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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Higgins   9 April [1854]

Down Farnborough Kent

April 9th.—

My dear Sir

I am almost ashamed to write, as you will think me so very capricious; but the present low prices of Guaranteed Railway shares,1 has put it into my head, that I should act wiser in investing the £14,000 in such shares;2 for supposing I could get nearly 5 per cent, the extra interest beyond what I shd. get from land, would during the rest of my life (as I do not spend my whole income) make up a depreciation fund at compound interest, to compensate for any fall in Gold,3 which, as you are aware, led me to think of land. A relation, on whose advice in money matters I generally act, takes this view. But I feel I have much cause to apologise to you. Have you surveyed any Farm on my account? If so, I trust you that you will of course inform me & let me know what I am indebted to you. But for the interview you have granted me, & some letters you have written, I hope you will be so kind as to excuse the liberty I take in enclosing a five guinea Fee.—4

Please to observe that shd. the Railway market rise much before July, I shd go back to my old scheme of purchasing a Farm,5 & I will then communicate with you.— I hope you will forgive my changeableness, which has solely been induced by changed circumstances; & I shd. much like to hear what you think of my ideas on the subject in question:

My dear Sir | Your’s very faithfully | C. Darwin J. Higgins Esqe


During the first few months of 1854 there was much public discussion over the terms of a bill placed before Parliament to regulate the amount of competition between railway companies and to provide rules for the administration of capital obtained from stock and share holders. Holders of ordinary (unguaranteed) stock had found that their dividends were often diminished because the company used the money to finance further building works; debenture holders were, on the other hand, ‘guaranteed’ a certain return, but the railway companies often could not make that sum available. During March and April the price of railway stock fell appreciably (Railway Times 17 (1854): 308–9, 336–7).
Fear that the influx of gold from Australia and the United States would adversely affect the economy of Britain and his investments was one of CD’s ‘Bug-bears’ (see letter to W. D. Fox, 7 March [1852]).
There is an entry in CD’s Account book (Down House MS) dated 8 July 1854 recording a payment of £5 5s. to Higgins.


Discusses his investments.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Higgins
Sent from
Source of text
Lincolnshire Archives (HIG/4/2/1/79)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1566,” accessed on 21 September 2021,

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