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Darwin Correspondence Project

To E. A. Darwin   20 September 1873

Sep 20th. 1873.

My dear Eras.

As I have great confidence in your judgment, I much wish that you would deliberately consider the following case. The other day I was saying, half in joke, that I could give 2 scientific secretaries work to do. Frank heard me, and it now seems that he and Amy had discussed this notion, and he I find to my surprise anxiously desires to fill such a post, chiefly because he, earnestly desires to aid me, and partly because he would much like the work.1 I will give you my perplexed views. It would be delightful to Emma and me, and Frank would generally have plenty of time to go on with independant researches in Nat. Hist. He admits that it would be giving up being a Dr., but he agrees that he had better take his M.D degree next summer.2 In July 1871 William carefully estimated the value of my and Emma’s property, and it seems according to our wills that each son would have £30,000; and this would produce 1200 a year.3 But per contra much of my property is in railways, chiefly guaranteed, yet their value may well fall. On the other hand there is very little chance of his succeeding for many years; and would a man with a nearly certain prospect of 1200 per ann., ever slave as a man must to get on as a Dr.? If he gains some reputation as a naturalist, he might in after years obtain some professorship, and it certainly looks as if science was rising in importance; and if so more places will be created. I think I could do him good by suggesting subjects for investigation, and if the results proved valuable he should publish them himself, saying or not as it might appear right, that the work was suggested by me. With his excellent abilities, no doubt new subjects would occur to his own mind whilst doing work for me. My name possibly might be of some little service to him; on the other hand, so spiteful are many men that original work on his part would often be attributed to me. I think he has a real and strong taste for natural History. I shall be very much obliged for your judgment. If he is my secretary, I should pay him I suppose £200 a year, and I should allow him as much as I could in fairness, assuming that all the other sons marry; and I suppose this would be £500 a year. He could then live in one of the houses in Down whenever one was vacant,4 or with us for some months.

Yours affectionately | Ch Darwin.


Amy Ruck and Francis Darwin were engaged (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter to G. H. Darwin, 3 May [1872]). They married in July 1874, after which Francis became CD’s secretary (see Emma Darwin (1904) 2: 269).
Francis had been studying medicine at St George’s Hospital, London, and at Cambridge. He received his medical degree from Cambridge in 1875 (Alum. Cantab.).
In October 1873, Emma Darwin found out that Down Lodge was to be let (see letter to Frederick Allen’s agent, [October 1873] and n. 1).


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 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.


Consults about the wisdom of Frank’s becoming CD’s assistant rather than practising medicine.

Outlines his finances.

[Copy in EAD’s hand.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 105: B1–3
Physical description
CC 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9060,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

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