skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Adam Sedgwick   24 August [1859]1

Down Bromley Kent

Aug 24th

My dear Prof. Sedgwick

You must let me thank you in my wife’s & own name for your most kind note.— My wife never dreamed that you would trouble yourself in answering her, otherwise she would have scrupled in calling your attention to the case. All that she expected was, that if your votes had been disengaged you would consider the case.—2

I am very sorry to hear so poor an account of your health.3 I should much like to attend at Aberdeen, but I am utterly unfit for so great an exertion.4 I am told that I suffer from suppressed gout!5 Whatever it is, I am made wretched & almost useless.—

I am pleased that you remember my attending you in your excursion in 1831. To me, it was a memorable event in my life; I felt it a great honour, & it stimulated me to work, & made me appreciate the noble science of geology.—6

Believe me that I thank you sincerely for your kind expressions towards me. With entire respect & honour | I remain | Yours sincerely obliged | Charles Darwin


The year is given by the references to the Aberdeen meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and to Sedgwick’s ill health (see nn. 3 and 4, below). The tone of the letter also indicates that it was written before Origin was published: Sedgwick was deeply distressed by CD’s transmutationist views as put forward in Origin (see letter from Adam Sedgwick, 24 November 1859).
It has not been possible to identify the ‘case’ that Emma Darwin hoped Sedgwick would consider.
Sedgwick suffered particularly poor health during the summer of 1858 and throughout 1859. See Clark and Hughes eds. 1890, 2: 339.
Sedgwick was vice-president of the geology section of the British Association meeting at Aberdeen. The meeting, held from 14 to 21 September 1859, was of particular significance because Prince Albert was president of the association that year. CD did not attend.
Henry Holland first offered this diagnosis of CD’s illness in 1849 (see Correspondence, vol. 4, letter to W. D. Fox, 6 February [1849]). For a discussion of this diagnostic concept and its treatment, see Colp 1977, pp. 109–10.
CD refers to the geological tour he made with Sedgwick in North Wales in 1831 (see Correspondence vol. 1).


Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

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

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.


Sorry to hear of AS’s poor health.

Would like to attend Aberdeen meeting [BAAS, 1859] but is unfit for so great an exertion. Has been told he has "suppressed gout".

Pleased that AS remembers their 1831 geological trip, which made CD appreciate the noble science of geology.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Adam Sedgwick
Sent from
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2482,” accessed on 22 September 2023,

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