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Darwin Correspondence Project

From S. H. Haliburton   3 November [1872]1

Bridge House | Richmond | S. W.

Novr 3d.

My dear Charles Darwin

If I was to try & express to you, the extreme pleasure your letter had given me, to say nothing of the Book that accompanied it, I might be accused of flattery, or “soft Sawder”—2 Still, I may, (& I will) with truth declare that few letters, & few gifts have afforded me the gratification of yours yesterday— To know that I was still remembered by you, after such a lapse of years, is in itself a satisfaction

That remembrance has indeed been reciprocal, & often & often have I lamented that I never had a chance of seeing you— I have made enquiries from various friends of your’s, & have always been told, that even the excitement of meeting an old friend, was usually more than you could bear— Spite of this, I will still indulge the hope of once more shaking hands with one of the best & most valued friends of my youth—

How many sad changes have befallen us both, since we met, & how many of those we most loved, have been taken from us,—to me, especially Life is but a shadow, a remembrance, of happy bygone days—

I have, like you, a most vivid remembrance of the bright old Woodhouse times, in which you stand first & foremost3   I can recall the Beetle, & the Fungus hunting, & above all, the glee with which “Charles Darwin” used to be descried, cantering up to the house, it being a received opinion, that any frowns of the poor governor4 would be at once dispelled, you being always the most influential favourite— I have now in my possession a letter you wrote to me from “Terra del Fuego”, at my particular request, & I can often laugh at your boyish assertion, that the highest pitch of your ambition would be to be favourably alluded to, in Eddowe’s Journal!—5 I think that ambition has been attained, & something more

I live a very quiet, solitary life, only associating with a few old, & kind friends, my house is pretty enough, actually on Richmond Bridge, with small garden sloping down to the River— My old passion for Animals still continues, but alas, I have no room for Poultry here, I have tried Pigeons, but they & the Cats were incompatible, so my live stock is now reduced to two tiny Maltese dogs, two very large persian Cats, & an old Cockatoo that I have had since 1848— I am certain your book will very much interest & amuse me— When one lives as I do, alone with Animals, their habits & manners become doubly interesting & familiar— My health is but indifferent, I fancy there is something amiss with my heart & the famed “Owen Constitution” is not what it was, in days of Yore. Time, & Sorrow, have much tried me—

You ask after the Family, poor Fanny, as you perhaps know, became a Widow 6 months ago, & now lives in London, with two unmarried daughters—6 Caroline Lister is settled in Yorkshire, Sobie lives alone at Cirencester, Arthur now reigns at poor old Woodhouse, Francis lives on his small property near Overton, & Charles is Chief Constable of Oxfordshire,7 with a Wife & 5 Children— Of your Children, I have from time to time heard, that many of them inherit the Family talents, & I think you have one Daughter married,8 if not more—

When Summer returns, if we live till then, may I look forward to our meeting somehow & somewhere, I often go to London, & would meet you anywhere you might appoint though I must not run the risk of affecting your health—

Once more, thanking you from my heart, for the pleasure you have given me, believe me, always, most truly & affectionately Yours | S. H. Haliburton

Why did you address me so formally?—


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to S. H. Haliburton, 1 November [1872].
CD had sent Haliburton a copy of Expression (see letter to S. H. Haliburton, 1 November [1872]).
William Mostyn Owen Sr, Haliburton’s father.
The letter has not been found; Haliburton probably made the request before CD left on the Beagle voyage (see Correspondence vol. 1, letter from Sarah Williams, 26[–31] August 1832; Williams was Haliburton’s first married name). Eddowes’s Journal was a weekly regional newspaper (North 1997, s.v. Salopian Journal and Courier of Wales).
Fanny Myddelton Biddulph was Haliburton’s sister and an intimate correspondent of CD’s before the Beagle voyage; her husband, Robert Myddelton Biddulph, died in 1872. Her unmarried daughters were Fanny Charlotte and Alice Myddelton Biddulph.
Caroline Lister and Sobieski Mostyn Owen were Haliburton’s sisters. Arthur Mostyn Owen, Haliburton’s brother, was the eldest surviving son of William Mostyn Owen Sr, and had inherited the family property at Woodhouse. Haliburton also refers to Francis and Charles Mostyn Owen.
Henrietta Emma Darwin married Richard Buckley Litchfield in 1871 (see Correspondence vol. 19).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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

North, John S. 1997. The Waterloo directory of English newspapers and periodicals, 1800–1900. 10 vols. Waterloo, Ontario: North Waterloo Academic Press.


Thanks for copy of Expression.

Reminiscences of their youth.

Letter details

Letter no.
Sarah Harriet Mostyn Owen/Sarah Harriet Williams/Sarah Harriet Haliburton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 85
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8595,” accessed on 20 April 2021,

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