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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Emma Darwin   [21 April 1851]



My dear Emma

To go on with the sick life. After Dr G. left yesterday at 7o. 30’ (& Fanny wrote whilst he was in the room) we bathed her with vinegar & water, & it was delicious to see how it soothed her. In the night she rambled for two hours & became considerably excited, but I find the Dr. does not care so much for this,, as he has ceased to fear the head, which was his main fear. viz stupefaction coming on.— But to return when the Dr. came at 11o. 30’ he pronounced her decisively better. At 10 oclock the surgeon failed to draw the water; but in the dead of the night her bladder acted of itself & has again, & so have her bowels, after above a week & the action with consciousness.— I was in wonderful spirits about all this & no doubt it is very good, but I have just now been a good deal damped (8o. A.M) by the Dr. finding her pulse tremulous & his strong dislike to her bowels having acted loosely— I tell you all this, for it will prevent the too strong & ultimately wretched alternations of spirits. An hour ago I was foolish with delight & pictured her to myself making custards (whirling round) as, I think, she called them. I told her I thought she would be better & she so meekly said “thank you” Her gentleness is inexpressibly touching.— Fanny is devoting herself too much sadly, but I cannot stop her: she sat up till 4 this morning (leaving Miss Thorley a whole night to her surprise for she arranged to call her at 2 oclock:) & then Fanny lay on Brodies bed to save rousing the servants at her own adjoining house.— We are under deep obligations to Fanny never to be forgotten. Poor Annie is in a fearful mess, but we keep her sweet with Chloride of Lime; the Dr said we might change the under sheet if we could, but I dare not attempt it yet. We have again this morning sponged her, with vinegar, again with excellent effect. She asked for orange this morning, the first time she has asked for anything except water. Our poor child has been fearfully ill; as ill as a human being could be: it was dreadful that night the Dr. told me it would probably be all over before morning.1 If diarrhæa will but not come on, I trust in God we are nearly safe.— I have hopes that vomiting is stopped for today.—

Susan & Catty2 have written most kindly: the former is better. Catty offers to come here on Wednesday: upon the whole, perhaps it wd be better not, but I am perplexed what to say, & must consult Fanny.—

My own dear how it did make me cry to read of your going to Annie’s garden for a flower. I wish you could see her now the perfection of gentleness, patience & gratitude,—thankful till it is truly painful to hear her.— poor dear little soul.—

12. oclock.— She has appeared rather more prostrated with knees & feet chilly & breathing laboured, but with some trouble we have got these right, & she is now asleep & breathing well. She certainly relishes her gruel flavoured with orange juice, & has taken table-spoon every hour..— No sickness, no purging: I wish there was a little less prostration.— She wanders & talks more today a good deal.—

3 oclock. She is going on very nicely & sleeping capitally with breathing quite slow— We have changed the lower sheet & cut off the tail of her Chemy & she looks quite nice & got her bed flat & a little pillow between her two bony knees— She is certainly now going on very well.

Your | C. D.


The night of 17 April (see letter to Emma Darwin, [18 April 1851]).
CD’s sisters, Susan Elizabeth and Emily Catherine.


Further reports on Anne’s illness.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.13: 19–20
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1408,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5