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Darwin Correspondence Project

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

Hotel des Iles d’or | Hyères

Nov 9

My dear Aunt Eliz—

Today & yesterday have been most bitter & in consequence I have a bad cold & begin to feel sceptical about the climate again— tomorrow I trust the warmth will come back & re-awaken my faith   It wd not be so very bad in England but here the fires wont draw & there are gales blowing in at the 3 doors & 2 windows that each of our rooms possesses— We hear that they have been having snow in Paris. The cold has the solitary advantage of doing away with the mosquitoes but that does not compensate—

I really shd not be surprized if Aunt Fanny2 has courage to come out with you & wish she wd. if it wd be likely to answer to her but that is very difficult to guess— certainly nobody has such a love for the South as she has— I’m afraid we shall not see much more of the sphinxes but one came in since I heard from you & we watched him—3 In one room there are painted largeish dark purple flowers with a gold spot in the middle & those he examined flying from one to another but I cd not see that he tried to use his proboscis, he seemed rather as if he thought they were crevices & wanted to take refuge in them, wh he afterwards did in a corner of a dressing gown— he also examined a dark border to the paper & mahogany knobs on the curtain rods— he seemed as if the cold had made him rather stupid— In another room he tried some bunches of pinkish violet flowers & red & yellow anemonies well painted— The purple flowers were not very good, but caught the eye being on a light paper   The other sphinxes we have seen were more lively trying flower after flower, much more quickly— I am afraid they do not only care for bright colours as they were very much interested in trying the key hole & the dark mahogany knobs, any dark spot seems to attract them— We think however that the flowers are the chief object & they seem to aim at the middle of the flowers, marked by a gold or black spot— The moths are not large & look to me exactly the same as the common Humming bird moth—4 I hope they may come back if the warm weather does & then we will try to observe more

Please tell Henrietta that Sarah5 does not know where the woman lives at Cannes & that she has left Villeneuve or whereever it was— however she knows somebody going to Cannes who will take the 12 franc— The memorandums are in the parcel wh. is on it’s way. This information I give like a parrot without understanding much about it, not half so much as poor old Poll understands of what he says— I was so sorry to leave him in London & quite surprised at getting so fond of a Parrot— He has so much character— On the journey he always spoke to us whenever we looked in at him, or made some of his civil noises.

Lena sends her best love & my Father.6 Your most affec Nephew | E. Langton

CD annotations

1.1 Today … she has— 2.3] crossed pencil
2.3 I’m afraid] opening square bracket pencil
2.15 they were … attract them— 2.16] scored pencil
3.3 The memorandums … noises. 3.8] crossed pencil


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Edmund and Charles Langton to S. E. Wedgwood, [after 9 November 1868].
Frances Allen.
Sphinx moths belong to the family Sphingidae.
Langton refers to the humming-bird hawk-moth, Macroglossa stellatarum. In Descent 1: 400, CD mentioned humming-bird moths being attracted to flowers painted on walls in the south of France.
Henrietta Emma Darwin went abroad on 31 August 1868 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). She may have been in France sometime in October 1868 (letter from Emma Darwin to Henrietta Emma Darwin, [10 October 1868]; DAR 219.9: 62). Sarah has not been further identified.
Langton refers to his wife, Emily Caroline Langton, and to Charles Langton.


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


Observations on a Sphinx moth; attraction of dark spots.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edmund Langton
Sarah Elizabeth (Elizabeth) Wedgwood
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 82: A93–4
Physical description
4pp †(by CD)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6453,” accessed on 9 July 2020,

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