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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Chapman   16 May [1865]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

May 16

Dear Sir

Several months ago you were so good as to send me your pamphlet on the cure of Sea Sickness2 & may have been surprized that I did not write to thank you, but by an odd chance I only observed a week ago that it came direct from you. I now want to ask you to pay me a professional visit here (any day but Friday next) to consider whether the ice treatment would be applicable in my case.3 My sickness is not from mere irritability of stomach but is always caused by acid & morbid secretions.4 I am anxious not to try any new treatment unless you have had experience in some similar cases leading you to think it adviseable.

This place is 6 hilly miles from Bromley where you will find flys waiting. The Victoria or Charing Cross stations are equally convenient in order to reach Bromley.

Will you have the kindness to let me know on what day you can come & about what hour?

I am dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin

P.S. If one of the bags for ice is so small that you can put it in your pocket I should be much obliged if you cd bring one here, as I shd thus learn how to apply it, in case you think fit to make the trial.—


The year is established by the record of Chapman’s visit (see n. 3, below).
CD refers to the first part of Chapman’s Functional diseases of the stomach (Chapman 1864). CD’s copy of the pamphlet has not been found in the Darwin Library–CUL or the Darwin Library–Down.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Chapman visited CD at Down House on 20 May 1865. Chapman’s treatment consisted in the application of ice, placed in a specially designed ice-bag, on the spine. For a discussion of this treatment, see Colp 1977, pp. 82–4. CD’s Account book–cash account (Down House MS) records a payment of £10 10s. to ‘Dr Chapman’ on 20 May 1865.
CD had been seriously ill with a stomach disorder for parts of 1863 and 1864, his symptoms including persistent retching (see Correspondence vols. 11 and 12). In 1863 he consulted several specialists, including William Brinton, George Busk, and John Goodsir, and took hydropathic treatment at Malvern Wells, Worcestershire, under James Smith Ayerst, in an attempt to find a cure (see Correspondence vol. 11). Since March 1864 he had been a patient of William Jenner’s (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 May [1865] and n. 7). During the first four months of 1865, CD often complained of indifferent or poor health (see, for example, letters to J. D. Hooker, 7 January [1865], 2 February [1865], and 16 [March 1865]). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), CD vomited or suffered nausea every day from 21 April to 1 May 1865. CD described his symptoms, presumably for Chapman, in a manuscript dated 20 May 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13, Appendix IV).


Chapman, John. 1864. Functional diseases of the stomach. Part 1. Sea-sickness: its nature and treatment. London: Trübner & Co.

Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

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


Asks JC to pay him a professional visit at Down to consider whether the ice treatment would apply to his case. Describes his sickness.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Chapman
Sent from
Source of text
University of Virginia Library, Special Collections (3314 1: 42)
Physical description
LS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4834,” accessed on 9 August 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13