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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edmund and Charles Langton to S. E. Wedgwood   [after 9 November 1868]1

page or pages excised〉 taking long walks together every fine day— It is rather an impediment to his becoming intimate with her Aunt 〈most of a page excised

The moths still occasionally visit the purple flowers & shew a most marked preference to them over the yellowish leaves though both are equally adorned with gilding—2 In my other account I spoke rather inaccurately as if the only gold was in the middle of the flowers—3 What I want to find out is whether in another room they (as one seemed to me to do) go to a yellow flower with a dark middle rather well painted, as it wd help me to judge whether they attend to form or colour by seeing whether while they reject the yellow leaves they try the yellow flowers— It is impossible for me to judge whether the great attraction of the purple is in its darkness or brightness— I do not see how they can help having some perception of colour as they certainly see the difference between the purple & light brown of the paper unless to distinguish between light & dark is quite a different thing—

I cannot think after seeing the way they dash down on the little red flowers that grow on evergreen bushes in these gardens that they cd possibly do so so decidedly without distinguishing between the colours of flowers & leaves—

My Father will fill this up   Lena’s best love—4 Your most affec nephew | E. Langton

Just come from church   a humming bird moth was a long time examining the black letters on a marble tablet

My dear Elizth

As Edmund has probably told you all our news I merely add a line respecting himself— his cough, or rather clearing of his throat, which it most resembles, is so seldom that I should think it almost ridiculous to refer to it in any other case—and also in his if he did not look so delicate;—but I think in this respect he has improved— The Baby5 changed quite suddenly yesterday morning into a little lobster—later in the day blue as well as red— She appeared quite well and Young felt certain free from fever— this morning she has faded considerably though still very blotchy.— a third tooth is all but through— Her little song when composing herself for sleep with her head on one’s shoulder is the prettiest sound I ever heard—the very quintessence of innocence.— Our American friend Mrs. Curtis is very amusing for her innocent credulity, I told her as it is leap year I wished a very pretty Canadian girl would propose to me, on which she seriously asked is this really the custom in England, and then added to Lena she should think the difference in age too great (which being 50 years) was what she might safely “calculate.”6

I hope you will think it prudent to tempt your Aunt Fanny7   I think it would answer well to her— Tell her with my love I believe her right about John Bright8

Ever yours CL

CD annotations

1.1 taking … Aunt. 1.2] crossed blue crayon
4.1 My Father … Bright 8.2] crossed blue crayon


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Edmund Langton to S. E. Wedgwood, 9 November [1868]. The year is established by the reference to Charlotte Mildred Langton and the mention that it was a leap year (see below, n. 5). Charlotte Mildred was the only child of Edmund Langton to have been born in a leap year before the publication of Descent.
See letter from Edmund Langton to S. E. Wedgwood, 9 November [1868] and n. 4. CD discussed the attraction of Lepidoptera to bright colours in Descent 1: 399–400.
Emily Caroline Langton.
Charlotte Mildred Langton was born on 7 March 1868 (birth certificate, General Register Office).
Young and Mrs Curtis have not been further identified. Charles Langton had been a widower since the death of his second wife, Emily Catherine Darwin, in 1866.
Frances Allen.
The MP John Bright was re-elected in November 1868 and became president of the Board of Trade on 11 December 1868 (The Times, 12 December 1868, p. 6). In a letter to Henrietta Emma Darwin of 18 December [1868], Frances Allen described Bright as her ‘political hero’ (Emma Darwin (1904), 2: 224).


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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.


Some observations by EL on moths visiting flowers.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edmund Langton; Charles Langton
Sarah Elizabeth (Elizabeth) Wedgwood
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 82: A95
Physical description
2pp inc †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5756,” accessed on 29 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16