skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Bence Jones to Emma Darwin   1 October [1867]1

5 Albion Villas | Folkestone

Oct 1.

Dear Mrs Darwin

This sudden temporary failure of memory by itself and in itself does not appear to me of importance.

Like a temporary affection of the sight which often occurs, it probably is only caused by some irregularity of circulation arising from indigestion.

As long as it only comes by itself and with no other nerve symptoms I do not consider that any concern need be felt about it.

The sudden coming in and out of the Eczema shews that there is some unusual state of the circulation & digestion also.2

Probably the increased mental work has determined the appearance of the new symptom in the new place.3

Now as to what should be done the best course would be to put mental work aside altogether for this month; except on wet days; & to think & do only what is best for the health.

It is a fine month to be out riding walking, driving as much as possible

To be very strict in the diet and to take a teaspoonful or two of compound tincture of Jentian or tincture of Chyretta with a few drops of mineral acid in a wineglass of water half an hour before breakfast & dinner for three weeks4

I shall stay on here as long as I can go yachting probably until the 28 of this month when I hope to return to Brook St 5

I live between Boulogne Calais Margate and Dungeness for seven or eight hours daily and I am getting much stronger.6

I wish Mr Darwin could have as much air without fatigue as I have; he wd soon digest better

Pray give him my kind regards   I was about to write to him to ask how he was. I shall be very glad of a few words from you at any time about him

Believe me | Yours very truly | H Bence Jones


The year is established by the references to CD’s eczema and Jones’s improving health (see nn. 2 and 6, below).
Emma Darwin had noted in her diary (DAR 242) for 21 September 1867, ‘CD very unwell with eczema all week’, and for 27 September, ‘C bad’. There is no mention of other symptoms. Jones had been CD’s doctor since 1865 (Correspondence vol. 13).
CD had been correcting proofs for Variation; by mid-September he reported that he had almost finished the first proofs and planned to start on the second proofs at the beginning of October (see letter to J. V. Carus, 16 September 1867).
Jones refers to gentian (Gentiana lutea) and chiretta (Swertia chirata), both members of the family Gentianaceae. A tincture of either plant was used as a digestive tonic as well as in the treatment of skin diseases. Mineral acid is a generic term for inorganic acids (OED). On the use of acids in the treatment of stomach disorders, see Ringer 1869, pp. 80–2.
Jones’s London address was 31 Brook Street (Post Office London directory 1866).
Jones had been seriously ill with heart disease in late 1866 and early 1867 (see letter to W. D. Fox, 6 February [1867]; see also Kyle 2001).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Kyle, Robert A. 2001. Henry Bence Jones – physician, chemist, scientist and biographer: a man for all seasons. British Journal of Haematology 115: 13–18.

OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.

Ringer, Sydney. 1869. A handbook of therapeutics. London: H. K. Lewis.

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


CD’s sudden temporary failure of memory and his eczema are not serious and would be relieved by rest and good diet.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Bence Jones
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 168: 78
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5639,” accessed on 16 April 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15