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Darwin Correspondence Project

To H. E. Litchfield   4 October [1877]1

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.

Oct 4th

My dearest Henrietta

I must write a line to tell you how deeply I have sympathized with you in all your dreadful anxiety— We were at first quite panic-struck—& how we rejoice over Litchfields much better state. It astonished & delighted us to receive his nice long letter.2 How I wish you were safe at home, & that a law was passed that no one shd. go abroad. I want to advise you to take a courier3 from Lucerne; & so have no bothers on the journey.

There ought to be another law not to ride horses or play at lawn-tennis4 Poor dear old Lenny lies on the sofa a bulky monument of patience, & never grumbles a bit. We have had lately many callers & this has been good for him, as it has made talk. Elinor Dicey was here for luncheon today & she talked about Sarah Sedgwick. You ought to have seen your mother she looked as if she had committed a murder & told a fib about Sara going back to America with the most innocent face.5 She afterwards said the fib slipped out quite unconsciously.— Good Lord what nonsense all this secrecy is. It is a grand thing for William’s happiness that the whole affair is settled, & I hope they may be soon buckled fast together, & then no fine feelings can come into play.—

When you return you had better come to Down; it is safer than London; & in earnest I shd. think country air must be better for convalescence, & there will be no business to bother Litchfield.

I am tired so good bye. Frank & I have been working very hard at bloom & the automatic movement of plants, from morning to night & we have made out a good deal.—6 Good Bye my dear— Love to Litchfield— How I rejoice that your anxiety is over. | Your affect Father | C. Darwin


The year is established by the reference to Richard Buckley Litchfield’s illness while travelling in Switzerland (see n. 2, below).
Richard Buckley Litchfield had developed acute appendicitis soon after he and Henrietta arrived in Engelberg, Switzerland, in early September. His life was saved by an English doctor, Norman Moore, who was also travelling in Switzerland and who then joined the Litchfields until they moved to Lucerne on 20 September (Litchfield 1910, p. 150; Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). Richard Litchfield’s letter has not been found.
Courier: a servant employed by a traveller or travelling party on the continent, having the duty of making all the arrangements connected with the journey (OED).
Leonard Darwin had injured his knee playing tennis (see letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Litchfield, [23 September 1877] (DAR 219.9: 159)). The previous year, William Erasmus Darwin suffered a severe concussion following a riding accident on 10 May 1876 (Correspondence vol. 24).
Sara Sedgwick and William Erasmus Darwin wanted to keep their engagement secret until Sara’s family in America had heard the news; after accepting William’s proposal of marriage, Sara decided not to return to America before the wedding as it would make it harder for her to leave again (letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Litchfield, [30 September 1877] (DAR 219.9: 162)).
CD and Francis Darwin were investigating the role of bloom found on the leaves of Australian plants, and the relation of bloom to the movement of plants (see letter to Fritz Müller, 14 May 1877 and n. 2, and letter to W. T. Thiselton-Dyer, 27 September [1877]).


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

Litchfield, Henrietta Emma. 1910. Richard Buckley Litchfield: a memoir written for his friends by his wife. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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.


Is glad to hear R. B. Litchfield is better.

Discusses William Darwin’s engagement to Sara Sedgwick.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Henrietta Emma Darwin/Henrietta Emma Litchfield
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 185: 37
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11167,” accessed on 1 December 2021,