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Darwin Correspondence Project

From William Erasmus Darwin to Emma Darwin   28 February [1868]1


Feb 28

My dear Mama,

Thank you for your letter   I return Frank’s, which is always good fun. I am glad to hear he is taking up Nat. Science for scholarship.2

I am decidedly better, and I think Leith Hill helped to set me up;3 & I am out as much as possible Every day which is the best sort of cockering up.

this is for papa:

the tears first rolled out of eyes at 6 weeks, but young Mrs Burnaby says she was surprised & so was her mother to see the tears roll over on her (Mrs B’s) baby at one month or thereabouts, & she said that they observed to Each other at the time that they had never seen tears so soon in other children—4

As far as Sanford can judge the proper squalling mouth is an oblong & therefore both sets of muscles would be necessary to put the mouth in right shape.5

If you want a couple of those low wicker chairs I can get you them carriage free for 5/- each, they are made neat for drawing room & are very comfortable   I am getting one for myself. The settee was £7.2.0 if you like to send me a cheque.6

Your affect son W.E.D.

I send M. Naudin & Wheatstone7

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘(Keep)’ pencil, square brackets in original MS


The year is established by the reference to a cheque for a settee (see n. 6, below).
The letter from Francis Darwin has not been found. He had entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1866 (Alum. Cantab.). The natural sciences tripos was established in 1851 for students who had received a BA in classics or mathematics; it was opened to men who were studying for the BA in 1861 (Brooke 1988–2004, 3: 203–4, 231–2, 4: 153–7; see also MacLeod and Moseley 1982). Trinity College awarded scholarships in the natural sciences in 1869 and 1870 (Cambridge University calendar 1869 and 1870).
Leith Hill Place in Surrey was the home of Josiah Wedgwood III, Emma Darwin’s brother, and Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, CD’s sister (Freeman 1978).
William may refer to the family of Richard Beaumont Burnaby of Carlton Crescent, Southampton (Post Office directory of Hampshire, Dorsetshire, and Wiltshire 1867). In Expression, p. 153, CD remarked that the period of infancy when tears began to flow freely appeared to be ‘very variable’.
Sanford has not been identified. CD described the movements of the two sets of muscles above and below the mouth, which gave it a ‘squarish outline’ when crying, in Expression, pp. 149–51.
CD recorded a payment of £7 2s. for ‘W.E.D. settee’ in his Classed account books (Down House MS) on 1 March 1868.
William evidently refers to works by Charles Victor Naudin and Charles Wheatstone. There is a copy of Naudin 1862 in the Darwin Library–CUL, and several articles by Naudin are in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Brooke, Christopher N. L., ed. 1988–2004. A history of the University of Cambridge. 4 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Naudin, Charles Victor. 1862. Cucurbitacées cultivées au Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle en 1862. Description d’espèces nouvelles et de quelques formes hybrides obtenues de plantes de cette famille. Annales des Sciences Naturelles (Botanique) 4th ser. 18: 159–208.

Post Office directory of Hampshire, Dorsetshire, and Wiltshire: Post Office directory of Hampshire, Dorsetshire, and Wiltshire. Post Office directory of Dorsetshire, Wiltshire, and Hampshire, including the Isle of Wight. London: Kelly & Co. 1848–75.


Crying in babies.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 86
Physical description
ALS 4pp † (by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5952,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

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