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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Wedgwood   [21 November 1838]

[36 Great Marlborough Street]

Wednesday Morning 22d 1

My dear Emma

I have been writing letters all morning, & before I go to the Geolog Soc. I shall amuse myself by giving you an account of my travels.— The train was retarded by the high winds, & a rumour passed from one carriage to the other, that we possibly should miss the London train.— Accordingly as we entered the station-yard at Bermingham, we saw the London train start, & they would not wait even the five minutes necessary just to jump into the carriages.— The indignation of all us unfortunates was immense.— I can laugh now, though I could not then, at the expression of all faces, as each group turned out of its carriage, like bees out of a hive.— nothing could be heard, but “infamous, scandalous conducts.— directors, parliament rascals.” &c.— One high-minded passenger avenged himself, there being nobody to abuse excepting porters, by going to London in a night horse coach, much to his inconvenience.—

I took another line, & comforted myself with a beef steak & tea, & then went to bed at 5 oclock with orders, which greatly amused the chamber maids, to be called at 14 before eleven to go by 12 past 11 night train. I did [not] sleep, but enjoyed a nice quiet cogitation over the few last days, & the prospect of the long future & the realization of my day dreams.— At the proper time I got into the London train, with my temper somewhat soured by the cold & wet night, & found for my companions three Manchester hogs, who passed the whole night in playing whist on one of the cushions, drinking huge quantities of brandy & water & singing half-blasphemous songs. I was right glad to escape out of such a hogsty & reach my lodging at half past six in the morning.—

After having settled & sorted divers papers I started to tell the news to the Captain.— You see I am treating you, as if you were my actual wife, & giving you an account of all my doings as I hope to do for many a long year my own dear Emma.— The Captain & Madam were most cordial, & both, especially the former highly approved of my conduct: he says we shall not know, what real happiness there is in man & woman living together, till we have tried it for at least six months.— I dare say there may be some truth in this, though I suspect the time of probation will be a good deal shorter with us.— I wish it began rather earlier,—though I humbly beg pardon for saying so, & will not again.— But when I think of those few hours, when we sat together in the Library, hope deferred does make my heart quite sick to call you in truth my wife.— Mrs FitzRoy & the Captain gave me sundry good hints about houses,—the more I hear on this subject, the more I perceive that it is really a very perplexing one.— In three or four days I shall commence taking systematic walks, to settle as far as the general situation is concerned.— I believe you are right in choosing a central region, at least for the first year or two. Erasmus highly approves of this choice,—though FitzRoy was so strong against it, that he almost staggered me. I will report progress, as I go on acquiring hints & knowledge.—

I have received a letter from Lyell, forwarded from Shrewsbury, which has pleased me extremely.— it is most cordial & almost affectionate as if from a relation.— Mrs. Lyell added a postscript, in which she says, “your letter caused us some surprise”. I do not know whether this is meant as a gentle scold,—but it looks like it.—

Erasmus met mother-in law2 at Mrs. Warren’s, & he says he could not help looking guilty, as if he was speaking to an ill-used woman.— Mother in law exclaimed, “oh this is the reason he would not come near us of late.”— I dined with Erasmus in the evening & Robert came in.— I have not room to give an account of his affairs, nor indeed do I clearly understand them,—but he seems bent, on prosecuting the Brighton Paper. he also said, he thought it not impossible, that Ld. Palmerston intended to deprive the country of his diplomatic services.3 But I trust from what he afterwards said, this will not be the the case.— Alderson4 has been very goodnatured in consulting over his affair. It appears that Robert is afraid the Public will never believe that any man would give 500£ to free a man, without some motive, such as wishing to prevent the disclosing some secret.

This appears to me not an improbable & most odious interpretation which will be put on the affair if it gets into the newspaper.—

Good bye my dearest good girl | C. D.

I have not space to say half I wish to say.


Misdated by CD. 21 November 1838, the date of the postmark, was a Wednesday.
Anne Susan Horner, Mrs Leonard Horner, Lyell’s mother-in-law.
Robert Mackintosh had returned from a consulship in America in June 1838 (Wedgwood 1980, p. 232) and was waiting for another appointment. Palmerston was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the time.
Edward Hall Alderson.


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


Recounts his misadventures on the train journey back to London. Tells of a visit to the FitzRoys and a friendly letter from Lyell. Whether CD and Emma should live in central London or in the suburbs is a perplexing problem, much discussed by relatives and friends.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
DAR 210.8:5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 440,” accessed on 3 July 2020,

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