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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   [17 November 1861]1

No. 1 (not no 4) Carlton Place.


My Dear Father,

I was rather afraid the brokerage would turn out a failure, we shall have to choose one out of the ones Mr A. knows;2 I am very sorry to hear that poor Aunt Charlotte is so unwell, I suppose winter coming on is very bad for asthma.3

If I had known the boys had been coming home last Sunday, I would have come too; I think I shall come this day fortnight or three weeks.4 You will be astonished to hear that I am up to snuff enough to manage by myself for a short time, that is with the help of the head Clerk; Mrs A. went up to London yesterday, and Mr A. took her up, so that I had to wind up all the business yesterday and it was a very full day; he is not coming back till Tuesday, so that I shall be the cock of the walk on Monday; the head Clerk is a very nice old man, who has been there 45 years, so that in any difficulty I can always go to him. I like Mr A. better than ever and we get on perfectly together. I went up and had a quiet dinner with them on Friday, no body there but Capt. Forrest who is a very nice man, and I had a very pleasant evening.5 I have come round to the opinion that Mrs A. is a much greater beauty than I had thought her; I can see they despise Southampton society, and know very of the town’s people; she shuddered when I mentioned Capt Vignole’s dinner, and said she had been there once and never means to go again.6

I don’t think I have ever given you an account of my day here, and one day is as good as a hundred; 7.30. a.m. a very mild rap at the door; from 7.45. till 8 I generally manage to get up, I then dress up to decency pitch and go down and put the tea in the pot, and have a soliloquy before the fire what to have for breakfast. The general result is an egg, or some times a rasher, or perhaps yesterday’s cold chop warmed up, but this morning a lovely kidney came up quite unexpected like. I have breakfast over by about 8.45., I then stand before the fire or have a quiet strum, till Mrs. Pratt appears to have a solemn Confab. about dinner, and to praise yesterdays dinner or this mornings kidney, or anything to do with the establishment, of which she is mighty proud.7 After we have made up our minds about dinner, it is about time to be off, as I have to be there by 10 minutes to 10, and it is quarter of an hour’s walk; Mr A. does not come in till 10.30. I always find Mr Fall there with the keys, ready for me to open the save and strong room.8 when it is opened and the Clerks have taken out all the books, I get out the money, and the notes, and drafts and bills &c, and then I have to look among the bills to see if any are coming due, and enter the things, drafts and bills notes powers of attorney and all sorts of things that come down from Lubbock; then theres the daily letter to write to Lubbock’s to say that we have theirs, and to tell them whats what to do for us;9 then after that there is the Ledger to be culled over, that is to see if all the business done the day before, has been put down to each separate person concerned; by this time it gets to be about 11.30, or 12. And then the times comes in, and one takes it easy, till some odds & ends want doing, of which there are generally plenty; if there is nothing to do, I finish the times or read a book, till about 1—when I generally try to do a little mathematics, but they come rather stiff after a bustling morning, and I am getting in rather a fright about my degree10  

at about 2 or 12 past I go out and get a turn, sometimes 12 an hour’s some times less sometimes more; before I go in I get a Sandwich or butter and roll or a bun or two, at a pastry cook’s just opposite; it is by this time from 3 to 3.30. so that there is only 12 hour more before we wind up, which is rather a long job if there is anything wrong, but we generally get away from 4.30 to 4.45: at about 5 wet or dry I go out for about a 6 mile walk, and get back for dinner at 7; I find mathematics an awful try after dinner, I sit before the fire reading a book or something, till I begin to feel sleepy, then comes the tug, am I to go to sleep or not, my general resource is to go the pianoforte and have a frantic strum, to annoyance I should guess of the widow below me; the widow and I are just Box and Cox,11 just as I go out she comes down to breakfast, and soon after I go out my walk she comes in from hers so that I have never seen her except her back once; if the piano wakes me I do some mathematics and then read a book and so to bed; and so on; one after the other without much change.

