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Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Wood Warter1   23 December 1824

Dear Charley/—

As I had not an opportunity of seeing you on the Saturday Night previous to your breaking up, I must now like “a friend misericord” just warn you against the Encouragement of idleness, to which I know you are ever fully inclined. I sd— advise you to read some of Xenophon’s Philosophical Treatises which you will find in the Dalzel2 p. 297 in my edition, immediately following the Excerpta Rhetorica. I have great reason to believe that Iliff3 will set you some part from that selection: and if he does not, the words that you will meet with in Xenophon, are continually used by all other authors, and consequently will in the end prove of advantage. I can form no idea with regard to Wakefield4 as a master— he’ll never fill the place of his good predecessor Sheepshanks,5 our mutual friend, tho’ when at School he shewed me very much attention. Read Hor: Od: 1–246 and think of Sheepshanks, bearing in mind that “desiderio” in the first line means “regret” and answers to the Greek πόθος. If you will ride over here, I shall at all times feel much gratification in helping you over any difficulties that occur, if I can, for you well know my abilities:— “My loom” as Shakespeare has somewhere observed “is of a mingled yarn”,7 — to speak in more plain English I am very stupid. Do you remember ever quibbling with me as to the right pronuntiation of sloth? You, if such a trifle has not fled your mind, wd always call it short—thus slŏth.— I will transcribe two lines from our sweet poët Goldsmith which will indubitably confi⁠⟨⁠rm my⁠⟩⁠ opinion

“The robe that wraps his limbs ⁠⟨⁠in⁠⟩⁠ silken sloth Has robb’d the neighb’ring fields of half their growth

These lines you will find in the Deserted Village, and I beg you will henceforward call it “slōth”—mei memor. When you write remember me very kindly to Old Strol—8

Hastily, Your very Sincere Friend | John Warter


Dec: 23rd. 1824 | Thursday Morning—


A Shrewsbury schoolfellow, 1820–4 (Shrewsbury School Register).
Andrew Dalzel’s selections from Greek writers (Dalzel 1789–97) were standard textbooks in the classical curriculum of the schools of the period.
Horace, Ad Virgilium, de Morte Quinctilii Vari, Odes, Bk 1, Ode 24: 1. 1, ‘Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus tam cari capitis’ (‘What restraint or limit should there be to grief for one so dear?’, translated by C. E. Bennett. Loeb Classical Library. 1968).
Probably a misquotation of ‘The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together’, Shakespeare, All’s well that ends well, 4. 3. 68–9 (Arden edition).
A nickname given to E. A. Darwin at school. John Price, in a letter of reminiscences to Francis Darwin, says of Erasmus: ‘Why he was called John Darwin or Strōl must go down the stream of time with other school mysteries.’ (DAR 112 (ser. 2): 104).
A village 41/2 miles south-west of Shrewsbury. ‘Cruckmeole Hall is a handsome brick mansion, the property and residence of Henry Diggory Warter, Esq.’ (Bagshaw 1851, p. 680).


Bagshaw, Samuel. 1851. History, gazetteer, and directory of Shropshire. Sheffield.

Dalzel, Andrew. 1789–97. Analekta Hellenika. Sive collectanea Græca. 2d edition. 2 vols. Edinburgh: A. Neill cum sociis.


Warns CD against idleness.

Suggests readings in Xenophon and Horace.

Quotes Oliver Goldsmith to correct CD’s pronunciation of "sloth".

Letter details

Letter no.
John Wood Warter
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 188
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

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