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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Wedgwood   [May 1838]1


May? | 183 8—

My dear Caroline.

My conscience has of late often troubled me with the question why I have not written to you for so long—so this fine evening, not being quite well, like a selfish dog, I give up the time, which I cannot otherwise use, to writing to you. I have of late been riding a good deal, which is very pleasant, & I am astonished to find there is in truth pretty country within three miles of London, but I believe the greater parts of its charms are due to the recollection of Shropshire, and our very pleasant rides together, which the smoky walls of London do their best to smother.— By the way Erasmus & myself, the other day, when we heard you were searching for another house, agreed, much the best plan which you & Jos. could adopt, would be to jump into a railroad coach & look out for a house, within one or two miles, at most, of Charing Cross.— Then we could ride together, & I would Lionize you over the beauties of Hampstead & Highgate.— You might keep bull-finches & canaries, & lead about long-eared little dogs with a string, which would satisfy your country taste, and we would take a new line and turn cockneys, and so delight Erasmus. What say you to the plan?

I hope to pay Shrewsbury & perhaps Maer a visit this July or beginning of August, but I shall be cruelly hurried—as I have to go to Scotland for Geological work & must be in London on account of the Government [number]2 on every second month.— so there will be no time to be lost, & I must do a great deal of happiness in a few days— if I succeed, as well as doing the last Staffordshire visit I shall be lucky. I have not heard for sometime from Shrewsbury, though I have written twice & in my second letter endeavoured to astound the natives (I suspect one & only one shade more than truth,) about animal magnetism.— I think old Granny’s fingers must be frozified during this cold Spring. She can’t write, or won’t write.— I long to be at Shrewsbury to scold her well.—

You being my Governess, I am bound to tell you how my books go on.— I find, rather to my grief, that they grow steadily in size, and I can see no prospect of their being finished, let me work ever so hard, before three or four years— I hope to bring out one Geological work on “Volcanic Isds. and Coral Formations this autumn or winter.—3 I have every encouragement to work hard in finding my opinions are thought at least, worthy of attention. The Journal will not be published till Autumn. Whewell & Lyell flatter me enough to content me about it, if I were the Greatest Gourmand in flattery.— I hope I may be able to work on right hard during the next three years, otherwise I shall never have finished,—but I find the noddle & the stomach are antagonist powers, and that it is a great deal more easy to think too much in a day, than to think too little— What thought has to do with digesting roast beef,—I cannot say, but they are brother faculties. I am living very quietly, and have given up all society,—that is going to evening parties, or indeed, to parties of any sort.— I find the change very pleasant.— Some few weeks since, however, I dined with that charming Mr. Robert Clive,— our affection to each other was quite edifying— If you can summon resolution, write to me & tell me what is going on in Staffordshire, Paris, or Shropshire I may add, for we in —— St. are in the dark about all.— In your last letter, you say I can’t tell the difficulty you feel in writing,—which if it did not stop my having letters from you, I should be glad of as it offers a good excuse to the question I began by asking, why I had not written to you as I had often thought about you.— It is very difficult to write if one does not write often, and to do that is very hard work for a very idle yet busy man.—

Good bye, make me a cutting reproach by writing soon, to show how easy it is— Your affecate. | C. D.


The reference to dining with Robert Clive ‘Some few weeks since’ is the basis for May as the likely date. This agrees with the conjectured date given by the copyist.
The copy reads ‘member’, and above it ‘(muster)?’; these appear to be misreadings of ‘number’. The reference is to the Government subsidised Zoology, which originally had a publication schedule of a number every other month.
This plan was announced by the publisher but was later given up. Coral reefs was published first and did not appear until 1842 (Freeman 1977, p. 57).


Coral reefs: The structure and distribution of coral reefs. Being the first part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1842.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1977. The works of Charles Darwin: an annotated bibliographical handlist. 2d edition. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.


His books grow in size. Hopes to bring out work on volcanic islands and coral formations in the autumn or winter. The Journal of researches will not be published until autumn [actually not until 1839]. Whewell and Lyell flatter him about it. Has given up all society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Darwin/Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Wedgwood
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
DAR 154: 53
Physical description
C 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 411,” accessed on 2 March 2024,

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