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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Wedgwood   [20 January 1839]


Sunday Night

My dear Emma

I suspect I have to thank you, that I am living man, for if you had not given me the sandwiches I should have died from starvation in one of the rail road carriages. We only got to Birmingham, five minutes before the London train started, so that by the time I had got my luggage all safe & a ticket, the bell rung to be off.— I drank a glass of water preparatory & eat my luncheon in the coach: nevertheless I was awesomely hungry by 9 oclock when, I reached home, good dear home in Gower Stt.— There is something good in all bad things: in the first place I had no dinner to pay for; the doing of which to the amount of half a crown had considerably ruffled my companion’s temper without apparently having filled his stomach; & secondly they had no time to weigh my luggage, which they did at Whitmore & made me pay three shillings for.— I vow, during our journeys to & fro, we will buy a basket & take dinner with us, & a bottle of water; my inward man shall not be so maltreated another time.—

I have no very particular news to tell you, as you will guess by my having written so full an account of my stomachic disasters Yesterday I had several notes & much scrattle, which kept me till one oclock at home. I then paid Erasmus a visit, comforted him greatly by telling him he would not be wanted, left my parcels for Fanny who was expected there in the evening on her passage to Woolwich, or on Monday, & then sallied forth with Erasmus to do a little shopping.— We went to the Baker St bazaar, & bought several articles of coarse furniture, which the servants were in immediate want of,—ordered the clock home, & paid a shop a visit to order some fire irons, for the bed room, which greatly tempted me to buy lamps, all sorts of nice pots, pans, urns &c &c.— But I vow I wont go in any more shops, till you come up & take final charge of me.— Thank Providence I shall not be a free agent much longer,—you madam, shall have a deal of responsibility on your own dear shoulders,—so prepare to be very strict.—

I canot tell you how much I enjoyed my Maer visit,—I felt in anticipation my future tranquil life: how I do hope you may be as happy as I know I shall be: but it frightens me, as often as I think of what a family you have been one of.— I was thinking this morning how on earth it came, that I, who am fond of talking & am scarcely ever out of spirits, should so entirely rest my notions of happiness on quietness & a good deal of solitude; but I believe the explanation is very simple, & I mention it, because it will give you hopes, that I shall gradually grow less of a brute, —it is that during the five years of my voyage (& indeed I may add these two last) which from the active manner in which they have been passed, may be said to be the commencement of my real life, the whole of my pleasure was derived, from what passed in my mind, whilst admiring views by myself, travelling across the wild desserts or glorious forests, or pacing the deck of the poor little Beagle at night.— Excuse this much egotism,— I give it you, because, I think you will humanize me, & soon teach me there is greater happiness, than building theories, & accumulating facts in silence & solitude. My own dearest Emma, I earnestly pray, you may never regret the great, & I will add very good, deed, you are to perform on the Tuesday: my own dear future wife, God bless you. But I will not be solemn any more, but will tell you, of an addition to our plate room, which is to astonish all Gower Stt.— my good old friend Herbert, sent me a very nice little note, with a a massive silver weapon, which he called a Forficula, (the Latin for an earwig) & which I thought was to catch hold of soles & flounders, but Erasmus tells me, is for Asparagus,—so that two dishes are settled for our first dinner,—namely soup & Asparagus.—

The Lyells called on me to day after church; as Lyell was so full of Geology, he was obliged to disgorge,—& I dine there on Tuesday, for an especial conference.— I was quite ashamed of myself to day; for we talked for half an hour, unsophisticated geology, with poor Mrs Lyell sitting by, a monument of patience.— I want practice in illtreating the female sex.— I did not observe Lyell had any compunction: I hope to harden my conscience in time: few husbands seem to find it difficult to effect this.—

Since my return I have taken several looks, as you will readily believe, into the drawing room, & I suppose my taste of harmonious colours is already deteriorated, for I declare the room begins to look less ugly— I take so much pleasure in the house, I declare I am just like a great overgrown child with a new toy; but then not like a real child I long to have a copartner & possessor.—

I made a very stupid mistake yesterday.— I was to have dined with the Horners, & I utterly forgot the invitation & kept the whole party waiting whilst I was quietly at dinner here.— I had to send a very humble note this morning, & backed it by calling, & had a very pleasant sit, with the Mrs., Leonora & Johanna.— The latter, I can see, long to look at their old house.

It is no use my writing any more, for you will never be able to decipher this crossed letter, though you told me to do so,—so I will conclude.—

Do write me a line by return of post, & then I shall get it on Thursday,—or you may direct to Shrewsbury, to which place I shall proceed on Friday.— I must have one more letter signed Emma Wedgwood, for ever after it will be Emma D. I wont forget the ring, & do not you forget to keep a bed for me, or lose the Licence.—

Good Bye | My own dear Emma | Chas Darwin


Comments on recent visit to Maer. Explains that his notion of happiness as quietness and solitude derives from Beagle experience. Hopes Emma will humanise him. Comments on marriage planned for Tuesday.

Describes recent visit by Lyell and his wife. Talked geology for half an hour "with poor Mrs Lyell sitting by". "I want practice in ill-treating the female sex."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Athenaeum Club
Source of text
DAR 210.8: 12
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 489,” accessed on 21 June 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2