They are going to get up Volunteer Engineers here under patronage of Sir H. James, and Mr A. gave me a hint as if he knew for a fact they were going to come and ask me to belong; but I have had enough volunteering.12 Would it be the correct thing to go and call again on Sir H. James as he was not in; I should think not—13 it has been a lovely day but rather cold; on Sunday I have dinner at two to suit Mrs P. after dinner I went a good long walk;

I hope you will be up to your primula paper   I suppose it will be rather longer than the generality.14

I am your affect son | W E Darwin

am I ever to have “Orley Farm”15


Dated by the references to CD’s Primula paper and to Francis and George Howard Darwin being home from school (see nn. 4 and 14, below). In 1861, 17 November fell on a Sunday.
See letter to W. E. Darwin, 15 November [1861]. ‘Mr A’ was William’s partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank, George Atherley.
Emma Darwin’s elder sister, Charlotte Langton, had been in poor health for some time and had gone to St Leonard’s-on-Sea in Sussex to recuperate (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 November [1861]).
Francis and George Howard Darwin, who attended Clapham Grammar School, came home for the weekend on Saturday, 9 November 1861. William returned to Down House for Christmas, arriving on 24 December (Emma Darwin’s diary).
John Henry Forrest, who lived in Winchester, was chief constable of Hampshire (Post Office directory of Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Dorsetshire 1859), and Atherley’s brother-in-law.
Possibly John Vignoles, a naval commander who had retired in 1855 (Navy list 1861).
William had taken rooms in the lodging house of Mary Pratt, 1 Carlton Place, Southampton (Post Office directory of Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, and Hampshire 1867).
William perhaps refers to Phillip Carteret Fall, who had been a partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank before his retirement in the summer of 1861 (Banking almanac 1861; see also letter to W. E. Darwin, [25 May 1861]).
The bank of Robarts, Lubbock & Co was the London agent for the Southampton and Hampshire Bank. It was through the intermediation of John Lubbock and his father John William Lubbock that William had learned about the vacancy in the Southampton bank. The relationship between provincial banks and their London agents was strengthened following the institution of the country clearing system in 1858. The object of the clearing system was to collect drafts payable between bankers and to expedite settlements. Country banks dispatched to London in one parcel all the cheques drawn on other country banks received in a day’s trading and received in return the bulk of the cheques payable by themselves (see Matthews 1921).
William left the University of Cambridge without taking a degree in order to take up the offer of a banking partnership with the Southampton and Hampshire Bank. Having kept the required number of terms (three terms for three years), he planned to enter for the mathematical tripos examination of 1862. As Francis Darwin later recalled: ‘He must have gone in for the Tripos with his mathematics in a rusty condition, otherwise he might perhaps have been higher than bracketed top of the “Apostles” where his name appears.’ (F. Darwin 1914, pp. 20–1).
In John Maddison Morton’s play Box and Cox, John Box and James Cox are two characters who share the same apartment, one using it by day and the other by night so that they scarcely ever meet.
Henry James was the director of the Ordnance Survey based in Southampton. William, who was a captain in the Farnborough Rifle Volunteer Corps, was trying to resign his commission (see letters to W. E. Darwin, 22 October [1861], [27 October 1861], and 15 November [1861]).
CD had written a letter of introduction for William to James (see letters to W. E. Darwin, 12 October [1861] and [27 October 1861]).
CD read a paper on the two forms of Primula to the Linnean Society of London on Thursday, 21 November 1861 (see Collected papers 2: 45–63).
Orley Farm, by Anthony Trollope, was published in parts in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, between May 1861 and December 1862 (Irwin 1926). It was published in book form in 1862.


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

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

Darwin, Francis. 1914. William Erasmus Darwin. Christ’s College Magazine 29: 16–23.

Irwin, Mary Leslie. 1926. Anthony Trollope: a bibliography. New York: Burt Franklin.

Matthews, Philip W. 1921. The bankers’ clearing house: what it is and what it does. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons.

Navy list: The navy list. London: John Murray; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 1815–1900.


Describes in detail his day at home and at the bank in Southampton.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.5: 3
Physical description
ALS 11pp inc?

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3320,” accessed on 23 September 2023,

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