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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Eliza Meteyard   27 June 1874

5 Squires Mount. | Hampstead. N.W.

June 27. 1874

Dear Sir,

As you so kindly appended your valuable signature to my Memorial I am sure you will be pleased to hear that it has been successful, & that Her Majesty, on the recommendation of Mr Disraeli, has increased my Pension on the Civil List to £100 per annum for the rest of my life.1 This is a great boon—freeing my mind—as it will do from the constant anxiety of how to live—& enabling me to bend my attention to better work—than any yet done—among which—in a new edition—will I hope be a more perfected Memoir of your illustrious grandfather—Mr Wedgwood.2

I have begun my MS book in relation to “the Darwins” & will send it in November with the ‘Handbook’. The letters, so far as I have copied relate to the proof sheets of the lines on the Portland Vase.3 Dr Johnson4 of Shrewsbury has made a collection of letters & papers relative to—as also written by, Dr R. W. Darwin.5 Last year Dr Johnson offered them to me for literary use. I have none. Still they might—if copied—be serviceable to the future historian— so, as next month I may be in Shrewsbury—I think of taking loan of the papers & forwarding them to you to look over. Such material so easily perishes, or is lost sight of.

When at work last autumn on ‘Memorials of Wedgwood’ I was deeply struck with the rude vigour of the subject of one of ‘Wedgwood & Bentleys’ plaques—of which—with this is an autotype—which please retain.6 The humanization of the fauns & satyrs is most wonderful. Where Wedgwood derived this subject from I cannot say—though the treatment is that of the Renaissance. To me it appears that all forms of this class were primarily derived from living objects; & that the antique artists simply vitalized descriptions of half humanized forms handed down profoundly remote—yet most reliable tradition. The satyrs, the fauns, the pigmies are undoubtedly derivations of actual forms—just as in our own country as elsewhere—the traditions of great worms, dragons, & other mighty reptiles & animals living in & creeping out of caves—point to the time, when man commenced his warfare with, & subdued, the last of the prehistoric fauna. Apropos to the fauns & satyrs, I came upon a remarkable passage in King’s work on ancient gems. He quotes from Cæsar—& Cæsar, if I recollect, refers to the Phœnician voyages. The passage refers to faun-like forms seen on the heights of Gibraltar.7

I hope you will not think me presumptuous in referring to these subjects—but they are those in which I take a profound interest. I have been a great reader of your books—& had I had culture sufficient I should be very scientific. From association with my brother William8—dead many years—I derive these predilictions. Among his books—was one—which if you have never seen—you may like to look over—& as it is of no use to me—I shall be honoured if you will place it on your book-shelves. Verity was a wonderful man—but he died young—in Paris.9 He was an Englishman.

Hoping you will pardon this long note. With compliments to Mrs Darwin. I am—with great respect | Yours obliged & truly | Eliza Meteyard.

In Mr Lewes’s new work ‘Problems of Life & Mind’ is an argument very ably brought out—as to the non-necessity of “missing links”10

No answer to this note is required, and if when Mrs Darwin sees or writes to Mr Hensleigh Wedgwood—she will thank him—from me—for his signature & will tell him of my success—I shall be very much obliged.

Footnotes

See letter from Eliza Meteyard, 20 April 1874. Civil-list pensions were paid from a government grant to the Crown; Meteyard’s original pension, approved by Queen Victoria in 1869, was for services to literature and the Liberal party (Meteyard 1970 1: [xxv]); Benjamin Disraeli was leader of the newly elected Conservative government.
Meteyard had published a life of Josiah Wedgwood I in two volumes (Meteyard 1865–6); there were no further editions in her lifetime.
Meteyard published a handbook for collectors of Wedgwood pottery in 1875 (Meteyard 1875); no published work on the Darwin family by Meteyard exists and no further mention of a manuscript has been found. CD had provided family letters for her earlier biographical works (see Correspondence vol. 13, letter from Eliza Meteyard, 17 November 1865), and later expressed reservations about their use (Correspondence vol. 19, letter to Henry Johnson, 23 December 1871). The original Portland vase is a Roman cameo glass vessel now in the British Museum. Josiah Wedgwood I made limited-edition copies in jasperware, the first of which he sent to Erasmus Darwin in 1789; the two men corresponded at length about it and Erasmus Darwin wrote poetry inspired by the vase (King-Hele 1999, pp. 243–4, 251, 273).
Henry Johnson.
Robert Waring Darwin.
Thomas Bentley was a partner in Josiah Wedgwood I’s ceramics manufacturing business from 1769 until his death in 1780. Autotypes were durable monochrome facsimiles produced by a carbon printing process patented in 1868 (OED); the image sent to CD has not been found but was ‘A Bacchanalian sacrifice’ (Meteyard 1874, plate XXI, bottom).
Charles William King suggested that a creature described as a satyr in Plutarch’s life of Sulla may have been one of the baboons or large apes that were still to be found on high ground in Gibraltar (King 1872, 1: 264; see also Perrin trans. 1968, pp. 409–10).
William Horatio Meteyard.
Robert Verity published books on homoeopathy (Verity 1836) and on the impact of civilisation on the nervous system (Verity 1837); neither is known to have been in CD’s library.
George Henry Lewes discussed objections to the theory of natural selection based on the absence of intermediate forms or ‘missing links’ in Lewes 1874–5, 1: 301–4. He argued that the ‘animal series’ was an ‘ideal construction’ rather than a description of reality, and that continuity of form was incompatible with the variety necessary for evolution to take place.

Summary

Her memorial has passed and her civil list pension has been increased to £100 per annum for life.

Dr Johnson of Shrewsbury has R. W. Darwin letters.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9518
From
Eliza Meteyard
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Hampstead
Source of text
DAR 171: 164
Physical description
8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9518,” accessed on 19 May 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-9518

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22

letter