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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Wedgwood   [27 November 1838]


Tuesday night

My dear Emma

I have taken a large sheet of paper,—much to the horror of Robert Mackintosh, who is sitting near me,—& mean to have a most comfortable prose with you. Robert has made a good ending to his bad business: the editor is going to insert in the paper a distinct, & short, & well drawn up contradiction to the obnoxious paragraph, regretting its injustice, & begging the papers which copied the first, to copy this also. Robert has shewn great judgment, & I should think skill, in getting Ld. Palmerston himself to look over & correct the paragraph,—so that he is perfectly safe, as far as diplomatical affairs are concerned. He sails on the 15th.— Robert is looking thin & worn, & says he longs to be out of the country, & that he will not return to it for many a long year.— An act of generosity, never was so ill rewarded as his has been.—

I was very glad to get your letter; & who would not be proud to receive such a nice affectionate one? You say Caroline Tollet has two works to read, & that you could read one, if not already read, but I positively can do nothing, & have done nothing this whole week; but think of you & our future life.— you may then, well imagine how I enjoy seeing your handwriting. I should have written yesterday but waited for your letter: pray do not talk of my waiting till I have time for writing or inclination to do so.— it is a very high enjoyment to me, as I cannot talk to you, & feel your presence, by having your own dear hand within mine.—

I will now narrate my annals: on Saturday I dined with the Lyells, & spent one of the pleasantest evenings I ever did in my life. Lyell grew quite audacious, at the thoughts of having a married geological companion, & proposed going to dine at the Athenæum together & leaving our wives at home.— Poor man, he would as soon ‘eat his head,” as do such an action, whilst I feel as yet as bold as a lion. We had much geological & economical talk,—the latter very profitable.— By the way if you will take my advice, you will not think of reading the Elements, for depend upon it you will hereafter have plenty of geology: act on the same principle, which makes me take as much snuff as possible, before the 24th.—to make an unfeeling joke, let us both be happy as long as we can.

On Sunday evening Erasmus took me to drink tea with the Carlyles; it was my first visit.— One must always like Thomas, & I felt particularly well towards him, as Erasmus had told me he had propounded that a certain lady, was one of the nicest girls he had ever seen.— Jenny sent some civil messages to you, but which from the effects of an hysterical sort of giggle were not very intelligible. It is high treason, but I cannot think that Jenny is either quite natural or lady-like.—

This morning I received a perfect note from Seba Holland, which might be published in the complete letter writer: she tells me to say to you, with infinite sweet things, that she does not write to you, that you might not be bored with answering it.— I called on her & said my say of sweet things to her.— I found her nursing her little girl, who has been ill with a febrile attack.— I dine there on Sunday, & shall then see the Doctor;1 I think I ought to look more guilty then, than when I called on Mother-in-law.

And now for the great question of houses. Erasmus & myself have taken several very long walks; & the difficulties are really frightful. Houses are very scarce & the landlords are all gone mad. they ask such prices.— Erasmus takes it to heart, even more than I do, & declares I ought to end all my letters to you “Your’s inconsolably.”— This day I have given up to deep cogitations regarding the future, in as far as houses are concerned. It would take up too much paper to give all the pro’s & cons; but I feel sure, that a central house would be best for both of us, for two or three years.— I am tied to London, for rather more than that period; & whilst this is the case, I do not doubt it is wisest to reap all the advantages of London life: more especially as every reason will urge us to pay frequent visits to real country, which the suburbs never afford. After the two or three years are out, we then might decide whether to go on living in the same house or suburbs, supposing I should be tied for a little longer to London & ultimately to decide, whether the pleasures of retirement & country, (gardens, walks, &c) are preferable to society &c &c. It is no use thinking of this question at present & I repeat, I do not doubt, your first decision was right: let us make the most of London, whilst we are compelled to be there: the case would be different, if we were deciding for life, for then we might wish to possess the advantages both of country & town, though both in a lesser degree, in the suburbs.— Tell me what you think of this reasoning.— I am glad to hear you are oscillating in opinion, as you will make all the better judge.— With respect to what part of central London, I clearly see, the possibility of obtaining a house must settle the question.— After many long walks, Erasmus & myself are driven to the conviction, that our only resource will be in the streets or squares, near Russell Square.—

After much deliberate talk, (especially with the Lyells), I have no doubt, that our best plan will be to furnish slowly a house for ourselves.— it will be far more economical both in money & time; but not in comfort just at first.— Will you rough it a little at first? Again I clearly see we shall be obliged to give at least 120£ for our house; if not a little more: The most promising one Erasmus have yet seen is in Torrington Square for 120£: the one in Tavistock square was 150£; one in Bedford place 145£.— I will steadily go on looking & pondering: I believe I have good reason for the points, that I have spoken on; but I wish much to hear all suggestions from you, and mind be not, like yourself & Elizabeth too unselfish.— Regents Park is a failure. I have been all round it.

Until yesterday I intended to have paid Maer a visit on Thursday week—the day after the geolog Soc. but yesterday I heard of the death of the mother of Mr Owen, who was to write the next number of the Government Work,2 which now he will not probably be able to do, & I am put to my wit’s ends to get some other number ready. How long this will delay me, I can hardly yet tell. I hope most earnestly not long, for I am impatient to see you again. It is most provoking, I can not settle down to work in earnest, just at the very time I most want to do so.— There is the Appendix of the Journal3 & half a dozen things, besides this unlucky number all waiting my good pleasure.— every night I make vows & break them in the morning. I do long to be seated beside of you, again, in the Library; one can then almost feel anticipation, the happiness to come.

I have just read your letter over again for the fifth time. my own dear Emma, I feel as if I had been guilty of some very selfish action in obtaining such a good dear wife—with no sacrifice at all on my part—as I have said before I must try & make a very dutiful & grateful husband.

Believe me, dear Emma. Most affectionately yours. C. Darwin

Read the Postscript & be kind enough to forward it to Frank.—4 to whom I write, as I suppose Jos is at Shrewsbury.—


Richard Owen was at work on the second number of Fossil Mammalia. It appeared in March 1839.
Journal and remarks has a section headed ‘Addenda’, containing corrections and extensive notes on a theory of erratic boulders. According to the ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix II), this was written by 27 October 1838; thus CD must be referring to the proofs.
The postscript to Francis Wedgwood was written on a third of the sheet and cut from the letter. From the reference to it in the letter from Emma Wedgwood, [30 November 1838], it apparently had to do with finding a position for Syms Covington, CD’s servant, assistant, and copyist since the second year of the Beagle voyage.


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

Journal and remarks: Journal and remarks. 1832–1836. By Charles Darwin. Vol. 3 of Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, describing their examination of the southern shores of South America, and the Beagle’s circumnavigation of the globe. London: Henry Colburn. 1839. [Separately published as Journal of researches.]


CD and Erasmus continue to search for a house in central London. They have tea with the Carlyles.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Athenaeum Club
Source of text
DAR 210.8: 6
Physical description
ALS 4pp inc

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 445,” accessed on 9 June 2023,

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