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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Darwin   6 January 1826


Jan. 6th. | 1826—

My dear Caroline,

Many thanks for your very entertaining letter, which was a great relief after hearing a long stupid lecture from Duncan on Materia Medica— But as you know nothing either of the Lecture or Lecturers, I will give you a short account of them.— Dr. Duncan is so very learned that his wisdom has left no room for his sense, & he lectures, as I have already said, on the Materia Medica, which cannot be translated into any word expressive enough of its stupidity. These few last mornings, however, he has shown signs of improvement & I hope he will “go on as well as can be expected.”1 His lectures begin at eight in the morning.— Dr. Hope2 begins at ten o’clock, & I like both him & his lectures very much. (After which Erasmus goes to Mr. Lizars3 on Anatomy”, who is a charming Lecturer) At 12, the Hospital, after which I attend Munro on Anatomy— I dislike him & his Lectures so much that I cannot speak with decency about them.4 He is so dirty in person & actions.— Thrice a week we have what is called Clinical Lectures, which means lectures on the sick people in the Hospitals—-these I like very much.—5 I said this account should be short, but I am afraid it has been too long like the Lectures themselves.—

I will be a good boy, and tell something about Johnson again (not but what I am very much surprised that Papa should so forget himself as to call me, a Collegian in the University of Edinburgh, a boy.) he has changed his lodgings for the third time, he has got very cheap ones, but I am afraid it will not answer, for they must make up by cheating.— I hope you like Erasmus’ official news, he means to begin every letter so.— You mentioned in your letter that Emma was staying with you, if she is not gone ask her to tell Jos.6 that I have not succeeded in getting any [titanium],7 but that I will try again. Tell Katty and Susan I shall be very grateful if they will write to me, it is so pleasant receiving letters; and I hope, although our correspondence has begun late, you will send me many more nice affecting letters about dear little black nose. Erasmus thinks I shall have more pleasure in seeing it than all the rest of the families put together. You seem to hold the same opinion with regard to my dear little nephew.— I want to know how old I shall be next Birthday. I believe 17, & if so I shall be forced to go abroad for one year since it is necessary that I shall have completed my 21st. year before I take my degree. Now you have no business to be frowning & puzzling over this letter for I did not promise to write a good hand to you.

I remain your af— dear Caroline, | C. Darwin.

Love to Papa & tell him I am going to write to him in a few days—


CD refers to Andrew Duncan, the younger. A more favourable estimate of him is cited in Ashworth 1935. For a summary of the sources and background of all that is known of CD’s student days at Edinburgh, see Shepperson 1961.
The copy reads ‘Lezars’, which Francis Darwin changed to ‘Sizars’ (ML 1: 7). However, CD almost certainly referred to the surgeon John Lizars, later Professor of Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, author of Lizars 1822.
In the Autobiography, p. 47, CD says of Alexander Monro, the third: ‘[He] made his lectures on human anatomy as dull, as he was himself, and the subject disgusted me. It has proved one of the greatest evils in my life that I was not urged to practise dissection, for I should soon have got over my disgust; and the practice would have been invaluable for all my future work. This has been an irremediable evil, as well as my incapacity to draw.’
Little manuscript material survives from CD’s student days at Edinburgh. Some of his lecture notes of 1825–6, on medicine and chemistry, are preserved in DAR 5, which also contains an account of a zoological walk to Portobello. DAR 129 contains a diary of zoological and botanical observations made in 1826. A notebook in DAR 118 of zoological observations made in March 1827 records his observations on Flustra and Pontobdella muricata which he reported to the Plinain Natural History Society of the University of Edinburgh on 27 March 1827 (not 1826, as CD states in the Autobiography, p. 50). See Collected papers 2: 285–91 for a complete transcription by P. H. Barrett of the notebook, and Ashworth 1935, pp. 102–5, for an account of the Plinian Society meetings and CD’s membership, drawn from the minute-books of the Society.
A blank space was left in the copy after the word ‘any’; ‘titanium’ was inserted by Francis Darwin.


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.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Lizars, John. 1822. A system of anatomical plates of the human body, accompanied with descriptions, and physiological, pathological, and surgical observations. 3 vols. Edinburgh.

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.

Shepperson, G. 1961. The intellectual background of Charles Darwin’s student years at Edinburgh. In Banton, Michael, ed., Darwinism and the study of society: a centenary symposium. London: Tavistock Publications; Chicago: Quadrangle Books.


CD comments on lectures and lecturers at Edinburgh.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Darwin/Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Wedgwood
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 154: 28
Physical description
C 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 20,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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