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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin to Emma Darwin   30 [March 1864?]1


Dear Emma

I enclose you Effies letter (to be returned) as it does ones heart good to see any one so jolly. It is a sad thing that it is all come to an end.2 Mac is going on so well that he declares he shall be well in a week and is speculating where he shall go.3

If C approves of Podophyllin (if so spelt) I should like to hear as it sounds very tempting4

yours affec. | E D


The month and year are conjectured from the reference to the medicine podophyllin (see n. 4, below).
The reason for Katherine Euphemia (Effie) Wedgwood’s temporary cheer has not been determined; however, Erasmus Alvey Darwin’s comments about his cousin may be related to the health of her brother, James Mackintosh Wedgwood (see n. 3, below).
Erasmus refers to his cousin James Mackintosh Wedgwood, who was suffering from incurable cancer (Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980, pp. 274, 279). In March 1864 he was in Italy, but he was brought home in early April 1864; he died on 24 June 1864 (ibid., pp. 275, 279).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), CD started taking ‘pod.’, an extract or resin from the root of Podophyllum peltatum or May-apple, on 24 March 1864. Sometimes called podophyllin, the substance had purgative properties and was probably prescribed by William Jenner on his visit of 20 March 1864 (see Beasley 1865, p. 392, Royle and Headland 1865, pp. 270–2, and letter from William Jenner to Emma Darwin, [17 March 1864]).


Beasley, Henry. 1865. The book of prescriptions, containing more than 3000 prescriptions, collected from the practice of the most eminent physicians and surgeons, English and foreign. 3d edition. London: John Churchill and Sons.

Wedgwood, Barbara and Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1980. The Wedgwood circle, 1730–1897: four generations of a family and their friends. London: Studio Vista.


Sends Effie’s [K. E. Wedgwood] letter;

recounts other family news.

Is interested in CD’s thoughts on podophyllin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: B118
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4374,” accessed on 24 September 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 12