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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emma Darwin to V. L. Isitt   [before 17 September 1871]1

My dear Miss I.

I have received from my niece your letter to her (in which you say you wd like to undertake the situation of sec. to Mr D. your testimonials are most satisfactory & I will carefully return them to you—2

It is so very doubtful Mr Darwin being able to dictate to his own satisfaction or employ a sec. that I think the best plan would be if you wd come & spend a few days with us that you may judge you may see whether the whole thing & accommodations in the village wd suit you; & if so Mr D. wd be glad to make the experiment for about a month.3

If you will appoint the 1st day next week that will suit you we will meet you at W. Croydon Station at any hour of the afternoon that you will fix— Mr Darwin is so m. of an invalid that I will not ask you to spend the evening w. us but I hope you will


The date is established by the reference in Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) to Isitt’s visit from 18 to 20 September 1871.
Emma may refer to Frances Julia (Snow) Wedgwood, who had a number of literary connections, probably including the Tennysons; Virginia Lavinia Isitt had formerly worked for Emily Jesse, Alfred Tennyson’s sister (Wedgwood and Wedgwood 1980; letter from Emma Darwin to Henrietta Emma Darwin, [17 September 1871] (DAR 219.9: 95)).
Isitt only stayed for two days (see n. 1, above). She probably stayed at Down House with the Darwin family; Emma wrote to her daughter Henrietta on 17 September 1871 that they were having trouble finding accommodation for Isitt in the village; ‘[the villagers] do not like to undertake a young lady they require so m. attendance’ (DAR 219.9: 95).


Wedgwood, Barbara and Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1980. The Wedgwood circle, 1730–1897: four generations of a family and their friends. London: Studio Vista.


Feels it unlikely that CD could employ a secretary but he is prepared to experiment if Miss I. would care to come to Down for a period.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Virginia Lavinia Isitt
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 96: 101
Physical description
inc 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7410,” accessed on 26 January 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19