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Darwin Correspondence Project

From D. A. Spalding   21 July 1874

Ravenscroft | Chepstow

July 21/74

My dear Mr Darwin

I have only too good an excuse to offer for not having written sooner to thank you for your letter & for the observations your son was kind enough to send me.1 Nursing Lord Amberley’s oldest boy in London had exhausted me, & when we came here I was very ill. Then in the death of Lady Amberley I lost the best & kindest friend I had ever had.2 I still feel as if it would be impossible for me ever to recover. She was more or less generally recognised as a superior woman, but only those who lived with her could know anything of the altogether exceptional goodness of her character. Her loss not only to her husband but to others also is quite irreparable.

She had arranged opportunities for me to observe & experiment on various kinds of young animals— These opportunities have passed away, & I do not know when I shall have the heart to begin again.3

I am at present planning to go to Scotland for a change.

In thanking you for having so kindly allowed me to pay you a visit I must say that I never spent two hours more pleasantly than on that occasion & that I shall always esteem it one of the highest honours I have been permitted to enjoy.4

With kind regards to Mrs Darwin & many thanks to your son

I am yours sincerely | D. A Spalding


CD’s letter has not been found, but see the letter to G. H. Darwin, 27 May [1874]. George Howard Darwin evidently sent some of his notes to Spalding, but they have not been identified or found.
Spalding had become tutor to Frank Russell, the son of Lord and Lady Amberley (John and Katharine Louisa Russell), in 1873. In May 1874, Frank became ill with diphtheria, but recovered; his mother caught the disease and died in June 1874 (Moorehead 1992, p. 14). For more on Spalding’s relationships with Lady Amberley, see ODNB s.v. Spalding, Douglas Alexander.
Spalding’s earlier article on instinct had interested CD (see Spalding 1873 and Correspondence vol. 21, letter to Nature, [before 13 February 1873]).
Spalding visited CD on 27 May 1874 (see letter to G. H. Darwin, 27 May [1874]).


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

Moorehead, Caroline. 1992. Bertrand Russell, a life. London: Sinclair-Stevenson.

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.

Spalding, Douglas Alexander. 1873. Instinct. With original observations on young animals. Macmillan’s Magazine 27 (1872–3): 282–93.


Thanks for CD’s son’s observations

and for allowing DAS to visit Down.

Letter details

Letter no.
Douglas Alexander Spalding
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 221
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9557,” accessed on 1 October 2020,

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