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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Susan Darwin   [1 April 1838]

Sunday Evening

My dear Granny

I suppose Miss Katherine is at Chirk,1 so I will write to you.— I have not, however, any particular news of any kind.— I went to the Captains yesterday evening to drink tea.— it did one good to hear Mrs FitzRoy talk about her baby; it was so beautiful & its little voice was such charming music.— The Captain is going on very well,—that is for a man, who has the most consummate skill in looking at everything & every body in a perverted manner.— He is working very hard at his book which I suppose will really be out in June.— I looked over a few pages of Captain Kings Journal:2 I was absolutely forced against all love of truth to tell the Captain that I supposed it was very good, but in honest reality, no pudding for little shool boys, ever was so heavy.— It abounds with Natural History of a very trashy nature.— I trust the Captain’s own volume will be better.—

I have been riding very regularly for the last fortnight, & it has done me a wonderful deal of good.— I have not been so thoroughily well, since eating two dinner a day at Shrewsbury, & increasing in weight in due proportion.—3

Two days since, when it was very warm, I rode to the Zoological Society, & by the greatest piece of good fortune it was the first time this year, that the Rhinoceros was turned out.— Such a sight has seldom been seen, as to behold the rhinoceros kicking & rearing, (though neither end reached any great height) out of joy.— it galloped up & down its court surprisingly quickly, like a huge cow, & it was marvellous how suddenly it could stop & turn round at the end of each gallop.— The elephant was in the adjoining yard & was greatly amazed at seeing the rhinoceros so frisky: He came close to the palings & after looking very intently, set off trotting himself, with his tail sticking out at one end & his trunk at the other,—squeeling & braying like half a dozen broken trumpets.— I saw also the Ourang-outang in great perfection: the keeper showed her an apple, but would not give it her, whereupon she threw herself on her back, kicked & cried, precisely like a naughty child.— She then looked very sulky & after two or three fits of pashion, the keeper said, “Jenny if you will stop bawling & be a good girl, I will give you the apple.— She certainly understood every word of this, &, though like a child, she had great work to stop whining, she at last succeeded, & then got the apple, with which she jumped into an arm chair & began eating it, with the most contented countenance imaginable.—

So much for Monkey, & now for Miss Martineau, who has been as frisky lately ⁠⟨⁠as⁠⟩⁠ the Rhinoceros.— Erasmus has been with her noon, morning, and night:—if her character was not as secure, as a mountain in the polar regions she certainly would loose it.— Lyell called there the other day & there was a beautiful rose on the table, & she coolly showed it to him & said “Erasmus Darwin” gave me that.— How fortunate it is, she is so very plain; otherwise I should be frightened: She is a wonderful woman: when Lyell called, he found Rogers, Ld. Jeffrys, & Empson calling on her.—4 what a person she is thus to collect together all the geniuses.— Old Rogers seems to a warm admirer of hers.— He says her laugh is so charming, it is “like tickling a child in a cradle.” Was there ever such a simile.—a pretty little baby indeed.— She is very busy at present in making arrangements about her new novel.5 One bookseller has offered 2/3 profits & no risk, but I suppose that is not enough.— I saw a very nice & affectionate letter from Fanny H.6 to her; by which I should think Fanny was becoming more reconciled to the thoughts of the country life.— Do not betray my audacious speeches about cousin Harriott,7 to Erasmus— I long to pay you all a visit, but when I shall be able I do not exactly know,—not probably before June, or July.— I will bring down with me Whewells puff about the Journal:8 which I wish was published & off my mind.—

Love to my father | C Darwin.


Published as Volume I of the Narrative.
According to R. W. Darwin’s ‘Weighing Account’ book (Down House MS), CD’s weight had increased from 10 stone 814 lb on 7 October 1836 to 12 stone 5 oz on 18 October 1837 in the year after his return from the voyage. By the time of this letter, however, he may have been losing weight: on his next visit to Shrewsbury on the 13th of July he was down to 11 stone 1 lb 2 oz.
Henry Rogers, Francis Jeffrey, and William Empson were all writers for the Edinburgh Review. Jeffrey had been editor from 1803 to 1829; Empson became editor in 1847.
Fanny H[ensleigh], i.e., Fanny Mackintosh Wedgwood, Mrs Hensleigh Wedgwood.
Harriet Martineau’s impression of CD was altogether complimentary. In her autobiography, reminiscing about ‘eminent men who were not vain’, she writes of ‘the simple, childlike, painstaking, effective Charles Darwin, who established himself presently at the head of living English naturalists’ (Martineau 1877, 1: 355).


Martineau, Harriet. 1839. Deerbrook. 3 vols. London.

Martineau, Harriet. 1877. Harriet Martineau’s autobiography. With memorials by Maria Weston Chapman. 3 vols. London.

Narrative: Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. [Edited by Robert FitzRoy.] 3 vols. and appendix. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.


FitzRoy is hard at work on his book [Narrative, vol. 2].

CD’s health is improved.

Describes his visit to zoo.

Gives news of E. A. Darwin and Harriet Martineau.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
DAR 223: 39
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 407,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2