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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Susan Darwin   [24] November 1834


November 1834

My dear Charles.—

You will be surprised to hear that the very Packet that takes this from Falmouth to you: conveys at the sametime the Langtons to Madeira where they have resolved to spend the winter on account of Mr. Langton’s health, as he has already had one attack on his chest which alarms them very naturally, having lost nine Brothers & Sisters by Consumption— It seems a great pity, that they should be forced to leave Onnibury just when they were so busy & happy making their house larger; & laying out their garden &c.—but as he is 33, very likely if he can get safe over another winter, there may be no longer any anxiety for him: so it is very wise of them to make this sacrifice.— They hesitated for a longtime between Madeira and the West Indies: both of them I think preferring the latter on account of the novelty & beauty of a tropical climate: but Uncle Jos decided the question by reminding them that most probably the West Indies would be in an unsettled state this first year after the freedom of the Slaves.— They were very anxious to find some good account of Madeira & Charlotte who searched yr favorite Humbolt was much disappointed to find he said nothing about it: however they have got some letters of recommendation to the Consul & Chaplain1 so they won’t feel quite cast away. The Pandora sails on the 5th. of Decr. It is a new packet & built on some new & improved plan which makes it safer (Charlotte says) but I had not rather be the first for new experiments if I was them.— I daresay they will still proceed to the West Indies for Mr Langton has a gt wish to go there & when he is half way I don’t believe he will turn back What a pity it is you can’t meet them, but you will enjoy talking over tropical scenes some future time I hope. There could not possibly be a better Lady for taking such a voyage than Charlotte as she has no nervousness in her composition, & plenty of independance & carelessness about personal comforts. They mean to take no Servant with them which seems very rash considering the danger of illness in Mr Langton’s case.—

The last letter from Erasmus was written in rantipole spirits—2 he had been spending 5 days at Cambridge with the Hensleighs which they had all enjoyed prodigiously spending most part of their time with Professors Whewell & Sedgwick: and the day they enjoyed most was Sunday After going for the University Sermon to Kings, they went to Trinity where after chapel was over they had a most beautiful Concert. Sedgwick took them to his rooms in the Evg & Whewell met them there. Eras says Whewell took the lead in conversation which was of a religious turn: & Eras says he “is in despair he cannot write down his words for they were really super human” And in another part of his letter he says “the brilliancy & rapidity of Whewell’s conversation with Fanny was such as I could hav⁠⟨⁠e⁠⟩⁠ formed no conception of— The two professors harmon⁠⟨⁠ising⁠⟩⁠ beautifully: Sedgwick’s simplicity & good faith in all he says & his picturesque manner of conversation shewed off Whewell’s, which is all speculative & generalizing always brilliant & so perfectly elegant I believe it would be impossible to change a single word” This extract from his letter is sufficient to shew you how delightful his visit at Cambridge must have been.— It will make you long to be amongst them. Sedgwick is just made Canon of Norwich.— The country is in a strange state at present, for quite unexpectedly the King has dismissed all the Whig Ministry & made Duke of Wellington Premier, & how this will stand appears very doubtful, for they intend to have a Dissolution of Parliament in hopes to get more command over the House of Commons, & most people say they will certainly change for the worse & get more Radicals elected instead of Tories.

The last piece of news I have to tell you is a very sad one Poor Col Leighton was riding out last Wednesday the 19th. with Clare quite alone having no Servant when he suddenly fell off his horse upon Coton Hill in a fit of Apoplexy and never spoke once but instantly expired.— Mr Wynne3 went to the spot immediately but too late. he then galloped up here & begged Papa to go & break the shock to Mrs. Leighton who was quite overwhelmed having just parted from him perfectly well & in good spirits—fortunately Louisa Hope’s confinement was over & she has got a nice little boy so there was no danger in telling her & she with Clare exert themselves very much to comfort Mrs. Leighton. Poor Frank was at Oxford & arrived the next night so now they are all together & the Funeral takes place tomorrow. He seems to be universally regretted as every one must respect him that knew him he was so conscientious & good in every way. Papa felt it very much as he was quite one of his truest friends.— My Sisters are gone to Maer to take leave of the Langtons or they would join Papa & me in very best love to you Dear Charley Ever yr affecte | Susan Darwin

Old Nurse Tanty & I maundered over you for about an hour the other night. Our chief topic was wondering when ever you would come back

CD annotations

On cover: £60 Fox | Last letter received at Valparaiso


Rantipole: ‘Wild, disorderly, rakish’ (OED).


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.


The Langtons will go to Madeira for the winter. E. A. Darwin and the Hensleigh Wedgwoods enjoyed a stay in Cambridge, where they saw Professors Whewell and Sedgwick. Colonel Leighton has died. The King has dismissed the Whig Ministry; Wellington is Premier, and the country is in a strange state.

Letter details

Letter no.
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Shrewsbury NO 24 1834
Source of text
DAR 204: 104
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 264,” accessed on 9 June 2023,

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