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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. E. Litchfield   9 September [1871]1

Hotel Sonnenberg | Seelisberg

Sept 9th.

Dearest Father

It is very good of you to write to me & I shall always keep your letter.2 I could not have had one which was more sweet to me. I’m sure I often think if our marriage can be half or 23rds as perfect as yours, Richard3 & I shall be very happy. I’m not Mother—but still it ought to be a great help to have a perfect model & I shall always keep her clear image before me.

Dear dear Father words seem so dry & poor & won’t say what I feel—without words you will know how precious your letter is to me.

I had an access of tire last night & wrote a horrid dry bones in answer to Bessy4—today—thank the pigs it has rained & I thought it allowable to take a long sup of bed—fleas, too, caught in the ein spanner5 kept me tearing my little flesh off my bones till 2.30 AM & so I felt I had earned a little rest in the A.M. It is quite a pleasure to have your breakfast in bed abroad. they bring it you up so nice & complete. The washerwoman did come at 7.30 & I succeeded in fighting her pretty successfully—in so far that she promised to wash tho’ not to iron. I, like a stupid, forgot to make her starch as well—so at 11.30 sent off R. well armed with the words “gesteifen”.6 He found 6 washerwomen to be faced & his german was such that they each in turn had to retire to their tubs to laugh—his “warum laughen Sie?”7 couldn’t have helped matters.

We’ve been a sweet little soaky soaky walk of about a mile & 12 thro’ beech woods & little meadows with cows & all alpine charms to a grand set of precipices going sheer down into the bluey greeny lake below & all the mountains round looking solemn & mysterious in their coats of mist. Tis a lovely place & apparently cheap so that I’ve been calculating that however hard up we are in future times, we shall be able to take a Cook’s ticket for £6 & live here for about £4 a week so that this wont be my last tour—£30 we will always be able to scratch up. There are very respectable people here of the bourgeois class—an old englishman who shouts “hi”! at the waiter when his wife informs him that the cabbage he has let pass is good. She the wife was indignant at the waiters impertinent curiosity in asking whether she would have tea or coffee at night. Such is life! A meal is approaching & it is getting cold & damp in this open balcony where we are sitting, cleaned up after our wet walk.

Goodbye dearest Father | your ever affect daut | H. E. L.

Your letter was forwarded. R. says I have taken away his character— He knows a good deal of sound waiter & chambermaid german but not up to washerwoman pitch.


The year is established by the reference to Henrietta’s marriage, which took place on 31 August 1871 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Elizabeth Darwin.
An Einspänner is a one-horse carriage.
Henrietta intended to say ‘steifen’: to stiffen or starch (German).
Presumably R. B. Litchfield intended to say ‘Warum lacheln Sie?’: ‘Why are you laughing?’.


CD’s letter [7922] was very sweet to her, and if her marriage [to Richard B. Litchfield] can be half as perfect as CD’s she will be very happy.

Richard’s German fails in communicating with washerwomen.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henrietta Emma Darwin/Henrietta Emma Litchfield
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Hotel Sonnenberg, Seelisberg Switzerland
Source of text
Estate of Richard Darwin Keynes (CUL DAR 245: 525)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7929A,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19