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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Downing   20 October [1873]1

Down. | Beckenham. Kent.

Oct 20th.

Dear Sir.

I have been much gratified by your letter.2 It is in the highest degree satisfactory to me to find that a man with such large experience as yourself agrees with what I have deduced to a considerable extent.— I should much enjoy seeing you here, but I am in some perplexity   I have lately been ill with some secondary head affection, & my doctor urges me not to exert myself by much conversation.—3 In fact I can rarely talk with anyone for more than half an hour & sometimes for not so long; though I am able to do a good deal of scientific work if without any excitement— Our nearest station is Orpington on the S.E. Ry4 (starting from Charing Cross) & my house is 4 miles from the Station. I cannot think it would be worth your while to lose almost a whole day in London to come down here for 12 or 34 of an hours talk— Would it not be more convenient to you to write to me from Ireland?— But if you like to come I shall be pleased, In this case please to come by the train leaving Charing cross at 10o 35’ & take a fly at Orpington and you will arrive here at 11o 45’ Note. This is my best time in the day. We will lunch at 12o 45’ & then you can leave at 1o 20’ for Orpington for train which starts at 2o 4’ for London; All this sounds very inhospitable but I can assure you that I have no choice in the matter;5

Thanking you for your very kind letter, I remain | Dear Sir | Yours faithfully | Ch. Darwin.

If you come kindly inform me by Post Card of the day.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from John Downing, 13 November 1873.
Downing’s letter has not been found; he was a respected shorthorn breeder from Ireland.
CD was consulting Andrew Clark (letter from G. H. Darwin, [1 October 1873]).
S.E. Ry: South-Eastern Railway.
Downing visited on 24 October 1874 (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 24 [October 1873]).


Gratified that a man of JD’s experience agrees with him.

Would enjoy seeing him at Down but it could only be for a half-hour’s talk at most, because of his health.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Downing
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 418
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9104,” accessed on 20 July 2019,

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