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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Ernst Haeckel   16 September 1876

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Sep. 16. 76

My dear Friend,

We have suffered from a terrible calamity in our family, in the sudden death of the wife of one of my sons, who lives here.1 They loved each other most tenderly and he has suffered greatly, which from your own experience you will readily believe.2 We are in much perplexity about our plans; my son has gone with the body of his wife into Wales & we do not know when he will return.3

As soon as we can get the baby provided with a good nurse & left under the care of my daughter, we shall go and visit my son who suffered from concussion of the brain, but should my widowed son return here, or should the baby be ill, we shall come home immediately.4 Under these circumstances I have no idea whether we shall be at Down between the 25th. & 27th.5 Will you therefore be so good as to let me know your address in London, that I may write to you when the time arrives. Believe me that I should regret extremely not to see you here.

If my widowed son is at home, which I do not much expect, I will ask you to come only for some hours during the day; but if not here, I hope you will sleep at Down. This has been the greatest misfortune from which I have ever suffered, & I am sure I shall have your sympathy.

Believe me, | Yours very sincerely, | Charles Darwin


Francis Darwin’s wife, Amy, died on 11 September 1876 following the birth of their son, Bernard Darwin, on 7 September (ODNB).
Haeckel had lost his first wife, Anna, to typhoid fever in 1864, after being married for less than two years (see Correspondence vol 12, letter from Ernst Haeckel, 10 August 1864).
Amy was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Corris, near Machynlleth, about five miles from her family’s home, Pantlludw.
By late September, the Darwins had hired a wet nurse and planned to travel to Southampton to visit William Erasmus Darwin, leaving their daughter Henrietta Emma Litchfield and her husband, Richard Buckley Litchfield, to care for the baby (letter from Emma Darwin to Leonard Darwin, [29 September 1876]; DAR 239.23: 1.51). William had suffered a concussion in a riding accident (see letter to Andrew Clark, [late June 1876] and n. 3). The nurse has not been identified.
In the event, the Darwins left Down on 4 October 1876 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). Haeckel visited CD on 26 September 1876 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Discusses death of his daughter-in-law

and possible visit by EH.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Ernst Philipp August (Ernst) Haeckel
Sent from
Source of text
Ernst-Haeckel-Haus (Bestand A-Abt. 1:1-52/ 40 [9893])
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10601,” accessed on 21 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24