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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin   5 [March 1823]


Wednesday 5th.

My dear Charles.

I beg many apologies for not writing sooner, but I have ye same excuse as you had. I am very glad to hear that all the glass & earthenware apparatus has arrived safe, & return my thanks for ye payment of ye Extra Money. You say you are very full. I should recommend ye first two or three shillings there are to spare in ye Lab, to have a shelf put up either in ye place over ye retort shelf or else under it; or both. The 10£ which Poor Miss Congreve has left & of which we are to be the trustees, will come in very nicely for an Air Pump or some such thing. As far as I can make out you are not carrying on any experiments in ye Lab. I will recommend you a few which will employ you some time, & will not be expensive. To obtain pure alumina from Alum, & pure Silex from Rock Crystal, & likewise to obtain pure metals from ye Metal of Commerce, such as Copper, Lead, Tin, &c &c, or any which you find easy. Have you my “Ure’s” Dict1 in ye Lab?— If it is there (& if not it is lost), that & Brande2 will be ye best books for particular directions. You could try also to obtain ye silver in a sixpence free from ye Copper. While I remember, & if it is not too late, get a red Cabbage3 dried by Blunt, cut into strips, & then put into green bottles, (such as ye lime was in) & well sealed up. I hope there are good many Evaporating Dishes come, for I forget how many we ordered. The shape of ye Crucibles I like very much, & more especially their having covers is a very great improvement upon ye old ones. How does ye old fireplace get on. I have formed a plan when that is quite done for, it is to have a little stove (ye same shape as that in ye Servant hall) with a moveable top so as to have a sand bath or a kettle or any thing else to fit on ye top. They have oil gas, & they condense into vessels to carry about. A curious looking liquid seperates from ye condensed gas. It resembles Naptha in appearance, & is rather volatile, it burns with a great light & smoke. It smells worse than ye most rancid oil you can conceve. Professor Henslow (on Mineralogy) has twice shewn us ye experiment of ye test of Arsenic by burning it with a blow pipe but I was so far off, that I neither time smelled ye garlic odour which they describe He has 16 guineas worth in one set of wooden crystals, besides many others. The Lectures are very entertaining, & this is his first course so that he will have improved by ye time you come up.4

Give my Love to Massie, & say I hope his hand is better. Ask W Downes5 to write a few arguments, if he has time— | I remain yours affectionately | E Darwin

P.S. The first page of your letter was very well written so I give you a



Ure 1821. A copy of the second edition of this work (1823) is preserved in the Manuscripts Department, Cambridge University Library, where a large proportion of the books in CD’s library, particularly those containing his annotations, are now located. Hereafter this collection will be referred to as Darwin Library–CUL. Other works are located at Down House (Darwin Library–Down), and a few are at the Cambridge University Botany School (Darwin Library–Botany School). The copy of Ure 1823 is unannotated except for a note, dated March 1880, on an end-paper, concerned with precipitating the lime in the well-water at Down.
‘Brassica Rubra. The red cabbage affords a very excellent test both for acids and alkalis’ (Ure 1821).
John Stevens Henslow, later to become CD’s mentor, was elected Professor of Mineralogy in 1822. He began his lectures after the division of Lent Term, 15 February 1823 (Cambridge University calendar, 1823, p. 38). See Winstanley 1940, pp. 32–41, for a discussion of the jurisdictional and legal issues raised by his election.


Brande, William Thomas. 1819. A manual of chemistry. London.

Cambridge University calendar: The Cambridge University calendar. Cambridge: W. Page [and others]. 1796–1950.

Ure, Andrew. 1821. A dictionary of chemistry. London.

Ure, Andrew. 1823. A dictionary of chemistry 2d ed., with additions. London.

Winstanley, Denys Arthur. 1940. Early Victorian Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


More suggestions for the laboratory, including some experiments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
C 6 ⁠⟨⁠MR⁠⟩⁠ 6 1823
Source of text
DAR 204: 5
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5,” accessed on 22 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1