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Darwin Correspondence Project

From E. A. Darwin   18 August [1832]


Aug. 18.

My Dear Charles.

I find by a letter from Catty that the packet sails on Friday, so I write this to tell you about your commissions, tho’ I am afraid I shall hardly be able to get all your rattletraps in sufficient time to send them. Cuviers Mollusques1 are not to be had in London and are very dear & scarce. of all the books of travels only one was to be had an imperfect copy without the Atlas for three guineas & a half so I did not get—of the others one was £40 & another £30, consisting of a vast number of plates in folio. In short I have got none of them. I have got Humboldt Fragmens de Geologie et de Climatologie Asiatique2 which I suppose was the work you meant. The 8th vol of the Personal Narrative3 was not published. Leopold Von Buch’s Travels by Jamieson4 were in Norway & not Sweden so I have got that in its place & hope it is right. Bohn5 was very civil & thought he remembered something about the Linnæus6 but as you did not mention the Edition & there are so many of them he is not certain that he shall be able to procure you the sheets. Mr Banks has promised me the mirrors &c but as you know he is a slow coach. If Bohn should fail, I will send you my Linnæus which I have ordered up from Shrewsbury in case. Scoresby’s Arctic Regions7 are not to be found at Shrewsbury, and as you did not seem very anxious about them I have not thought it worth while to buy them. I could not procure any lace needles (so you wrote it) but I have got some lace pins, & some bead needles as being the finest made. Everything else I have done.—

You would have had a very pleasant summer in Shropshire this year, Sedgwick & Murchison8 were both geologizing there. Murchison went to examine all the country about the Ponsford Hills9 which even I should like to have joined him in. I have been making a great many plans for the summer, but they have all broken through and I am living or rather vegetating in the quietest manner possible in London thinking it quite an exertion if I can get round St Jame’s Park in the course of the day. I meant to have gone this summer with Sargeaunt10 to see the Auvergne, but he has been voted by his Doctor in a delicate state of health and is ordered off to Italy for a couple of years.

I have established a very comfortable little lab in my lodgings, which has long been my great desideratum in my London life, and that and smoking fills up my day delightfully. Next month I mean to go and pay Charlotte a visit at Ripley— Charlotte alas is very much deteriorated by her marriage contrary to the general rule of women being improved when they marry, and I fully expect that ⁠⟨⁠by⁠⟩⁠ the time you come home, she will have lea⁠⟨⁠rned⁠⟩⁠ to talk quite fluently about Lords & their pedigrees. I am quite convinced that is their subject tête à tête. I long to have a good groan with you over the incomparable throwing herself away. It certainly is the most wonderful event that ever happened in the family.

I am sorry to see in your last letter that you still look forward to the horrid little parsonage in the desert. I was beginning to hope I should have you set up in London in lodgings somewhere near the British Museum or some other learned place. My only chance is the Established Church being abolished, & in some places they are beginning to demand pledges to that effect. The question of pledges is now very much agitated, and I yesterday read an admirable letter from Tom Macaulay to the Electors of Leeds on the subject of pledges in which he refuses to give any direct ones merely stating his opinions openly & frankly. The abolition of taxes on newspapers, vote by ballot, abolition & commutation of tithes, abolition of slavery &c &c all of which he is in favor of, but which he will not pledge himself to vote for.11 Now that we have got the Reform Bill people seem disinclined to make any use of it, as a vast proportion have either neglected thro’ ignorance or else are unwilling to get themselves registered. This makes people more anxious than ever for vote by Ballot, and I have no doubt that will soon be carried. The poor old King is very unpopular now, going down to the house to prorogue parliament, he was received with groans, & at a great dinner of the National Political Union12 when his health was proposed it was absolutely refused to be drunk. I have written you all this politics tho’ I suppose you are too far from England to care much about it. Politics wont travel.

Good Bye My dear Charles, & write to me again when you want any more commissions and I shall have great pleasure in executing them and dont think of the trouble. I have great pleasure in reading your letters home and take the greatest interest in all your proceedings but do not wish that you should write to me, and if you do not hear very often from me it is you may be very sure not from want of love, but ⁠⟨⁠fr⁠⟩⁠om indolence, & not very well knowing what to write about London gossip will hardly carry to Shrewsbury much less across the Atlantic. Good Bye my best love & good wishes. E Darwin


