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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Syms Covington   16 January 1859

Down Bromley Kent

Jan. 16th.

Dear Covington

I have got the little Book for you, but I have only this minute discovered (for the seal tore by an odd chance the exact spot) that you asked me to get two copies.1 But I really think it would be superfluous. You may rely on it that the man is an advertising Humbug. I know plenty of people, & have one relation very deaf, & everyone in London would know about this man’s powers of curing if true. You may depend on it, that besides syringing in certain cases there is little or nothing to be done.—

My Father who was a very wise man, said he had known numbers who had been much injured by Aurists & none who had been benefitted. A common good surgeon can do all that these humbugs can do.— I am very sorry to hear about your deafness increasing: it is a very great misfortune for you, but I fear you must look at it as incurable.2 I am glad to hear that you are doing pretty well; & if you can settle your sons in an agricultural line, they will have no cause to complain, for no life can be more healthy or happy.

We have had an unhappy summer: my eldest girl having been very ill with Diptheria, a new & very fatal throat complaint,3 & my youngest Baby Boy having died at the same time of Scarlet fever.4 My second daughter is also very delicate.5 After our misery we went to Isle of Wight for six weeks for a change.—6

My health keeps very poor & I never know 24 hours comfort. I force myself to try & bear this as incurable misfortune. We all have our unhappinesses, only some are worse than others. And you have a heavy one in your deafness.—

With every good wish for the prosperity of your self & family, believe me | Dear Covington | Yours very sincerely |

Ch. Darwin7


Parts of the letter text were torn when the letter was opened.
Covington had suffered from deafness from his youth. In 1843, CD sent an ear trumpet to him in Australia (Correspondence vol. 2, letters to W. S. MacLeay, 29 May 1839, and to Syms Covington, 7 October 1843).
Henrietta Emma Darwin had contracted diphtheria in June 1858 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 [June 1858]).
Charles Waring Darwin died on 28 June 1858.
Elizabeth Darwin.
See ‘Journal’ (Appendix II).
Several alterations, in an unidentified hand, have been made to the manuscript. These have not been recorded in the transcript.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.


Regrets SC’s increasing deafness, but advises that aurists are humbugs.

Tells of illnesses in family and his own poor health. "I never know 24 hours comfort."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Syms Covington
Sent from
Source of text
Brian Sirl (private collection)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2400,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7