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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   [30 July 1860]1

at Miss Wedgwoods | Hartfield | Tonbridge Wells


My dear William.

It was extremely considerate & kind of you to think of offering to come here, my dear old fellow; but all the males of family, old & young, return home on Thursday, & that will relieve poor Gingo’s ennui.2 Miss Ludwig,3 Lizzie4 & Anne5 on Friday—Mamma & Etty & Jane6 on Monday or Tuesday. Etty has had two good days & is improving. Mr Wallace frightened us extremely,7 but Sir H. H has comforted us: poor Etty will long be an invalid, but we are now too happy even at that poor prospect.—8

Your letter has amused us all extremely & was read with roars of laughter. Etty has not yet heard it; but you cannot think what a pleasure your letters are to her; they amuse & cheer her so nicely. I shall copy your account of dialogue before the Bishop & send it to Hooker & Huxley.—9 I daresay I will send some queries to your friend the Cook. You may tell the Gardener that I have seen an ant’s nest in a tree, but it is rare.—10

You seem to have a quiet sort of pleasant time at Cambridge & I am glad that you have got into full swing. I shd. have thought that Justinian would have been a choker.—11 You would find a visit to Skipworth very pleasant I shd. think.12 I have had very civil letter from old Higgins really regretting he did not see you.—13 I shall have to write before long to Union Bank, & then I will repay you.—   Your trip was very moderate in cost I think.—

All our plans for the future are necessarily utterly vague on account of Etty. Whenever she can move we shall go to sea-side.—   Mamma sends some “corrections of the press.”

The Review by Bishop of Oxford + Owen in last Quarterly is worth looking at.— I am splendidly quizzed by a quotation from Anti-Jacobin.—14 The Naturalists are fighting about the Origin in N. America even more than here, as I see by the printed Reports—

My dear old fellow | Your affect. Father | C. Darwin


The date is inferred from the reference to returning home ‘on Thursday’. CD’s ‘Journal’ records that he returned to Down from Hartfield on Thursday, 2 August 1860 (Appendix II). There is an accompanying cover in DAR 210.6 with the postmark: ‘JY 30 60’.
A nickname for George Howard Darwin, aged 15.
Camilla Ludwig, the Darwin children’s governess.
Elizabeth Darwin.
Anne was one of the Darwins’ nursery maids.
Jane was also a maid at Down.
Probably William Wallis, the surgeon and parish registrar in Hartfield, Sussex (Post Office directory for the six home counties 1859). Wallis supplied CD with orchid specimens during his visit. See letters to J. D. Hooker, 29 July [1860], n. 4, and 7 August [1860].
The Darwins had consulted Henry Holland about Henrietta Emma Darwin’s health (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 29 July [1860]).
See following letter.
CD made several important observations on ants’ nests and behaviour during his stay at Hartfield. Notes on his observations are in DAR 205.11: 99–102.
Possibly a reference to William’s studies in the coming year, his final year at Cambridge University. For William’s intention to read law, see the letter to W. E. Darwin, [4 March 1860].
CD may be referring to William’s plans for the approaching summer vacation. Septimus Patrick Skipworth, a friend of William’s from Christ’s College, lived in Caistor, Lincolnshire.
John Higgins was CD’s land agent for the farms he owned in Lincolnshire. William had intended to visit the farms (see letters to John Higgins, 13 June [1860] and 21 June [1860]).


[Wilberforce, Samuel.] 1860. [Review of Origin.] Quarterly Review 108: 225–64.


Tells of Etty’s [Henrietta]’s illness and progress; their future plans.

Mentions some responses to the Origin; the naturalists are fighting over it in North America.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Wedgwood, S. E. (b) Hartfield
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 56
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2885,” accessed on 17 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8