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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Emma Darwin to J. B. Innes   24 December [1875]1

Down Beckenham

Dec 24—

Dear Mr Innes

I have undertaken to answer your kind letter & to give you all the news I can.2

My husband is much pleased that you were interested in his book.3 The experiments are so minutely described that he thinks some skipping is very necessary for most of his books.

The Teesdales have been settled for 2 or 3 months & have furnished Down Hall most comfortably & sumptuously. They seem to be very agreeable people with pretty & cultivated daughters.4 (In order to shew how severe our weather has been I may mention that Mr Teesdale went to Orpington for 10 days on a sledge).

The great event last week was the opening of a Reading Room, when Mr Nash gave a good supper to whoever chose to come & I was not surprized to hear that he had 90 guests. They have hired George Wood’s old house for the purpose & begin the world with 45 members.5 Of course they will not nearly pay their way; which one would have preferred. We have also a band of Hope under Mrs Nash’s superintendence which is of course prosperous at present, while the children are young & have no temptation; but I have some hopes that the effect may remain with some, especially of the girls, after they are grown up.6 Both these undertakings are thorns in Mr Ffinden’s side & he has not been content with holding aloof from them; but has used all his influence to prevent their succeeding.7

Mr Darwin is pretty well & hard at work with his secretary (Frank)  Leonard is stationed at Malta with the engineers, & George who has been an invalid for some years is going to join him there in a week’s time.8

Will you give my kind love to Mrs Innes & tell her I hope we shall see you & her when you come South as I am glad to hear you are intending, & with my kind remembrances to your son & with every good wish to your trio,9 very truly yours | Emma Darwin

P.S. As a proof that nobody need despair I will tell you that Mr Horsman has a curacy in Kent, & is rash enough to talk of his “friends the Lubbocks”.10

I have omitted poor Mr Thompson, whose fate is very melancholy. He is said to be slowly affected by the creeping palsy, which is quite a hopeless malady.11

C. desires me to say that both your facts are quite new to him & surprize him much.12


The year is established by the reference to George Howard Darwin’s departure for Malta (see n. 8, below).
Innes’s letter has not been found.
John Marmaduke and Maria Teesdale and their daughters Frances Maria, Julia, and Ellen Augusta lived at Down Hall, a large house in Down village. After John Teesdale and one of his sons (probably the solicitor Marmaduke John Teesdale) had lunch with the Darwins at Down House on 5 March 1876 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)), Emma changed her opinion of the family, and decided not to invite them to dinner because they were ‘not nice enough’ (see letter from Emma Darwin to Leonard Darwin, [6 March 1876] (DAR 239.23: 1.59)).
Wallis Nash had moved into The Rookery, Down, in 1873 (Freeman 1978). George Wood lived in Luxted Farm Cottages, but prior to this he lived in Down Street (Census returns of England and Wales 1851 (The National Archives: Public Record Office HO107/1606/247/5); 1871 (RG10/875/34/10); 1881 (RG11/855/83/2)). Presumably the working men’s reading room was established in Wood’s old Down Street residence.
The Band of Hope was a temperance organisation. The Down group was run by Louisa A’hmuty Nash.
The Darwins had been involved in a dispute with George Sketchley Ffinden, who objected to the use of the Down schoolroom as a winter reading room for working men (see Moore 1985, pp. 471 and 480, and Correspondence vol. 21, letters to Down School Board, [after 29 November 1873] and 19 December 1873).
Francis Darwin had become CD’s secretary in 1874 (see Correspondence vol. 22, letter from Emma Darwin to J. B. Innes, 24 June [1874] and n. 5); he and CD were working on Cross and self fertilisation (see letter to Francis Darwin, [September 1875 or later?]). Leonard Darwin had arrived in Malta on 16 September 1875 (see letter to C. E. Norton, 7 October 1875 and n. 6). George Howard Darwin hoped that a visit to Malta would improve his health; he returned home on 28 March 1876 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
Innes and his wife, Eliza Mary Brodie Innes, lived in Scotland; his son, John William Brodie Innes, was a student at St John’s College, Cambridge.
Samuel James O’Hara Horsman, curate of Down from 1867 to 1868, was thought to have embezzled funds from Down school as well as pocketing the funds for a new church organ (see Correspondence vol. 19, letter to J. B. Innes, 13 January 1871). John Lubbock had letters concerning these matters (ibid., letter to J. B. Innes, 18 January [1871]), but no more is known of his involvement.
Mr Thompson has not been further identified. Creeping palsy was characterised by a gradual loss of muscular function resulting in paralysis.
Innes’s facts were in a letter that has not been found (see n. 2, above).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Cross and self fertilisation: The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1876.

Freeman, Richard Broke. 1978. Charles Darwin: a companion. Folkestone, Kent: William Dawson & Sons. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, Shoe String Press.

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Moore, James Richard. 1985. Darwin of Down: the evolutionist as squarson-naturalist. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).


News of the parish and neighbours.

CD pleased JBI is interested in his book [Cross and self-fertilisation].

He is pretty well and hard at work with Francis.

Letter details

Letter no.
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
John Brodie Innes
Sent from
Source of text
Cleveland Health Sciences Library (Robert M. Stecher collection)
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10732,” accessed on 26 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23