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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Horace Darwin   [15 December 1871]

6. Q. Anne St. W.

Friday Morning 8o.30’ A.M.

My dear Horace.

We are so rejoiced, for we have just had a card from that good George in Cambridge, saying that you are all right & safe through the accursed Little Go.—1 I am so glad, & now you can follow the bent of your talents & work as hard at Mathematicks & science, as your health will permit.2

I have been speculating last night what makes a man a discoverer of undiscovered things, & a most perplexing problem it is.— Many men who are very clever,—much cleverer than discoverers,—never originate anything. As far as I can conjecture, the art consists in habitually searching for the causes or meaning of everything which occurs. This implies sharp observation & requires as much knowledge as possible of the subjects investigated. But why I write all this now, I hardly know,—except out of the fullness of my heart; for I do rejoice heartily that you have passed this Charybdis—

Your affectionate Father | C. Darwin


Little-go: ‘the popular name … for the first examination for the degree of B.A., officially called … “The Previous Examination” at Cambridge’ (OED). The examination was held on 5 December 1871 and the results posted on 14 December (The Times, 15 December 1871, p. 5). George Howard Darwin was a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where Horace was a student.
Horace studied for the Mathematical Tripos, an honours examination based on mathematics and mathematical physics.


OED: The Oxford English dictionary. Being a corrected re-issue with an introduction, supplement and bibliography of a new English dictionary. Edited by James A. H. Murray, et al. 12 vols. and supplement. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1970. A supplement to the Oxford English dictionary. 4 vols. Edited by R. W. Burchfield. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1972–86. The Oxford English dictionary. 2d edition. 20 vols. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Oxford English dictionary additional series. 3 vols. Edited by John Simpson et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993–7.


Congratulates Horace on passing his "Little Go".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Horace Darwin
Sent from
London, Queen Anne St, 6
DE 15 71
Source of text
DAR 185: 2
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8107,” accessed on 15 April 2024,

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