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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   26 April [1862]1


Ap. 26th

My dear William

What an incomparably good fellow you are to send me the eye-glass: I have now got it with a string round my neck, & practise every now & then, making horrible contortions, to keep it to my eye. I believe with practise I shall at last succeed, & that it will be very useful; & again I say that you are an incomparable good fellow.—

The Boys have all had a prosperous time of it, & return on Monday Evening to school:2 they all went up with Mamma (who has got her usual very bad headach) & went to play to see Ld. Dundreary, & are now constantly repeating the good jokes, with old Jingo throwing his head back with laughter.—3

Poor dear little Skimp has been rather better for these few days, but has had some attacks of the involuntary movements:4 he & Miss Ludwig go next week to Aunt Elizabeth’s at Hartfield to see what a change of air may do for him.5 He is a real little darling, so patient with all his discomfort.—

To day, thank Heavens, I finished last revise of my accursed little orchid-Book, of which a copy shall be sent you when it is out; but it will be stiff reading.—6 Tim (i.e. Alfred) arrived here last night; not an atom altered in any way, except in having an untidy stumpy beard.—7 We had another arrival, the night before last, of a school-fellow & friend of Franks, who told us an unintelligible story of losing his way & purse:8 he has just started, which is a good job. I wonder when you will come here again; I saw nothing of you last time; but I am very glad that you saw Hooker work on plant.—9

Farewell, dear old fellow | Yours affecty. | C. Darwin


The year is established by CD’s reference to having finished work on the proofs of Orchids (see n. 6, below).
Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) records that the ‘Boys went to school’ on Monday 28 April 1862. George Howard Darwin and Francis Darwin both attended Clapham Grammar School in south-west London (see DNB s.v. Darwin, G. H., and F. Darwin 1920, p. 63). Leonard Darwin had been tutored privately by George Varenne Reed since summer 1859 (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to G. V. Reed, 1 July [1859], and CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS)), but apparently started to attend Clapham Grammar School in January 1862. According to CD’s Classed account book, CD made no payment to Reed for the period January to June 1862, and made a proportionate increase in his half-yearly payment to Clapham Grammar School. See also letter from Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [3 February 1862] (DAR 219.1: 48). Leonard was sent home from Clapham with scarlet fever in June 1862 and was again tutored by Reed during his convalescence (see CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS), letter from Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [13 December 1862] (DAR 219.1: 69), and Correspondence vol. 11, letter to G. V. Reed, 12 January 1863).
Emma Darwin wrote in her diary (DAR 242) that she ‘Went to London with 3 boys & Lizzy to the play’ on Wednesday 23 April. Lord Dundreary was a comic character in Tom Taylor’s popular farce, Our American cousin (OED). ‘Jingo’ or ‘Gingo’ was a family nickname for George (see, for example, the letter from Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin, [26 March 1858] (DAR 219.1: 33), which begins ‘My dear Georgy’, but later continues ‘Since beginning this letter I remember it is you I want to write to & not Gingo’).
CD refers to Horace Darwin who had been ill since the beginning of the year.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Camilla Ludwig, the governess at Down House, accompanied Horace Darwin to the home of his aunt Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood on 1 May 1862.
CD recorded in his journal (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II) that he ‘finished Orchis Book’ on 28 April 1862. William’s name appears on CD’s list of presentation copies for this work (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix IV).
The reference is to Alfred Allen Wedgwood, the son of Hensleigh and Frances Mackintosh Wedgwood.
There is an entry in Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) on 25 April 1862 that reads: ‘young Sayer here’.
William had been home for Easter when Joseph Dalton Hooker was also visiting Down House (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


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

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

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.

Orchids: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1862.


Thanks WED for eyeglass.

Reports on health of Horace and family matters.

Has finished Orchids.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6: 96
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3520,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10