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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Samuel James O’Hara Horsman   2 June [1868]1

2 June.

Dear Mr Darwin,

I have just received a letter informing me that there is quite a commotion in Downe about my absence & that there are all kinds of wicked reports & misrepresentations about me— I will briefly explain— I left for a change of air intending to return in 3 weeks, but I was induced to remain as I had some old friends who kindly took me about in their yacht & otherwise made it pleasant to me— my Doctor also recommended me to rest myself for 3 mths— I did not think it necessary to write and explain this, as there is nothing unusual in a Clergyman being absent on account of his health provided the duty is done— the wretched & miserable lodgings at Downe was also an additional reason to me to prolong my stay—2

You are probably not aware that almost immediately before coming to Downe I had lost my Father & Mother (at 80) & Sister &c &c &c &c, & had sustained the loss of several thousands— in [Companies]—in short I had several severe trials wh could have been the death of many men, & the miserable kind of life I spent at Downe & the want of all domestic comforts was most prejudicial to my health & spirits & made a change necessary—3 otherwise I was perfectly well—

After what I have heard I dont think I shall return to Downe at all— it is not true to suppose that the Curacy is of any consideration to me.— I do not hesitate to say that it is a loss— I am quite tired of Curacies & dont think I shall ever take another. I am now in negotiation for the advowson of a Rectory of £1100 per ann with immediate possession with the exchange of my own at £1000 with deferred [possn] on a life of 58.— the difference in value represents some thousands—& I am not quite sure yet whether it will be successfully arranged—4

I believe I have some balance belonging to School acct— I have not collected Sir John’s trust money— I dont think it has been paid—except you might have received— will send as cheque or money for balance5

I am writing in great haste I trust Mrs Darwin & family are well & with kind regards— | Believe me | Yours Very Truly | S. J. O Horsman

P.S. I hear that Sales,6 has circulated the report that I have defrauded him of a considerable sum of money. I left my horse in his charge, & sent to him sometime ago to sell her—& I just learned that he has not done so— no doubt with the intention of making up a bill against me—

Pray excuse my troubling you with these private matters


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to S. J. O’H. Horsman, 3 June 1868.
Horsman’s doctor has not been identified. On the difficulty in finding a suitable residence for a curate or vicar in Down, see Moore 1985, pp. 469–70.
Horsman’s father was John Horsman, private gentleman (Alum. Dublin., s.v. Horsman, S. J. O’H.), but has otherwise not been identified; his mother and sister have not been identified.
According to Crockford’s clerical directory (1865–72), Horsman was the patron of the rectory of Rattlesden, Suffolk; the benefice was worth £930 a year (Clergy list 1865–71), and the rector from 1861 was John Barney, who would have been 56 or 57 in 1868 (Alum. Oxon). According to the Clergy list 1865, and Crockford’s clerical directory 1878, Barney’s patrons at Rattlesden were the trustees of the late John Barney, presumably his father (Alum. Oxon.). It is not known what advowson (right to appoint) Horsman hoped to obtain in return for whatever interest he held in the rectory of Rattlesden. On the sale of advowsons in the nineteenth century, see Chadwick 1970, 2: 207–13. In 1868, Horsman became curate at St Luke’s, Marylebone, London (Moore 1985, p. 477).
Horsman refers to the accounts of the National School in Down (see letter to S. J. O’H. Horsman, 3 June 1868). Horsman refers to John Lubbock.
William, Albert, or Sidney Sales. William was the publican at the Queen’s Head in Down; Albert and Sidney were corn dealers (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1866).


Alum. Dublin.: Alumni Dublinenses. A register of the students, graduates, professors and provosts of Trinity College in the University of Dublin (1593–1860). New edition with supplement. Edited by George Dames Burtchaell and Thomas Ulick Sadleir. Dublin: Alex. Thom & Co. 1935.

Alum. Oxon.: Alumni Oxonienses: the members of the University of Oxford, 1500–1886: … with a record of their degrees. Being the matriculation register of the university. Alphabetically arranged, revised, and annotated by Joseph Foster. 8 vols. London and Oxford: Parker & Co. 1887–91.

Chadwick, Owen. 1970. The Victorian church. 2d edition. 2 parts. London: A. and C. Black.

Clergy list: The clergy list … containing an alphabetical list of the clergy. London: C. Cox [and others]. 1841–89.

Crockford’s clerical directory: The clerical directory, a biographical and statistical book of reference for facts relating to the clergy and the church. Crockford’s clerical directory etc. London: John Crockford [and others]. 1858–1900.

Moore, James Richard. 1985. Darwin of Down: the evolutionist as squarson-naturalist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

Post Office directory of the six home counties: Post Office directory of the six home counties, viz., Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. London: W. Kelly & Co. 1845–78.


Resigns curacy of Down.

Letter details

Letter no.
Samuel James O’Hara Horsman
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
The Temple, London
Source of text
DAR 166: 270
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6223,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16