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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Robert Waring Darwin   [23 October 1825]1


Sunday morning.

My dear Father

As I suppose Erasmus has given all the particulars of the journey I will say no more about it, except that alltogether it has cost me 7 pounds— We got into our lodgings yesterday evening, which are very comfortable & near the College— Our Landlady, by name Mrs. Mackay, is a nice clean old body, and exceedingly civil & attentive— She lives in “11 Lothian Street Edinburg”2 & only four flights of steps from the ground floor which is very moderate to some other lodgings that we were nearly taking— The terms are 1£—6s . for two very nice & light bedrooms & a nice sitting room; by the way, light bedrooms are very scarce articles in Edinburg, since most of them are little holes in which there is neither air or light. We called on Dr. Hawley3 the first morning, whom I think we never should have found had it not been a good natured Dr. of Divinity who took us into his Library & showed us a map, & gave us how find him: Indeed all the Scotchmen are so civil and attentive, that it is enough to make an Englishman ashamed of himself—

I should think Dr. Butler or any other fat English divine would take two utter strangers into his library and show them the way! When at last we found the Doctor & having made all the proper speeches on both sides we all three set out and walked all about the town; which we admire excessively; indeed Bridge Street is the most extraordinary thing I ever saw, and when we first looked over the sides we could hardly believe our eyes, when, instead of a fine river we saw a stream of people—

We spend all our mornings in promenading about the town, which we know pretty well, and in the Evenings we go to the play to hear Miss Stephens,4 which is quite delightful. She is very popular here, being encored to such a degree that she can hardly get on with the play— On Monday we are going to Der Fr.5 (I do not know how to spell the rest of the word)— Before we got into our lodgings we were staying at the Star Hotel in Princes St. where to my surprise I met with an old school fellow whom I like very much; he is just come back from a walking tour in Switzerland, and is now going to study for [his degree?].

The introductory lectures begin next Wednesday, and we were matriculated for them on Saturday: we pay 10s. & write our names in a book, & the ceremony is finished; but the Library is not free to us till we get a ticket from a Professor—6

We have just been to church and heard a sermon of only 20 minutes. I expected from Sir Walter Scott’s account, a soul-cutting discourse of 2 hours & a half—

I remain Yr. affectionate son | C. Darwin.


Dated from the reference to lectures beginning ‘next Wednesday’. Lectures for the 1825–6 session at the University began on Wednesday, 26 October (Ashworth 1935, p. 97).
The site is now occupied by the Lecture Theatre of the Royal Scottish Museum (information supplied by Mr Antony P. Shearman, City Librarian of Edinburgh).
Probably Richard Maddock Hawley. The copy and Francis Darwin’s version both read ‘Hanley’, but no doctor by that name has been located. In her letter of [26 October 1825], Catherine Darwin clearly wrote ‘Hawley’.
Catherine Stephens, a leading soprano of the time. During October 1825 she appeared at the Theatre-Royal, Edinburgh.
Der Freischütz by Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was first performed at the Theatre-Royal, Edinburgh on 29 December 1824 (Harvard College Library Theatre Collection).
The anonymous author of two articles in the St. James’s Gazette, ‘Darwin in Edinburgh.–I.’, 16 February 1888, and ‘Darwin in Edinburgh.–II.’, 17 February 1888, states that the University Library record books for 1825–6 (since lost) showed that CD and Erasmus borrowed more books than other students. The St. James’s Gazette passage on CD’s borrowing reads: ‘They included Good’s “Study” [Good 1822] (with which his list opened), Pemberton on Viscera [Pemberton 1806] (which Erasmus also took out), Young’s Philosophy [Young 1807], Fleming’s Zoology [Fleming 1822], Kerr [?Kerr 1792] and Foster [not identified], two volumes on entomology, Wood on Insects [Wood 1821], Brook’s Conchology [Brookes 1815], and Newton’s Optics [Newton 1704]… What may be called the only lay work he took out was Boswell’s Johnson [Boswell 1791], which he seems to have read all through, carrying off a volume at a time.’ (16 February 1888, p. 5). In the following session (1826–7), however, CD did not pay the library deposit and borrowed no books at all (17 February 1888, p. 7) He paid his fees for two classes ‘Practice of Physic’ and ‘Midwifery’ and attended Robert Jameson’s lectures in Geology and Zoology, which he remembered as having been ‘incredibly dull’ (Autobiography, p. 52).


Ashworth, J. H. 1935. Charles Darwin as a student in Edinburgh, 1825–1827. [Read 28 October 1935.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 55 (1934–5): 97–113.

Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.

Boswell, James. 1791. The life of Samuel Johnson. 2 vols. London: Charles Dilly.

Brookes, Samuel. 1815. An introduction to the study of conchology. London.

Fleming, John. 1822. The philosophy of zoology; or, a general view of the structure, functions, and classification of animals. 2 vols. Edinburgh.

Good, John Mason. 1822. The study of medicine. 4 vols. London.

Kerr, Robert. 1792. The animal kingdom, or, zoological system of … C. Linnaeus. Class I. Mammalia … being a translation of that part of the Systema Naturaea … with numerous additions from more recent zoological writers. London.

ML: More letters of Charles Darwin: a record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1903.

Newton, Isaac. 1704. Opticks; or, a treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light. London.

Pemberton, Christopher Robert. 1806. A practical treatise on various diseases of the abdominal viscera. London.

Wood, William. 1821. Illustrations of the Linnaean genera of insects. 2 vols. London.

Young, Thomas. 1807. A course of lectures on natural philosophy and the mechanical arts. 2 vols. London.


First days in Edinburgh.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Waring Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 154: 68
Physical description
C 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 16,” accessed on 4 June 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1