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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   [26 May 1861]



My dear William

Lubbock has lunched here & I have had long talk with him.1 First for generalities. He thinks nowadays (& many have made same remark to me) that business is better line of life than Professions. no doubt there is always risk in business, but he thinks, if a person manages his own business, that the risk is much exaggerated. He remarked how much more leisure & less hard work a Banker has than a Barrister, if he gets any business; & how dreary the endless waiting for Business is. On other hand he acknowledges that Private Banks do not get on so well as formerly owing to prevalence of Joint-Stock Banks.2 He would not tell me the Town, (as it wd. be breach of confidence), but it must be, I think, Brighton, Portsmouth or Southampton. It is not a small & is a growing town. He says he likes decidedly the head Partner about 35 years old.

He says the usual thing after first start is for Partner to have one day holiday a week, & if that were sometime on Saturday you could leave on Friday evening & often come home or have little larks; & that there would be 2 or 3 weeks holidays in Autumn. The hours he supposes would be from 9 to 4: so you could have whole evening to yourself: & I fancy in the day there is time for letters & reading papers &c.— He spoke very strongly of its being safe & well conducted concern, capable of extension with energy.— Of course with extension profits would increase; & he thought that probably your share would increase, if you were energetic, even if the Bank did not increase.

He believes the place is not filled up, as he thinks he shd. certainly have heard: he had recommended a young man, a friend & connection of the Robarts (with which Bank, the Lubbocks are now joined)3 & this friend would have joined, had not a better opportunity at the moment occurred. I shd. not have thought of this scheme for a moment, had not the source of information been unique, viz by Lubbock, who must know well such affairs & is certainly my sincere friend.— But here comes the worst aspect of the whole affair. The £10,000 would have to be made over absolutely to you: it would not be part of capital of Bank; but as being your absolute property, you as Partner, would lose it, if the Bank failed. As the interest of the £10,000 is more that I shd. give you as allowance you would have to pay me part back; but then besides the part you retained, viz £280, or £300, you would have about £500 from the Bank; so you would be at once an almost rich man with £800 a year!4 Nevertheless, I think this the worse part of affair as you thus risk more than half your fortune.— Of course, as Lubbock remarked, the Books of Bank, if you thought of the scheme, would have to be carefully examined by Lawyer & accountant. L. thought perhaps the Gentleman would allow you to join for year & see how you liked it, & how he liked you. Lubbock said he thought the demand quite reasonable that you shd. have 10,000 of your own before joining; as it would injure the Bank to have it said that a penniless young man had become partner: he said this when I asked what was the use of the £10,000, if not wanted as capital in the Bank.—5

L. further remarked when I demurred to risking the £10,000, that ultimately in the Bank, or in any Business (but not in a profession) there would be & must be some risk.— I can quite see that it would be a grievous blow to you to give up Cambridge at once, & the next year or two of free & pleasant life: but yet such a chance as this at least deserves deliberate consideration & will never recur. How would it be possible to keep your name on Christ’s, supposing you were permitted to try the scheme for a year?6 You must ponder well, & write soon & tell us what you think; & then I will instantly write to Lubbock, for him to find out whether the Place is still open.— This is a great affair, & most perplexing to decide. Mamma rather leans to your taking it, or trying it. There is always some risk for the future, & great present disappointment & a wrench in your premeditated plans of life; but it seems an unusually fair opening for a prosperous career. You would have plenty of time in evening to follow any pursuit & improve your mind— If you think at all about scheme; consult Mr. Wolstenholme (& tell him as much as you like)7 how it would be to leave Cambridge for a year, if that be possible, & if Partner would permit the scheme of year’s trial. It is a great crisis in your life. I am thankful that you are a sensible man— Your affect. Father | C. Darwin

Supposing that you were permitted to try for a year & did not like it, you would in that time thoroughily understand complicated accounts & see something of real business, & on my life that would not be education thrown away.— You might in evening continue reading a little law & some law would be useful, if you stuck to Banking.—8


The Banking Act of 1826 provided for the establishment of joint-stock banks other than the Bank of England, with the proviso that they be located outside of a 65-mile radius of London. This restriction was relaxed in 1833 (EB).
In 1860, the bank directed by John William Lubbock, of which John Lubbock was a partner, was amalgamated with that of Abraham John Robarts and partners to form Robarts, Lubbock & Co. (DNB). Following the Banking Acts of 1844 and 1845, no new banks were allowed to form, but existing ones were able to merge as a means of expanding their capital (EB).
William received, while a student at Cambridge, an annual allowance from CD of £260, in addition to £20 he received from the scholarship he had won (see Calendar no. 4639).
When CD came to draw up his will in September 1881, he included the details of this arrangement, directing that this advance be deducted from the amount William was to inherit: ‘I some time since advanced and gave to my eldest Son the said William Erasmus Darwin the sum of Four thousand five hundred pounds to enable him to enter into partnership as a Banker with George Atherley of the County of the Town of Southampton Banker’.
William was a student at Christ’s College, Cambridge.
The mathematician Joseph Wolstenholme, a fellow of Christ’s College, was William’s mathematical tutor. In 1862 he was moderator for the mathematical tripos examination (Historical register of the University of Cambridge).
The postscript was written on a separate slip of paper.


Discusses the opportunity for WED to become a partner in a bank.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.6
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3160,” accessed on 23 September 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9