skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emma Darwin to W. E. Darwin   [28 October 1863]1



My dear William

I believe it is months since I have written to you but I have had a good 〈d〉eal of writing on my hands.

On Saturday Mr Engle–went up to consult Dr Brinton (phys. to Guy’s H.) on your father’s behalf.2 He brought back a prescrip. & after he has tried it some little time we shall have Dr. B. down to see him.3 He has a great rash come out on his shoulders partly encouraged by a compress & I believe it will be of use to him. He has walked a little further every day & yesterday accomplished twice round the sand walk—

He got so weak at Malvern after you left us he could not walk a step but from one room to another.4

I forgot to tell you that Mrs Acland called after you left.5 I thought her pleasing & pretty but Hen. wd not allow the prettiness.6 I went to Bromley yesterday in Reeves’s fly as Billy has entirely struck work & lay flat down in the yard the last time he was requested to draw.7 I heard at Nash’s of the melancholy death of poor Frances Wells whom you thought you saw at Malvern8 She was dressed & going out to dinner when she was suddenly taken ill & died in an hour’s time. It must have been the heart I suppose. I picked up At Eliz. at the station & she is come home as fresh as a lark, but they had 16 rainy days which is not what one goes abroad for.9

Lizzy comes on Saturday.10 Last evening there was a brilliant fire to the South. We settled it to be that timber yard & carpenter’s near the Westerham road but it turned out to be much further off a farm near Tatsfield & a very extensive fire   I hope the poor man is insured.11

Oddly enough early this mg before light two stacks at Mr Solomon’s were burnt down— I don’t think it can be an incendiary. Mr S. is insured.12 Hen. goes next week to Everleigh for a week— Hope13 assures her she will find it very dull & I think it is possible, but young people like a new place. Mr Huxley writes to Papa that I am to treat him like Vivien did Merlin & shut him up in an oak, he then apologizes that Vivien is not a very proper person, but as Papa does not read Tennyson concludes it does not signify.14 They have been coming to fisticuffs in Australia about Darwin & Huxley &c—15

Horace is about as usual & is gone on the pony this mg. with Duberry to look after the fire.16 He does a little reading every day.

Goodbye my dear old man | E. D.


The date is established by the reference to Emma’s trip to collect Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood from Bromley station; see n. 9, below. According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood arrived on 27 October 1863. The following Wednesday was 28 October.
The references are to the local surgeon Stephen Paul Engleheart (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862), and to the London physician William Brinton, a specialist in stomach disorders (see letter from George Busk, [c. 27 August 1863]). Brinton was a physician at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, and does not appear to have been on the staff of Guy’s Hospital, London (Medical directory 1863).
William Brinton attended CD at Down in November and December 1863 (see letter from W. E. Darwin, 21 August [1863], n. 9).
CD underwent treatment at James Smith Ayerst’s hydropathic establishment in Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, between 3 September and 12 or 13 October 1863. According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), William arrived at Malvern Wells on 13 September and left on 25 September 1863.
Mrs Acland was probably the wife of Lawnford Acland of Langdowne, Hythe, near Southampton (letter from Emma Darwin to William Erasmus Darwin, [after 7 October 1861], in DAR 210.6: 76; Post Office directory of Hampshire, Dorsetshire, and Wiltshire 1867–75).
Henrietta Emma Darwin was William’s sister.
William Reaves (or Reeves) was a blacksmith and farrier in Down, Kent (Census returns 1861 (Public Record Office RG9/462: 71), Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862); Down was five miles from Bromley. ‘Billy’ was the name of a horse (see letter from Henrietta Emma Darwin to William Erasmus Darwin, [February 1864?], in DAR 210.6: 115).
Probably a reference to the shop Nash & Lukey, linendrapers, silk merchants, and milliners, which was situated in the High Street, Bromley (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1862). Frances Wells has not been identified.
Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood was Emma Darwin’s sister (Darwin pedigree).
Elizabeth Darwin was William’s sister (Freeman 1978). Elizabeth may have been returning from school; she was sent away to school with Miss Buob at the beginning of the year (see letters from Emma Darwin to William Erasmus Darwin, 29 October 1862 and [15 April 1863], in DAR 219.1: 63 and 73). CD’s Classed account book (Down House MS) records two payments to Miss Buob in April and August 1863.
Tatsfield is a village eight miles south-east of Croydon, three miles south-west of Down (Survey gazetteer of the British Isles).
Mr Solomon has not been further identified.
Hope Elizabeth Wedgwood was CD’s first cousin once removed (Freeman 1978).
The letter from Thomas Henry Huxley has not been found. The reference is to Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘Vivien’, from Idylls of the king (Tennyson 1859). Vivien was a seductress.
The controversy which followed the publication of Origin in Australia (Mozley 1967) had presumably been reawakened by the publication of Huxley’s Evidence as to man’s place in nature (T. H. Huxley 1863b). Huxley may have told CD of the Australian climate of opinion in a missing letter (see n. 14, above). The majority of Australia’s leading scientists were opposed on religious grounds to CD’s theory of evolution by natural selection (see Mozley 1967, Moyal 1986, pp. 144–7, 184, Butcher 1988, pp. 141, 143).
Horace Darwin was William’s brother. The Duberry family lived in Down, Kent. Richard Duberry and his son George were agricultural labourers; Duberry’s eldest son, Mark, was a carter (Census returns 1861 (Public Record Office, RG9/462: 71)).


CD’s health.

Family and local news.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 219. 1: 78
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4323F,” accessed on 23 July 2019,

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