skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Leonard Darwin   31 March 1877

March 31st. 1877

My dear old Leonardo.

I must write a few words to say how awfully glad, or as you used to say when you were a little chap with long silky hair.—how very awfully glad, I am at your appointment. It is grand to have you home for several years, and I am so low minded as to rejoice at your being so rich.1 As far as I can make out you will have 800£. per annum— The only thing I am uneasy about is that I cannot think that you can have chemical knowledge enough for lecturing, and still less for analysing, and I hear from D. Ruck that this is expected of you.2 If I were in your place I would begin at once reading Chemistry, as though reading does not do much, yet it must be a very great aid for getting up the science thoroughly. How pleased I should be if you ever took to any original work in chemistry. Poor dear Frank often makes his jokes, and the other day he was saying—“it is just as I wished, I shall now have a chemist, a mathematician, and an engineer to help me in my experiments”3 I think Frank will do good work in phys. Botany: everybody seems to have been much impressed with his teazle—protoplasmic—filament paper.4 By the way Col. Clarke at Southampton let it accidently slip out that George’s paper on the earth’s axis has been referred to him by the Royal Socty., and he spoke in the very highest terms about George’s mathematics, as very profound.5 William is here now, and Miss Shaen, and we are a very pleasant party6

Be sure let us hear all about your plans | My dear Leonard | Your affectionate Father | Ch. Darwin


Leonard, an officer in the Royal Engineers, had been appointed instructor in chemistry and photography at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham (ODNB). He had been posted to Malta in September 1875 (see Correspondence vol. 23, letter to C. E. Norton, 7 October 1875).
Richard Matthews Ruck (known as Dicky; see Correspondence vol. 24, letter to Francis Darwin, 16 September [1876]) was also in the Royal Engineers.
Francis Darwin was referring to Leonard’s appointment and to his other brothers George Howard, who was a mathematician at Trinity College, Cambridge, and Horace, who was an engineer.
Francis had published several papers on physiological botany, including ‘On the protrusion of protoplasmic filaments from the glandular hairs on the leaves of the common teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris)’ (F. Darwin 1877b).
Alexander Ross Clarke had evidently refereed George Howard Darwin’s paper ‘On the influence of geological changes on the earth’s axis of rotation’ (G. H. Darwin 1876b) for publication in the Philosphical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.
William Erasmus Darwin and Margaret Shaen.


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.


Is "awfully glad" at LD’s appointment [as an instructor at Chatham].

Thinks LD should start reading chemistry "though reading does not do much".

Reports scientific work of George and Frank Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Leonard Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 153: 92
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10919,” accessed on 26 September 2021,