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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. B. Innes   22 December [1862]1

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

Dec. 22d

Dear Innes

We were very glad to hear so good an account of your son & of Mrs. Innes; for dining out I know is a triumph of strength for her.2 As the Highlands do so much good, I wish some honest old gentlemean would leave us an estate, for I am sure we all want doing good to.3 Both our younger Boys are delicate & whether they will be fit for school, I am sure I hardly know.4 As for myself I doubt whether I shall ever dine out again, so Mrs. Innes has clearly beaten me.—

The next time I send to the Bank at Bromley, I will send the Book & return it to you when I get it back.—5 Poor Mrs Ring is a dying woman:6 I don’t remember any other piece of news. The Clubs go on well & everything else in the parish, as far as I know. At last Coal Club there was a brilliant attendance of four members.—7 The man (name unknown) from Clapham who bought Mr Ainslies house, must be as odd a man as Mr A;8 for he never came to see it; & enquired anxiously whether there was a place for a single cow & was astounded when he saw all the ranges of stalls. He bought everything in the House & amongst other things a large Box full of personal letters. He opened one & put it back with a laugh, “saying this could never have been meant for a stranger to see.”—

I do not believe a word about the wheat story,9 which has been repeated at intervals for a century; but when carefully tried (as it has been) has always failed. How it arises I know not.

With my wife’s very kind remembrances to Mrs Innes & yourself, Believe me | Dear Innes | Always yours very truly | C. Darwin


The year is established by the references to Leonard and Horace Darwin (see n. 4, below).
The references are to Innes’s wife, Eliza Mary Brodie, and his son, John William Brodie (see letter from J. B. Innes, 16 December [1862]).
Innes, the perpetual curate of Down, removed to Scotland early in 1862, having in 1861 inherited an entailed estate at Milton Brodie, near Forres, Morayshire, from his cousin Eliza Brodie Dunn.
Leonard and Horace Darwin had both been seriously ill in 1862 (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)). In June, Leonard was sent home from Clapham Grammar School, South London, suffering from scarlet fever (see letter from Charles Pritchard, 17 June [1862]). During his convalescence he was tutored by George Varenne Reed, and returned to school in January 1863 (see CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS)). Horace, having apparently been tutored by Reed in the autumn of 1861, did not return until the autumn of 1862; he did not attend Clapham Grammar School until 1865 (see CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS), Correspondence vol. 11, letter from G. V. Reed, 12 January 1863, and Notes on Horace Darwin, p. 3 (Cambridge University Library, Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company Archives, Box 3)).
Charlotte Ring.
CD was treasurer of the Down Coal and Clothing Club, a charity designed ‘to encourage saving Habits in the Poor’ by adding subscriptions from the gentry to the money contributed by the members (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to G. H. Turnbull, 28 October [1854], and Correspondence vol. 7, letter from John Innes, 9 January [1858–9], n. 2). Innes had previously been treasurer of the club and retained a close interest in its affairs (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to John Innes, [8 May 1848], and J. R. Moore 1985, pp. 468–9). CD was also treasurer for thirty years of the Down Friendly Club, which he helped to found in 1852 (Freeman 1978).
Robert Ainslie, who resided at Tromer Lodge, Down, from 1845 until 1858, had angered CD by his illegal altering of the road outside his house, by his refusal to pay his Church rates, and by his mistreatment of his horses (see Correspondence vols. 3 and 7, and letter to [Local landowner], [1866], Calendar no. 4963). Innes had considered purchasing Tromer Lodge from Ainslie in 1860 (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to John Innes, 18 July [1860]). It was, however, purchased in the summer of 1862 by Robert Haswell, who in 1863 attracted local notoriety when convicted of smoking in a first-class railway carriage (see letter from J. B Innes to T. S. Stephens, [before 5 May 1862], the letter from Henrietta Emma to William Erasmus Darwin, dated [22 February 1863], in DAR 210.6: 109, and The Times, 20 February 1863, p. 11).
See letter from J. B. Innes, 16 December [1862] and n. 11, and Weissenborn 1837. CD wrote in the margin of his copy of the volume of the Magazine of Natural History containing this paper (Darwin Library–CUL): ‘Try single grains in pots placed in triangle’. See also his Questions & Experiments notebook (DAR 206: 15 v.; Notebooks, p. 506). Weissenborn’s report was cited approvingly by Robert Chambers in his controversial evolutionary work, Vestiges of the natural history of creation (see [Chambers] 1844, pp. 220–2 and [Chambers] 1845, pp. 111–12).


Calendar: A calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, 1821–1882. With supplement. 2d edition. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1994.

[Chambers, Robert.] 1844. Vestiges of the natural history of creation. London: John Churchill.

[Chambers, Robert.] 1845. Explanations: a sequel to "Vestiges of the natural history of creation". London. [Vols. 3,5,10]

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Moore, James Richard. 1985. Darwin of Down: the evolutionist as squarson-naturalist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

Notebooks: Charles Darwin’s notebooks, 1836–1844. Geology, transmutation of species, metaphysical enquiries. Transcribed and edited by Paul H. Barrett et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press for the British Museum (Natural History). 1987.

Weissenborn, W. 1837. On the alleged transformation of Avèna satïva into Secàle cereàle. Magazine of Natural History n.s. 1: 574–7.


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Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Brodie Innes
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3872,” accessed on 6 June 2020,

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