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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Mary Butler   [before 25 December 1862]1

Sudbrook Park | Petersham


My dear Mr. Darwin

We were all relieved & made happy by Mrs. Darwins account of you and I wish that I could go to you now and have the very great pleasure of being once more amongst you all, but Lady Drysdale some time since, made me promise not to leave Sudbrook till after Christmas—2 We are a quiet sociable party here, & the absence of even one would make some difference in the arrangements of the house. I have an interest much at heart just now, which I fear you will not be able to assist—willing to do so I am certain you will be— You remember Mr Thom—who excited yr. admiration by the several victories which he achieved over Brandy, Opium Tobacco—& himself!! he has been the steadiest of men ever since Clever, well educated, highly principled—modest!—3 For some years he has been nominally Sub Editor of the Home News (from which Mr. Robert Bell derives the revenue) but really the sole Manager of the Paper, which has an extensive circulation, & is said to be extremely well conducted—4

The Sedentary life in a damp office in the City has so completely undermined his health that he is obliged to give up his employment, & has no prospect of meeting with a suitable one in this Country—so that as a last resource he is going to Queensland—at the age of 33—to spend the remainder of his days amongst Cows & Sheep (he scarcely knows one from the other) in a strange Country—where he has not even a friend; I feel for him deeply  

There are many persons to whom the services of such a man would be valuable— for his abilities are excellent—& he has the highest testimonials as to character, whilst both his appearance & manner are prepossessing— It has struck me as just possible that you may know of some place to fit him. He has been trying to get into the Constabulary but has not the proper interest to give any hope of success— he tried for the Secretaryship to an Hospital & found that there were Six hundred Candidates!!— An Inspector of Schools he once thought of, but of that there is no chance, from the Government Interest requisite— Could you speak a good word for him in some influential quarter? he would do you no discredit I believe in any way, for he is really a superior & meritorious man?

We have felt a good deal of anxiety about Mr. Smyth—who was thrown penniless upon the kind family here—but Mr. Tennant of Glasgow has given him an appointment in Trinidad where he has a prospect of becoming a Planter & doing well—5 he sailed for the West Indies a fortnight ago.— My dear Mr. Darwin I will not excuse myself for writing all this to you, I scarcely believe in the possibility of your having it in your power to befriend poor Mr Thom, but at all events I am assured of your most kind sympathy—6

My best love to Mrs. Darwin. I dont like the idea of your long beard. Mr. Davenport who is here—wears one from the same cause, but he has benefited wonderfully from the frequent use of the Turkish Bath—& is beginning to look perfectly handsome—7

Always Sincerely & affectionately Yours | Mary Butler


Dated by the references to Christmas, to Sudbrook Park (see n. 2, below), and to J. P. Thom’s difficulties (see n. 6, below).
CD first met Mary Butler at Edward Wickstead Lane’s hydropathic establishment at Moor Park, near Farnham, Surrey, in February 1859; they met again in October 1859 while attending Edmund Smith’s hydropathic establishment at Ilkley Wells, Otley, Yorkshire (see Correspondence vol. 7), and again in April 1860, when Butler visited Down House for a week (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). In 1862, Lane took over a hydropathic establishment at Sudbrook Park, Petersham, Surrey (Metcalfe 1906, pp. 56–7; Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862). Lady Elizabeth Drysdale was Lane’s mother-in-law, and lived with him (Emma Darwin (1904) 2: 184). No letters from Emma Darwin to Butler have been found.
CD made the acquaintance of J. P. Thom in the course of hydropathic treatment at Lane’s establishment, and considered him a ‘very sensible nice young man’ (Correspondence vol. 7, letter to W. D. Fox, 24 June [1858]).
Robert Bell is reported to have edited the colonial newspaper Home news ‘with assiduity’ (DNB).
Mr Tennant and Mr Smyth have not been identified. Mr Tennant is also mentioned in the letter to Mary Butler, 11 September [1859] (Correspondence vol. 7).
CD’s Account book–banking accounts (Down House MS) records payment on 1 January 1863 of £20 under the entry ‘Mr Thom Present’. See also Correspondence vol. 11, letter from J. P. Thom, 14 January 1863.
Mr Davenport has not been identified. Emma had been encouraging CD to grow a beard (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 4 [July 1862]). The condition referred to by Butler may be eczema, from which CD had begun to suffer earlier in the year (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 30 [June 1862]).


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.

Emma Darwin (1904): Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin. A century of family letters. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. Cambridge: privately printed by Cambridge University Press. 1904.

Metcalfe, Richard. 1906. The rise and progress of hydropathy in England and Scotland. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


J. P. Thom [of Home News] must change his position because of his health. Asks if CD can help find him a new situation.

Letter details

Letter no.
Mary Butler
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Sudbrook Park
Source of text
DAR 160: 392
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3838,” accessed on 4 October 2023,

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