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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Darwin   [5 April 1840]



My dear Emma.—

You are a good old soul for having written to me so soon.— I, like another good old soul, will give you an account of my proceedings from the beginning.— At the station I met Sir F. Knowles,1 but was fortunate enough to get in a separate carrigae from that chatter-box. In my carriage, there was rather an elegant female, like a thin Lady Alderson, but so virtuous that I did not venture to open my mouth to her. She came with some female friend, also a lady & talked at the door of the carriage in so loud a voice, that we all listened with silent admiration. It was chiefly about family prayers, & how she always had them at 12 past ten not to keep the servants up. She then charged her friend to write to her either on Saturday night or Monday morning, Sunday being omitted in the most marked manner.— Our companion answered in the most pious tone, “Yes Eliza I will write either on Saturday night or on Monday morning.”— as soon as we started our virtuous female pulled out of her pocket a religious tract in a black cover, & a very thick pencil,—she then took off her gloves & commenced reading with great earnestness & marking the best passages with the aforesaid thick lead-pencil.— Her next neighbour was an old gentleman with a portentously purple nose, who was studying a number of the Christian Herald, & his next neighbour was the primmest she Quaker I have often seen.— Was not I in good company?— I never opened my mouth & therefore enjoyed my journey.

At Bermingham, I was kept standing in the office 34 of an hour in doubt, whether I could have a place, & I was so tired, that I regretted much that I took one,—however to my surprise the Journey rested me, & I arrived very brisk at Shrewsbury. In the office at Bermingham, I was aghast to see Mr. J. Hunt, an indomitable proser, taking his place.— He did not know me, as I found by his addressing a chance remark to me, I instantly resolved on the desperate attempt of travelling the whole way incognito.— My hopes were soon cut off by the appearance of Mrs. Hunt, whom I shook hands with vast surprise & interest, & opened my eyes with astonishment at Mr. Hunt, as if he had dropped from the skies.— Our fourth in the Coach was Mr Parr of Lyth,—an old miserly squire.2 Mr. Hunt opened his battery of conversation,—I stood fire well at first & then pretended to become very sleepy,—the proser became really so, so we had the most tranquil Journey.— Old Parr, the miser, was sadly misused at the Lion, for he had ordered a Fly to take him home, & there was only one, & Mark3 persuaded the man to take me up first, & gave a hint to the Porters to take a wonderful time in getting old Parr’s things off the Coach, so that the poor old gentleman must have thought the Porters & Fly men all gone mad together, so slowly no doubt they did everything, whilst I was driving up with the most surprising alacrity.—

My Father is appearing very well.— I have begun to extract wisdom from him, which I will not now write.—

He does not seem able to form any opinion about your case.—but strongly urges your going on suckling a little for some time, even at the expense of slight headachs.— He says you probably will be able to guess with better chance of truth later about your condition—but that it will be only a guess.— You will be pleased to hear, that he objects to the Baby having medicine for every trifle— He says, as long as the Baby keeps well, & the motions4 appear pretty healthy, he thinks it of little consequence whether it has a dozen or one or even less than one in 24 hours, although he says it is desirable it should be more than once.— He is very strong against gruel, but not against other food.— He thinks there is no occasion to go on with Asses’ milk.— But I will tell you all this when I come back.—

I enjoy my visit & have been surprisingly well & have not been sick once.— My Father says I may often take Calomel.— He has recommended me nothing in particular.— I find I am a good deal thinner than I was, weighing less than Erasmus now.—5 I suspect the Journey & change will do me good— I could not, however, sleep but very little the first night, & I verily believe it was from the lonesomeness of the big bed,—in which respect I have shown much more sentimentality than, it appears you did. I have begun, like a true old Arthur Gride6 making a small collection & have picked up several nice little things, & have got some receipt for puddings &c & laid some strong effectual hints about jams, & now you may send the empty jars when-ever you please.—

Chucky is very flourishing, & wishes ⁠⟨⁠m⁠⟩⁠uch to see the killcrop.— Be sure you give Mr Hoddy Doddy a kiss for me.—7 She wants you to send a list of Philharmonic,8 as she has lost the one you sent her.—

Good Bye my dear old Titty. I am often thinking about you. Give my best love to dear old Katty,9

& believe your affectionate old Husband | C. D


Thomas Parr of Lythwood Hall, 2 miles from Shrewsbury.
Mark Briggs, R. W. Darwin’s coachman.
Bowel movements.
CD weighed 10 stone 8 lb on 4 April, having lost 10 lb 6 oz since 13 September 1839 (‘Weighing Account’ book, Down House MS).
A mean old usurer in Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.
‘Chucky’ is Susan Darwin (Emma Darwin (1904) 2: 13) and the ‘killcrop’ is William Erasmus Darwin, as is ‘Mr Hoddy Doddy’.
A list of Philharmonic Society concerts. On 22 February 1840 CD noted in his Account Book (Down House MS) ‘Mr Cramer Philharmonic tickets [£]12/12’.


Emma Darwin (1904): Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin. A century of family letters. Edited by Henrietta Litchfield. 2 vols. Cambridge: privately printed by Cambridge University Press. 1904.


An amusing description of his railway journey to Shrewsbury.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
AP 5 1840
Source of text
DAR 210.8: 5
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 564,” accessed on 23 May 2022,

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