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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   [25 May 1861]1


Saturday Night

My dear William

John Lubbock called here today, & told me that lately a Gentleman had applied to him to recommend some young man, who had not been in business, as a partner in a Bank in some sea-port town in S. of England. He said that you had just occurred to him as perhaps liking the offer. It is, however very probable that the place may be filled up. I am astounded that such a place shd. go begging for a week. The old Partner wants to retire this summer, & J. Lubbock’s friend (about 35 years old) does not want to have whole business on his shoulders & therefore wants a Partner.—2

The share of Partner would be about (probably I shd. think less) £500 per annum. Lubbock says the Bank he believes very safe & capable of extension, in which case profits of partners would of course increase.— As I understood no capital required; but a deposit, as guarantee of your probity, of 10,000£ required.—3 Lubbock says he knows the Bank always keeps an almost uselessly large reserve stock. All this sounds (of course everything would require cautious investigation) very promising. On other hand there would be cruel drawback of your leaving Cambridge at once, & beginning life at once with regular work & very short holidays. But then contrast this with your waiting till 35 years old before you probably would get a brief.—4 Banking is dull work & requires only sense, caution & judgment (all of which you have) & there is the enormous advantage of your being an independent man early in life. If you are a Barrister & do not succeed (& success is a great chance in that walk of life) you will hardly even have enough to marry & settle; for as far as I can tell after my & Emma’s death each of you Boys will have about 600, or at most, £700 a year; & that is a very small income to marry & have children on.—

I do not wish at all to urge you to accept (if indeed the offer is still open); but think it over, & let me soon have your first impression.

I was so astonished at the communication, that I had not presence of mind to think over it. But I will try & see Lubbock tomorrow & write again.5 Lubbock remarked that if you did think at all about it, you had better go down & see the man & place & hear particulars; & I shd. certainly talk affair over with my solicitor.—6 The offer strikes me as oddly good: how on earth is it that the Partners shd. not know some young man?— I wish to Heaven it had been one year later, after you had taken degree & then you might have tried the life for a year or so with hardly any detriment to the Law.— Indeed I suppose that you might continue eating your dinners at Lincoln’s Inn.—7 But, perhaps, the whole scheme will be repugnant to you & you had rather stick to the Law with all its disadvantages.

I will try & find out tomorrow where the place is.— The offer seems strangely advantageous contrasted with what Mackintosh Wedgwood works for, & not harder work, I should suppose, than Godfrey’s place.—8 Think deliberately & let me hear. The probability is immense that the whole will turn out moonshine; but I am sure it is far too good an offer not to be well considered.

Goodnight My dear William | Your affect. Father | C. Darwin

John L. brought a better account of Montagu tho’ it sounds very bad as he is still almost insensible but his spine is not injured.9 He said that he was considered out of danger

You need not write till you hear again tomorrow from me.


This and the letter to John Lubbock, [25 May 1861] are the first two in a series of letters that were exchanged between CD, William Darwin, and John Lubbock in May and June of 1861. All pertain to negotiations carried out in connection with William’s appointment as partner in a Southampton bank. Postmarks on envelopes that contained three of the letters, preserved in DAR 210.6, confirm the dating.
Lubbock’s ‘friend’ was George Atherley, partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank, Southampton, for which Lubbock’s bank, Robarts, Lubbock & Co., were the London agents (Banking almanac 1861).
Prior to 1860, most of the banks of England and Wales were small, independent establishments, with the number of partners limited to six. When a partner died, his capital often went out of the business and a new partner had to be found, occasioning a period of uncertainty ‘except in those instances when a son or a relation filled the vacancy’ (EB).
William was in his third year at Cambridge University, having entered at the beginning of the Michaelmas term in October 1858 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to W. E. Darwin, 15 [October 1858]). CD had mentioned the prospect of a legal profession for William while he was still a student at Rugby School planning on attending Cambridge University (see ibid., vol. 6, letters to W. E. Darwin, [17 February 1857], and to Syms Covington, 22 February 1857). The two had agreed that William should take a degree from Cambridge University, sitting for the mathematical tripos, and then read for the law by entering one of the Inns of Court in London (see ibid., vol. 8, letter to W. E. Darwin, [4 March 1860]).
CD’s solicitors were David Rowland and William Mackmurdo Hacon of the firm Rowland and Hacon, 31 Fenchurch Street, London (CD’s Address book, Down House MS).
Standard procedure for studying for the legal profession in England involved the candidate being articled at one of the Inns of Court, such as Lincoln’s Inn, to read for the law prior to sitting an examination. Thereafter the candidate would continue to read law for at least another year in the chambers of a practising barrister. There was also a residency stipulation, referred to as ‘eating dinners’ at the Inn, which for university men entailed dining there three times in each of four terms for a period of three years (EB).
James Mackintosh Wedgwood, eldest son of Hensleigh and Frances Mackintosh Wedgwood, held a position in the Colonial Office from 1858. Godfrey Wedgwood, son of Francis and Frances Mosley Wedgwood, had joined his father in the family pottery works in Staffordshire (Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980, pp. 263, 270).
John Lubbock’s nineteen-year-old brother Montagu had suffered a serious injury as a result of a carriage accident (H. G. Hutchinson 1914, 1: 178).


Banking almanac: The banking almanac, directory, yearbook and diary. London: Richard Groombridge; Waterlow & Sons. 1845–1919.

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

EB: The Encyclopædia Britannica. A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. 11th edition. 29 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1910–11.

Hutchinson, Horace Gordon. 1914. Life of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury. 2 vols. London: Macmillan.

Wedgwood, Barbara and Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1980. The Wedgwood circle, 1730–1897: four generations of a family and their friends. London: Studio Vista.


Has heard, through Lubbock, of a gentleman who is offering a partnership in a bank.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 64
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3157,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

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