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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Susan Darwin   [26 April 1838]

[36 Great Marlborough Street]


My dear Susan

I write to announce that the ham arrived at 7 P.M. on Tuesday the 24th of April, in the year of our Lord &c &c.— It is reported to be in excellent condition, of a fine colour, & savoury taste,—which latter fact I mean to verify tomorrow as Erasmus has had the magnificence to forward to me, a part.— He had a little dinner party yesterday when the ham did good service, & he bids me make no jokes but to return his best thanks to the Governor for it.— Many thanks, also, for your note, and corrections in spelling; by the time I have written two or three more books, I hope to know the rudiments, at least, of that most difficult art.—

Thank Katty for her very amusing letter.— it is wonderful how Marlborough St & Shrewsbury agree in thinking good sound sense about the nonsense of all the spiritual-minded people who believe they live in a world of spirits.—

To fill up the letter,—I will give an account of my late doings; which have been, much against my will & that of my stomach, very dissipated. On Saturday last, I dined with Sarah Williams, who sent me the most charming little note, that ever man received.— it was worth the penance of half a dozen dinner parties to receive such a note.— We had there sundry people,—a charming widow, all in black, young & pretty,— she took the line of looking charming & saying little.— Old Hopkinson,—rather a buffoon & a little vulgar.— he was, however, by the aid of his own witty sayings & those borrowed from Theodore Hook rather amusing. I sat by Mr Alexander, who edifyed the company by repeating all the witty & unwitty things, which sundry lords & dukes had lately uttered.—1

I must not, however, say a word against Lords, for I think, I must be going to be turned into one,—for that awesomely polite Robert Clive2 called on me, when I was out, & about two hours afterward came a great card to ask me to dinner, which I had great difficulty in answering, from not knowing how to direct to Lady Harriet Clive,—nor do I know now.— Well this happened on Monday I called on him on Tuesday; & on Wednesday or yesterday he called on me again, so tomorrow morning, I think, I shall call again, & when we meet, we certainly shall rush into each ⁠⟨⁠others⁠⟩⁠ arms in a transport of affection.— It really is very civil of him, as it is of course all meant to show his friendship to my Father:—3

After dining with Mr Clive, I think I shall go on to Kensington Palace:— it will have a good appearance, after dinner, to say in an easy tone of voice, “Bob I am going to the old Duke’s,4 won’t you come”?

Yesterday morning Mr Owen & Soby5 called on me— to day I am going to dine with Sarah to meet them.— The Dutchess Lady Alderson6 asked me for today, but luckily I was engaged.—

I have determined to leave London before 1st of July, as there will be little peace in London this Spring,—so many dear friends.— Tom Eyton came up yesterday & the Swinton Hollands7 two days before.— Good Lord deliver us of our friends, is my response on most occasions.—

To complete my history of this weeks work,—last night Geological Soc & a long discussion,—& on Monday, to my amazement I received an insinivating note8 from Seba Holland9 to come & dine there & take my little cousins to Astleys.—10 As I had refused three invitations there I went, but in great disgust at being promoted to be negro in chief to my dear cousins. (N.B. Bessy Galton is in town— Good Lord deliver us of our friends),—but Seba’s invitation turned out to be a mistake, as it was meant for Erasmus, who has long been apprenticed to the family.— I of course expressed unbounded pleasure at the mistake, & had a very merry evening. The two little boys are nicest little gentlemen, I ever met, & geniuses into the Bargain.— It was capital to watch their delight,—when a particular number of cannons & muskets were fired.— They hollowed again, & turning round to me, constantly exclaimed, “How pretty; is not that nice? Are not you glad you came? We were accompanied by Bessy Holland,—the Doctor’s sister, as scientific a lady & as great a goose as ever I had the honor of talking to.

Good Bye. | Love to all | I must write Geologys & no more nonsense | C D


R. W. Darwin had lent Edward Clive, Earl of Powis, and Edward Herbert, Viscount Clive, Robert Clive’s father and brother respectively, substantial sums of money. See R. W. Darwin’s Account Book (Down House MS) and Brent 1981, p. 17.
Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex.
William Owen Sr of Woodhouse, father of Sarah Williams, and Sobieski Owen, his youngest daughter.
Georgina, Lady Alderson, née Drewe; the ‘Dutchess’ is ironic.
Anna Holland and her daughter Louisa; Anna Holland, a widow, was CD’s first cousin, once removed (see Emma Darwin (1915) 1: 143 n.).
‘Insinivation’ is the usual play on the word ‘invitation’ employed by the Owen sisters and CD in their youthful correspondence (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter from Sarah Harriet Owen, 31 [December 1827], n. 4).
Henry Thurstan Holland and Francis James Holland. Astley’s Royal Amphitheatre—an equestrian theatre founded by Philip Astley.


Brent, Peter. 1981. Charles Darwin. "A man of enlarged curiosity". London: William Heinemann.

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

Emma Darwin (1915): Emma Darwin: a century of family letters, 1792–1896. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1915.


Thanks for ham and corrections in spelling. Gives account of his social activities in past week.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
DAR 92: A5–6
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 410,” accessed on 7 June 2023,

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