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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. E. Litchfield   25 July 1872


July 25th 1872

My dearest H.

What a deal of pains you have taken over the chapt.— I am quite sorry that you shd. have had the trouble of writing out cleanly your corrections, though you thus saved me much trouble. It was, however, a tough job considering all your alterations, almost everyone of which has been accepted & all are good.— I struck out the long par. about which I asked you; though I did so at last with some regret.— When in doubt do not take your trick is a golden rule, I believe, in writing.— I agree to what you say about latter pars. in Chapt. & I have partly accepted your alterations. In the last Par. I cut the Gordion Knot by leaving out all about the philosophy of language. It ends rather flat, & flat it must remain.1

If you have nothing to say, say it, is not a golden rule in writing.

Very many thanks, I hope I have not killed you. I know that I am half-killed myself.—

Yours affect., | C. Darwin

F. says the Tennyson passage will do just as well afterwards.2

I have written to Uncle Ras. & I hope he will come at once.—3

We had a nice little sight of Ravens. [yesterday].4 Albert is really fatter I am convinced.5 We shall be delighted to see Hope & E.   Camilla comes Monday so I hope we shall have them first.6

I hope u will turn up Sat. I am feeling so utterly dead w. the heat7 I can hardly bear to think of the W.M.C. for Sat.8


Litchfield was probably reading the proofs of a chapter of Expression, possibly chapter eight, at the end of which CD gave a brief reference to Hensleigh Wedgwood’s On the origin of language (Wedgwood 1866) in his discussion of devotion. The phrase ‘do not take your trick’ may allude to card games such as whist in which it is sometimes necessary to lose a trick in order to strengthen your hand (see H. Jones 1868, p. 72).
The postscript is in Emma Darwin’s hand. F.: father. In Expression, p. 240, CD misquoted Alfred Tennyson’s lines sharp breaths of anger puffed Her fairy nostril out from ‘Merlin and Vivien’, the sixth poem in Idylls of the king (Tennyson 1859). CD may have copied these lines from Hensleigh Wedgwood’s A dictionary of English etymology (Wedgwood 1872, p. xlvi), where they are also misquoted (‘nostrils’ for ‘nostril’). Wedgwood 1872 was published in April 1872 (Publishers’ Circular, 16 April 1872, p. 247). There is an annotated copy of Wedgwood 1872 in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 853).
There is no evidence that Erasmus Alvey Darwin visited Down at this time.
Ravensbourne in Keston, Kent, was the home of the Bonham-Carter family. (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1872). Emma Darwin uses a symbol for yesterday: a circle with a tail pointing to the left.
Albert: probably Albert Venn Dicey, who married Elinor Mary Bonham-Carter in 1872. He suffered from muscular weakness due to an injury at birth (ODNB).
According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Frances Emma Elizabeth Wedgwood and ‘H’, possibly Hope Elizabeth Wedgwood, Frances’s daughter, stayed at Down from 29 to 31 July 1872; Camilla, probably Camilla Ludwig, also arrived on Monday 29 July and stayed until 10 August; and ‘Eupha’, Katherine Euphemia Wedgwood, was at Down on 2 August 1872.
Emma Darwin recorded in her diary (DAR 242) that the temperature on 25 July 1872 was 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and that Henrietta and Richard Buckley Litchfield visited Down on Saturday 3 August 1872.
W.M.C.: Working Men’s College, sixty or seventy members of which used to take country rambles in the summer. Litchfield wrote that CD and Emma invited the group to tea at Down House from 1873 onwards (Emma Darwin (1904) 2: 262). Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) for 30 June 1872 notes ‘W.M.C. party went’; there is no further mention of the WMC in that year.


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.

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

Jones, Henry. 1868. The laws and principles of whist stated and explained and its practice illustrated on an original system by means of hands played completely through by ‘Cavendish’. 8th edition. London: Thomas De La Rue & Co.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.

Tennyson, Alfred. 1859. Idylls of the king. London: E. Moxon.

Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1866. On the origin of language. London: N. Trübner & Co.

Wedgwood, Hensleigh. 1872. A dictionary of English etymology. 2d edition. London: Trübner and Co.


Thanks for her pains over corrections [for Expression].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henrietta Emma Darwin/Henrietta Emma Litchfield
Sent from
Source of text
John Wilson (dealer) (no date)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8427,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20