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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   9 May [1861]1

!!Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.!!

May 9th.—

My dear William

I believe you have been much neglected about Letters, but I have been awfully overworked in that line, & so indeed has Mamma been.— Parslow sent off today by R.y a parcel for you with Boots &c.—2 Mamma went up to Cumberland Place yesterday with Etty for her teeth.3 Etty stood the journey well, but was much knocked up on her arrival.—

I am glad you are going on walking tour in Wales; but I cannot help fearing for your ancles—4 for Heaven-sake give up, though it will be a grievous evil, if your ancles fail.— Do you think it would amuse you to look out for Glacial phenomena: if so I would send you my little paper on N. Wales, though I must have it back as I have no other copy.5 If you shd. find any rare orchids send me some in bud & open, in any old tin Box, with damp moss round roots: they would be a treasure to me.—6 Look out for little Dun Striped Ponys—7 I suppose we shall certainly go to Torquay early in June; though I dread the journey for Etty & indeed a little for myself.—8 All the Hensleighs & Eras. say that it is a charming place.—9

Tim has been staying here:10 he is a helpless fellow, he let the Pony loose in the Westerham Rd. & the pony came home across country in gallant style, jumping everything & cleared the Hurdles & Hedge into the sand-walk. I have not had one game of Billiards since the Boys were here;11 indeed the Table has been covered with skeletons of Cocks & Hens, & has been very useful for that purpose.

Mamma will not come back till next Wednesday, so I am rather dull; & I shall be all the duller when Miss Ludwig replaces Emily Thorley on Monday.—12

Good Bye | My dear old man | Yours affecty | C. Darwin

Look at crest on Envelope.13


Dated by the reference to the Darwins’ stay in Torquay (see n. 8, below).
Joseph Parslow was the Darwins’ butler.
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary that she went to London on 8 May 1861 and ‘Went to Mr W.’ on 9 May. Alfred J. Woodhouse, of Hanover Square, London, was the Darwin family dentist. CD’s Account book (Down House MS) shows a number of payments to him in 1861, including one on 8 July 1861. Emma’s brother Hensleigh Wedgwood and his family lived at 1 Cumberland Place, Regent’s Park. Emma and Henrietta Emma Darwin returned to Down on 17 May.
William had seriously injured one of his ankles while on a walking trip in the Lake District in the summer of 1859. See Correspondence vol. 7, letter to W. E. Darwin, 25 [August 1859].
CD refers to ‘Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire, and on the boulders transported by floating ice’ (London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science 21 (1842): 180–8; Collected papers 1: 163–71).
CD was engaged in a study of the structural adaptations that facilitated the process of cross-fertilisation in orchids.
CD added this note in the margin. CD was interested in collecting cases of stripes appearing in dun-coloured ponies as an illustration of reversion to ancestral characters (see Variation 1: 55–61). William had already provided CD with information about striping in a Belgian cart-horse (ibid., p. 57).
The Darwins left for a six-week stay in Torquay on 1 July 1861 (‘Journal’; Appendix II).
CD refers to Hensleigh and Frances Mackintosh Wedgwood and to his brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin.
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary that Alfred Allen (Tim) Wedgwood, the nineteen-year-old son of Hensleigh and Fanny Wedgwood, came to Down on 1 May 1861 and stayed until 6 May.
According to Emma’s diary, George Howard and Francis Darwin were home from school from 2 to 4 March 1861. They visited again from 20 to 22 May. Both were attending Clapham Grammar School in south London. CD had purchased the billiard table for Down House in 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7).
Camilla Ludwig was the Darwins’ governess. Emily Maria Thorley, the younger sister of a previous governess of the family, sometimes cared for the children on an interim basis. There is an entry in CD’s Account book on 7 May 1861 for £10 10s. for ‘Miss E. Thorly’.
CD wrote this at the top of the letter above the address. He was drawing William’s attention to the printed stationery he had recently begun to use.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Discusses family and domestic matters.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 63
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3145,” accessed on 1 October 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9