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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emma Wedgwood   [21–2 November 1838]



My dear Charles

I am afraid the Dr would not think it according to the strictest etiquette my writing to you before I have received your letter, but perhaps my having had a letter from you from Shrewsbury may save my dignity a little. When you were gone we all went a walking & for the sake of shelter happened to go exactly the same way that we went in the morning & as I don’t set up for dignity I may confess to you that I felt it rather a contrast & was very stupid & flat all day. You might well say that there is a fate about specimens as you shall hear. I took your stones out of my cupboard in order to perform the first solemn duty you had ever imposed upon me but forgot them & left them wrapped up on the drawing room table & I was much alarmed on my return home to find Uncle John1 sitting there with them. I carried them off & threw them into the pool & just when they were past recal recollected “suppose he should have seen them & want to look at them again or have them back again.” However it is all safe & nothing has been said. Hensleigh desired me to forward his thanks to you & I was very glad to find that he would accept of our offer or yours I am sure I ought to say. Snow is going on very well. She is come down stairs & sits very gravely by the fire cutting out paper or reading & Bro offering her the proper attentions. Fanny is much better & cheerful again. When I am with you I think all melancholy thoughts keep out of my head but since you are gone some sad ones have forced themselves in, of fear that our opinions on the most important subject should differ widely. My reason tells me that honest & conscientious doubts cannot be a sin, but I feel it would be a painful void between us. I thank you from my heart for your openness with me & I should dread the feeling that you were concealing your opinions from the fear of giving me pain.2 It is perhaps foolish of me to say this much but my own dear Charley we now do belong to each other & I cannot help being open with you. Will you do me a favour? yes I am sure you will, it is to read our Saviours farewell discourse to his disciples which begins at the end of the 13th Chap of John. It is so full of love to them & devotion & every beautiful feeling. It is the part of the New Testament I love best. This is a whim of mine it would give me great pleasure, though I can hardly tell why I don’t wish you to give me your opinion about it. The plaid gown arrived safely yesterday & is unanimously pronounced to be very handsome & not at all too dashing so that I could write my thanks & compliments with a very good conscience. It is blue black & green with a narrow scarlet cross bar.

Thursday. I dare say I shall hear from you today but I will not keep this because Eliz & I are going to Betley to have the “flow of soul”3 & therefore I cannot write to you tomorrow. This is a nice day for you to take a walk in the direction of Bloomsbury. Aunt Fanny set off yesterday evening by the train & the Seabridge party4 are all gone home. I dare say you have seen Robert in town. When he got to Oxford he found two of his friends closetted over the paragraph & saying what a good thing it would be if he was to come back so that they almost took him for a ghost when he did just come in. I suppose he has been playing tricks upon Johnny Allen5 at Oxford as Johnny writes to Aunt Fanny, “What do you think of this marriage between E. W. & Dr Darwin I should think there must be some disparity of age, though I have never seen either of the parties.” There has been a letter from Uncle Baugh6 too, he is not going to send Edward7 to Westminster but he does not know yet what he shall do with him, but he says he shall take care he does not suffer again from the same sort of annoyance he has had before, which is being teazed by the other boys. He graciously says he hopes to be able to be at our marriage which I could dispense with, he is so desperately lively, but I don’t believe he will really come. You ought to call on Martineau & MrsHorner pretty soon I think. We have heard no news of Caroline but expect her tomorrow. I am very happy today & look at every thing on the bright side— I suppose it is your letter that is coming.

Goodbye my dear Charles yours most affectly | Emma W.

You will kindly mention any faults of spelling or style that you perceive as in the wife of a literary man it wd not do you credit, any how I can spell your name right I wish you cd say the same for mine.8

CD annotations

On cover: ‘Regents Park | Martineau gift | Maid servant | Get common things | Sedgwick’9


See also letter from Emma Darwin, [c. February 1839]. CD apparently did not follow his father’s advice ‘to conceal carefully [his] doubts’ (Autobiography, p. 95).
Betley Hall was the residence of the Tollets, who were close friends of the Wedgwoods and frequently exchanged visits with them. The quotation is from Alexander Pope: ‘There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl, | The feast of reason and the flow of soul’. (Satires and epistles of Horace imitated, Satire 1, Book 2, ‘to Mr Fortescue’, l. 127).
Harry and Jessie Wedgwood lived in Seabridge.
CD had corrected the salutation of his letter of [14 November 1838] from ‘Eras’ to ‘Emma’. See Manuscript Alterations and Comments for letter to Emma Wedgwood, [14 November 1838].
The notes were made for subjects to be discussed in CD’s next letter to Emma, now lost (see letter from Emma Wedgwood, [25–6 November 1838], in which she refers to all of them).


Writes lovingly of small events since he left Maer. Fears their opinions may differ on "the most important subject", religion, but is grateful for his openness about his "honest & conscientious doubts".

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
23 NO 23 1838
Source of text
DAR 204: 150
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 441,” accessed on 9 June 2023,

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