Humboldt 1831. The flyleaf of the second volume is inscribed ‘Chas Darwin Monte Video Novem: 1832’. The volumes are lightly annotated and scored, mainly in pencil. The subjects of interest suggest that the notes were made after the voyage. In volume one the half-title page has written on it CD’s signature and ‘Interesting parts begin P 84’, ‘The Andes P 143.’ The facing page has the word ‘Metaphysics’.
The Personal narrative was complete in seven volumes. The eighth and ninth volumes of the Voyage were devoted to zoology and comparative anatomy; they were not translated.
Buch 1813. The copy in Darwin Library–CUL is inscribed ‘Chas Darwin M. Video Novr 1832’. There are no marks or annotations.
The Darwin Library–Down has both the Systema naturae, Ed. 13a, Cura J. F. Gmelin (bound in 10 vols.) (Linnaeus 1789–96) and the Systema vegetabilium, Ed. 15a … (Linnaeus 1797). The latter is inscribed ‘Erasmus Darwin Christ Coll 1825’. This may be the volume mentioned by Erasmus later in the letter. There was also at Shrewsbury an English translation of the Systema vegetabilium by Erasmus Darwin (Linnaeus 1783a; see King-Hele 1977, pp. 144–6, and letter from E. A. Darwin, [8 March 1825]). The Darwin Library–CUL has Linnaeus’s Philosophia Botanica (Linnaeus 1783b), lightly annotated. There is no evidence that CD had it on board the Beagle. The notes on the end-paper relate to later botanical interests; one of them calls attention to p. 87: ‘Maris fundus non destruit semina’ (‘The depth of the sea does not destroy seeds’).
A Pontesford Hill is discussed and illustrated in Murchison 1839, pp. 81, 263–4.
Thomas Babington Macaulay was M.P. for Leeds in 1831. The views listed by Erasmus are typical Whig causes of the 1830s. In his address to the electors of Leeds, Macaulay supported the Reform Bill as a moderate one which would prevent the present ministers being ‘superseded by able, vicious and destructive radicals, who would trample on Whig and Tory alike’ (Annual register, 1832, p. 47).
Political body founded by Francis Place in 1831 and designed to put pressure on the House of Lords to pass the Reform Bill.


Annual register: The annual register. A view of the history and politics of the year. 1838–62. The annual register. A review of public events at home and abroad. N.s. 1863–1946. London: Longman & Co. [and others].

Buch, Christian Leopold von. 1813. Travels through Norway and Lapland during the years 1806, 1807, and 1808. Translated by John Black. With notes by Robert Jameson. London: Henry Colburn.

Cuvier, Georges. 1817a. Le règne animal distribué d’après son organisation, pour servir de base a l’histoire naturelle des animaux et d’introduction à l’anatomie comparée. 4 vols. Paris: Deterville.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1805–34. Voyages aux régions équinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, fait en 1799 … 1804 par A. de Humboldt et A. Bonpland. 34 vols. Paris.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1814–29. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799–1804. By Alexander de Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland. Translated into English by Helen Maria Williams. 7 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; J. Murray; H. Colburn.

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1831. Fragmens de géologie et de climatologie asiatiques. 2 vols. Paris.

King-Hele, Desmond. 1977. Doctor of revolution. The life and genius of Erasmus Darwin. London: Faber & Faber.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1783a. Philosophia botanica, in qua explicantur fundamenta botanica cum definitionibus partium, exemplis terminorum, observationibus rariorum. 2d ed. Vienna.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1783b. A system of vegetables … with their character and differences, translated from the thirteenth edition … of the Systema vegetabilium … and from the Supplementum plantarum … by a botanical society at Lichfield. 2 vols. Lichfield and London.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1789–96. Caroli Linnaeai … Systema naturaea, sive regna tria naturaea systematice proposita per classes, ordines, genera, et species. 13th ed. by J. F. Gmelin. (Bound in 10 vols.) Lyons.

Linnaeus, Carolus (Carl von Linné). 1797. Systema vegetabilium secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus et differentiis. 15th ed. Göttingen.

Murchison, Roderick Impey. 1839. The Silurian system, founded on geological researches in the counties of Salop, Hereford, Radnor, Montgomery, Caermarthen, Brecon, Pembroke, Monmouth, Gloucester, Worcester, and Stafford; with descriptions of the coal-fields and overlying formations. 2 pts. London. [Vols. 4,7]

Scoresby, William. 1820. An account of the Arctic regions, with a history and description of the northern whale-fishery. 2 vols. Edinburgh: Archibald Constable and Co., Edinburgh, and Hurst, Robinson and Co., London.


Reports on the commissions CD requested of him [in a missing letter]; comments on English political issues.

Letter details

Letter no.
Erasmus Alvey Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Paid 20 AU 1832 CX
Source of text
DAR 204: 93
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 182,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

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