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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Andrew Clark   3 September 1873

16, Cavendish Square. W.

3 Sep: 1873

My dear Mr. Darwin

I thank you exceedingly for your kind letter & acknowledge, as against myself, the wisdom of your resolution.1

In my eagerness to get near to you I became partially blind; but with the just touch of an independent hand you have restored me to sight.2

Nevertheless I indulge the hope that the time will come when I may offer without indelicacy & you may accept without reluctance & without sense of obligation such small service as it is in my power to render you.3

I examined the urine with care: it is of good density & although loaded with uric acid it contains no albumen. The kidneys therefore are quite sound & I have no qualification to make of the statement that you are quite free from organic disease.—

It is not now difficult to see the way in which your troubles arise & make themselves manifest: there is first of all the acid indigestion, then there is the retention in the blood and in the tissues of acid waste stuffs*, and lastly as this retention now & then rises into a big wave it worries the nervous system and then breaks into a shower of uric acid which falls through the kidneys & escapes by the urine.—

The right method of managing this state of affairs is equally plain: we must diminish the manufacture and increase the output of acid stuff.— The one is to be done by attention to the quantity & quality of the food; the other by free action of the skin. Upon these two notes I have composed my diet score which will be handed to you by Mr. Willey.4 I hope you will practise it daily for a few weeks & that you will suspend your judgement of its merits for at least a fortnight to come. It will not suit you at once & even later it may need modification: there will be no getting to paradise without the passage of purgatory

If anything occurs to you pray let me hear from you & if you put your name in the corner of the envelope your letter will be forwarded.

Sincerely yours | A Wm Clark

i.e the “gouty” state.


CD’s letter to Clark has not been found.
Clark alludes to the Biblical verses in Mark 8:22–6, possibly with respect to the payment of his fee (see n. 3, below).
George Howard Darwin, who was also being treated by Clark, had experienced difficulty in getting Clark to accept his fee (letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Litchfield, [2 September 1873] (DAR 219.9: 105); Emma Darwin (1904) 2: 266–7). According to Atkins 1974, p. 38, Clark always refused to take a fee from CD, but CD recorded having paid Clark £14 14s. (fourteen guineas) on 1 September 1873 (CD’s Classed account books (Down House MS)).
Clark was renowned for treatments based on a strict regimen (ODNB). Henry Willey was a physician who practised in Heathfield, Bromley. According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Clark had attended CD on 30 August and Willey visited him on 5 September. Clark’s medical approach was similar to that of Henry Bence Jones, who had successfully treated CD in 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter to T. H. Huxley, 4 October [1865]).


Atkins, Hedley J. B. 1974. Down, the home of the Darwins: the story of a house and the people who lived there. London: Royal College of Surgeons.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

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.

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.


Diagnosis of CD’s illness; prescribed diet.

Letter details

Letter no.
Andrew Clark, 1st baronet
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Cavendish Square, 16
Source of text
DAR 161: 151
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9041,” accessed on 29 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21