Darwin’s tutor and was at the time instructing Francis Darwin.


Writes of events at Down: mostly of playing billiards on their new table.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 40
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2431,” accessed on 19 July 2024,

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