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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Susan Darwin   [15 May 1838]

36 Grt. Marlbro’ St.

Tuesday Evening

My dear old Granny

Many thanks for your letter & kind messages from my Father. My trip of three days to Cambridge1 has done me such wonderful good & filled my limbs with such elasticity, that I must get a little work out of my body before another holiday. Whether I go to Scotland first or to you, will depend upon circumstances; I incline to the former, although it is delaying my visit, which I always look forward to with the greatest delight.— I will give an account of all my Cambridge doings, but first for Erasmus dinner, which I arrived in time for. It was a very brilliant little party, as all his invariably are.— I had a very interesting conversation with Miss Martineau,—most perfectly authorial,—comparing our methods of writing.— it seems wonderful the rapidity with which she writes correctly.— I felt, however, no small gratification, to find, that she is not a complete Amazonian, & knows the feeling of exhaustion from thinking too much. I thought she was quite invincible; but she confesses, a few hours consecutively exhausts every grain of strength she possesses.— She never has occasion to correct a single word she writes, which account for the marvellous rapidity with which she bring forward her books.— The Henleigh & Mrs Rich2 completed the party— what a very nice, quiet fascinating person Mrs Rich is.— It is very comical, Erasmus having a Mrs. to his house.— I forgot to say that Miss Martineau is going to pay me a visit some day, to look at me as author in my den, so we had quite a flirtation together.— Sally cooked the dinner capitally,—salmon, beautifully good.— I should, however, be sorry to pay for it. MB. tell the Govenor the desert alone cost 8s’6d.—

Now for Cambridge.— I staid at Henslows house, & enjoyed my visit extremely,— my friends gave me a most cordial welcome.— indeed I was quite a lion there. Mrs Henslow, unfortunately was obliged to go on Friday for a visit in the country. That evening we had at Henslows a brilliant party of all the geniuses in Cambridge, & a most remarkable set of men they most assuredly are.— On Saturday Morning I rode over to L. Jenyns & spent the morning with him,—found him very cheerful, but bitterly complaining of his solitude.— On Saturday evening dined at one of the Colleges, played at bowls on the College green after dinner, & was deafened with nightingales singing.— Sunday dined in Trinity, capital dinner, & was very glad to sit by Professor Lee,—the Shrewsbury Carpenter.—3 I found him a very pleasant chatting man & in high spirits, like a boy, at being lately returned from living on a curacy for seven year in Somersetshire, to civilized society & oriental manuscripts.— He had exchanged his living to one within 14 miles of Cambridge & seemed perfectly happy.— In evening attended Trinity Chapel, & heard “the Heavens are telling the Glory of God”4 in magnificent style. the last chorus seemed to shake the very walls of the College.— After chapel a large party in Sedgwick rooms.—

So much for my annals.— Will you tell my Father, that I made civil speeches, some time since to Mr Cross.— I will call tomorrow at Ld Clives. I hope he wont be as affectionate as Mr Robert was.— I mean to do a little duty tomorrow & pay Mrs Clive of Welshpool a visit.—5

It must have been very hard work for you to have written two letters yesterday, & it was proportionally good of you.— Erasmus & myself both sneer at the badness of the paper you write on.— we think now you are by yourself, you are indulging in a little bit of thorough economy.— NB. I recommend you Mrs Granny to spell headachs, not headaches.— there is for you Madam, I return you some of your spelling corrections, which you have so often thrown into my teeth. Give my love to my Father—. I should much like paying you a visit, now you are so nice & quiet,—but whilst I am well, I must do a little more work.— if I do not work hard for the next two or three years, I never shall have done.—

Good Bye, dear Granny. | I will write again as soon as any news is stirring | C. D

Bro is almost well again—6 neither Snow7 or Baby8 have caught the fever.— Mr Parrott9 & co even doubt whether it was scarlet fever—

NB. I feel some doubts, whether my severe & very witty criticisms on your spelling is right.— I know to my cost headache in the singular is wrong for I have so written it in my journal


Though not mentioned in the letter, one purpose of this visit to Cambridge was to consult William Sharp MacLeay’s Horæ entomologicæ (1819–21) in the University Library. The volume in that collection still has faint markings corresponding to some of the extracts that CD and Syms Covington, CD’s servant, copied out of it. (See DAR 71: 128–38 and S. Smith 1968, p. 100). MacLeay originated the quinary system of classification, which enjoyed considerable support at this time. CD refers to it frequently in his notes of the period, many of which suggest an interest in making his species theory compatible with the quinary classification (see Ospovat 1981, p. 108).
The Hensleigh Wedgwoods and Mary Rich, née Mackintosh, half-sister of Fanny Mackintosh Wedgwood.
Samuel Lee, Regius Professor of Hebrew, Cambridge. He was called ‘the Shrewsbury Carpenter’ because he had been apprenticed to one at the age of twelve.
From Haydn’s Creation.
Marianne Clive, wife of William Clive the Vicar of Welshpool.
Frances Julia Wedgwood.


Ospovat, Dov. 1981. The development of Darwin’s theory. Natural history, natural theology, and natural selection, 1838–1859. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, Sydney. 1968. The Darwin collection at Cambridge with one example of its use: Charles Darwin and Cirripedes. Actes du XIe Congrès International d’Histoire des Sciences 5: 96-100.


Recounts dinner at Erasmus’ house with Harriet Martineau and others, and a visit to Cambridge to stay with Henslow and meet old friends again.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
DAR 223: 38
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 413,” accessed on 24 September 2023,

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