skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Sarah Owen   18 February [1828]

The Forest.

Monday Feby. 18th.—

My dear Charles,

If you have thought of me at all since your arrival at Gay Cambridge, I fear it has only been to reproach me with breach of promise &c &c in not fulfilling the engagement I so solemnly made to intrude upon your time, & interrupt more agreeable studies by “a letter from Sarah Owen, bless me! what can she write to me about.” Indeed Mr. Charles, had I followed my own inclination, you would have been troubled in this way many days, nay, weeks ago but since I received your very agreeable effusion at Brighton, I have been so busy in various ways, that I have hardly had any spare time on my hands— Perhaps you know that we staid at Brighton a week longer than Papa intended, on account of a very gay Fancy ball given by five & twenty Batchelors, indeed it would have been too provoking to have missed it, for it was an admirable rigadoon, every body in Fancy dresses or Uniforms, Fanny and I went as She Turks, that is in the dress of Fatima if you ever chaunced to see it, this Festivity took place on the first of February, & lasted till 7 o’clock A.M. on the 2d. of Feby. We had 3 balls, three successive nights before & even my constitution began to fail whatever Mrs. Burton may say or think to the contrary—

We left Brighton on the 4th. & very sorry I was to go away so soon, I have however no right or cause to complain, for we went there for three weeks & staid ten— We had three very pleasant days in London from Monday till Friday Morning We were to have left it on Thursday but the Williams begged so hard for another day, that Papa was obliged to give in. We dined with them every day, & went one evening to the French Play, which I enjoyed very much, (as you will easily believe), & the last night we went, a party of twelve, to Covent Garden, & the great Ricciardo 1 gave us a farewell Supper in his rooms, which are very magnificent— The party there consisted of Mr Williams, Emma, Mrs. Bruce two eldest Mr Williams, Mr. & Mrs. Hopkinson, Mr. Powell2, Lord Kinnaird, a very nice Shootable, & last, though not least Mr. Charles Jones!! I had the pleasure of meeting him each day at dinner, & he was quite as agreeable as usual— Mr. Hopkinson sang two or three excellent songs, & “the evening was passed in the utmost ar mony” &c &c &c. We left London very early the following Morning, & arrived here on Saturday night, found Owen, Aunt Laura Caddy & Emma waiting to receive us, & here my Personal Narrative 3 ends, for since that moment, I have not been outside the Barriers of the Forest, or seen anybody except Mr. Lloyd Kenyon, Mr. Tom Ditto, & the Rector of the Parish, & you know that neither of these three pieces of broad Cloth can afford me the least assistance in filling up a vacant sheet of Paper like this now before me—

The Tranquillity here is indeed truly awful, & there is no saying how long it may last, I wrote last week to implore Caroline Susan or Catherine to come to our assistance, but I am sorry to say they returned a flat denial, as Mr. & Mrs. Wedgwood &c &c. are now staying with th⁠⟨⁠em⁠⟩⁠— And now, Charles, I must say a few ⁠⟨⁠con⁠⟩⁠fidential words, on the two great mysteries in your Family, viz, the Crack in your foundations & Walls, & the black broad Cloth affair—to begin with the Crack, which from the best authority, seems to widen & become more serious & alarming every day, Heaven knows what effect this Frost & Snow may have on the sloping banks of the Meandering Severn!! I hear that Susan’s sensitive feelings suffered a severe shock not many days ago, on hearing two unfeeling Men conversing (near the walk overhanging the precipice) on the melancholy fact, they concluded by remarking “it is a very pretty house, more’s the pity we shall so soon see it in the river”— for Heaven’s sake, Charles, breathe not a syllable of this fatal information to any mortal ear, you must be aware of the tenderness of this subject, particularly to the Parties concerned. Secondly, have you heard of the Vicar of Pool’s 4 sudden accession of Fortune; 11,000£ I heard, you may perhaps persist in thinking this is no business of yours, but I also persist in my original opinion on the mysterious subject. “Time will shew” the truth of my suspicions. pray tell me if your sentiments continue the same— I heard of your paying two visits to the Forest during our absence I am glad some people were missed, as that circumstance may perhaps induce you to stay longer, when some people are to be found in Paradise— A sad Catastrophe occurred here last night, one of the black Carriage horses which has been indisposed for some days, expired, deeply lamented by all whom he had drawn or followed after. I hope the Andalusian may not catch the disorder, I have not yet rode him since we returned,—but as the Frost seems going, I shall have that pleasure soon. I hear he is grown very frisky, &c &c, which is so much the better—

I really must conclude this scrawl; you have wasted too much time already in reading it, pray put it into the Fire which is now blazing in your room, & sit down to your Folio’s again & as soon as you have an idle half hour, remember that I hope to hear from you— Of course I need not remind you of your promise not to shew my stupid effusions to any-body on any account whatsomever, I will therefore conclude. I remain always | Yours most truly | S. H. Owen.

You must have heard all the Shropshire Marriages—Miss I. Forester & Mr Biddulph, Miss Mary Burton & Mr Richards, “little Lingen” & Miss Edwardes &c &c if it were not trifling with your feelings, Mr. Charles, I would add Miss Clare Leighton “that rising star of Ton—” & Lord Hill—which is an undoubted fact, but don’t mention it at present. I shall expect an effusion very soon.—

Owen returned today from a ⁠⟨⁠    ⁠⟩⁠ bliss at Chillington.


Possibly Richard Williams, the ‘odious Richard’ of Fanny Owen’s letter [January 1828], who was living in Albemarle Street, London, at this time (Boyle’s Court and Country Guide London 1828).
John Allan Powell, solicitor, with whom Edward Hosier Williams was in partnership (Boyle’s Court and Country Guide London 1828).
Apparently a reference to Humboldt 1814–29, one of CD’s favourite books, which he may have told Sarah he was reading.
Possibly William Clive, Vicar of Welshpool from 1819, who married Marianne Tollet in 1829. The Clives of Styche were friends of the Darwin family.


Humboldt, Alexander von. 1814–29. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799–1804. By Alexander de Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland. Translated into English by Helen Maria Williams. 7 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; J. Murray; H. Colburn.


Writes of the last part of their lively stay at Brighton and three days in London.

None of CD’s sisters can come to enliven the "truly awful" tranquillity at the Forest [Woodhouse].

Letter details

Letter no.
Sarah Harriet Mostyn Owen/Sarah Harriet Williams/Sarah Harriet Haliburton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
The Forest, [Woodhouse]
Shrewsbury FE 19 1828
Source of text
DAR 204: 59
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 39,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1