skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. B. Innes   1 September [1863]

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Sept. 1st

Dear Innes

I was very glad to get your kind & pleasant letter, with a good account of your son & a fair account of Mrs. Innes.1

I have had a bad summer, with my stomach as bad as it well can be & tomorrow we start for a month at Malvern. My wife has gone first with half the party to look for a house.2

We are in the same predicament, as you were, about our youngest boy, Horace who is too delicate as yet for school, & a great evil it is.—3 He learns nothing & what on earth we are to do about him I am sure I do not know.—

You know what a hermit’s life I lead & it has been worse than ever this summer; & I have not even seen John Lubbock for months.4 I think everything goes on well & smoothly in the village.5

Today poor old Spearing was buried & I think before a year or two is over young Mr Smith will follow all his family to the grave.—6 I am much surprised at what you say about your poor; I thought they were the best educated & moral people in Europe.—7

I go on working at Natural History & have taken a good deal to Botany & it is all that I am good for; I can just do an hour or two’s work, when I can do nothing else. By the way there is one sentence in your letter that utterly puzzles me, about a “Duke Darwinii” who is going to die & ought to be stuffed!8

I hope that you have had a day’s shooting over your own land & brought home a good bag. What a glorious day I used to think it.9 I have heard guns going off at a great rate all round here today & it has made me think of old times.—

Your old Terrier Tartar is still alive & well, but awfully venerable in all his movements.10

And now I will wish you good night & with kind remembrances to Mrs Innes, believe me | Dear Innes | Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

I do not believe a word about the toad-stories; though they must get into very queer places to cause so many strange stories.—11


Emma Darwin travelled to Malvern, Worcestershire, on 1 September 1863, and rented a house at Malvern Wells; CD and Henrietta Emma Darwin joined her there from London on 3 September 1863 (see Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) and letter to W. D. Fox, 4 [September 1863]). CD was to visit James Smith Ayerst’s hydropathic establishment in Malvern Wells (see letter to William Darwin Fox, 4 [September 1863]).
Horace Darwin had been ill since 1862, and was tutored privately from October to December 1862 (see letter to G. V. Reed, 12 January 1863 and n. 1). On Horace’s continuing ill health see Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242). Innes’s son, John William Brodie Innes, apparently suffered delicate health for a number of years (see Correspondence vol. 8, letter to John Innes, 18 July [1860], and Correspondence vol. 9, letter to John Innes, 19 December [1861]).
John Lubbock had moved from High Elms, near Down, to Chislehurst, a village about five miles north of Down, in August 1861 (John Lubbock’s diary (British Library, Add. Ms. 62679: 64 r.)).
Innes had been the Anglican incumbent of Down since 1846; he moved to Milton Brodie, near Forres, Morayshire, Scotland, in 1862, having inherited an estate there, and employed a curate to undertake his parochial duties in Down (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from J. B. Innes, 2 January [1862] and n. 1).
The references are to William Spearing, an agricultural labourer resident at Down (Downe burial registers (, accessed 10 May 2016)), and John Smith, farmer, of Down Court, a short distance from Down House (Census returns of England and Wales 1861(Public Record Office, RG9/462/71/3 and RG9/462/78/17)). A memorial in Downe churchyard records the deaths of John Smith’s mother, Catherine, in 1846, his father, also John, and his sister Mary in 1853, his brother Hilkiah in 1855, his brother Josiah in 1862 and his stepmother Sarah in 1863 (, accessed 10 May 2016). John Smith himself survived until 1873.
See letters from J. B. Innes, 29 August [1863] and 4 September [1863].
CD refers to the start of the partridge-shooting season on 1 September (see British Imperial calendar 1863, p. 8). CD had been fond of shooting game-birds in his youth (see Correspondence vol. 1 and Autobiography, pp. 54–5).
Tartar had apparently been left with the Darwin family, along with Innes’s son’s dog Quiz, when Innes moved to Scotland in 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to J. B. Innes, 1 May [1862]).


Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

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


Family and local news, and memories of old times.

CD’s youngest son, Horace, is too delicate to go to school.

CD has had a bad summer, is still ill, can do very little work – "Botany … is all that I am good for".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Brodie Innes
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4287,” accessed on 29 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11