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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Susan Darwin   12 May [– 2 June] 1832


May 12th. 1832.

My dear Charles.—

On the 3d. of May we received your last written letter from St Salvador, which all the house rejoiced over most heartily: the happy account you give of yourself and all your enjoyments in the tropical world far exceeded what we most hoped for you.— Your letter has been read very often over to Papa (like Mrs. Bates)1 and I think he never can again for shame make his old speech of the gaol & the ship:2 now he has heard what a comfortable home you find it.— Nancy & Edward were as much pleased as any of us to have tidings of you: Erasmus had been making some very bruttal jokes to the former a week before: “how that you were lost & we kept it from her” so the poor old soul very nearly cried when she heard you were really alive & well.— Papa was much interested by your miserable account of the sea sickness you had endured, & not a little proud of his prescription of the Raisins answering so well. I think he should publish such a discovery for the benefit of all such sufferers.—

The Letter you wrote by the Lyra came to us the day after we had your other letter which was very odd as the dates were so different but I suppose the Winds had kept all the Ships out together. We have sent your letters to Erasmus who is to shew them to Charlotte Langton & then the family here must see it for many enquiries they are making about you & many kind messages they desire me to send you.— The day after yr news came I had to write several despatches, first to Eyton copying out all your messages which I hope may have the desired effect of instantly starting him accross the Atlantic, which I fully expect he will do some time he talks so much about it: & whenever I have an opportunity I shall certainly urge him on.— Major Bayley & Woodhouse too I had to send the joyful intelligence, as they all begged to hear the first news of you, so I can promise you my dear Charley you are not att all forgotten amongst any of us, & I am very glad to hear the warm climate agrees so well with all your affectionate feelings.— We were very sorry for yr disappointment at the Canaries but I hope Cape Verd Islands comforted you: Master Parky went through the whole of yr voyage as a Geographical lesson: so Marianne made profit as well as pleasure fr your letter.—

Catherine wrote last month to Monte Video, where Caroline sent her March letter also.— I am in hopes we shall before very long hear from you again in answer to the letters you will find at Rio, & I hope then you will give us some more directions for our future letters as I think it is doubtful whether this ever reaches you.— I cannot help thinking how lucky it was you took that Tour with Professor Sedgwick as Geology seems to be so great a pleasure now.— Poor Arthur Owen sails this week I believe to Madras, he wrote me a little note fr. London where he had been seeing his Ship very often It is the Abberton: there are only 2 young Ladies amongst the Passengers which I think he regrets as a very short allowance amongst all the Writers:3 Mr. Owen is with him in London now preparing his Outfit: & Arthur expected he would be in such a bustle that by some mistake he would go in his place to India.— Francis wanted very much to go out with Arthur & I shd. think it wd. be by far the best scheme if they can get any situation for such a pickle as he is.— Caroline Owen is staying in town with Mrs. Williams: so poor Fanny who has very much lost her former housemaid spirits is left all alone with the Mrs. in the Forest.— Mr. Biddulph has at last settled to have an Entail which has caused all this delay, & the marriage will take place as soon as Mr. Owen returns.— I am now spending a fortnight at Maer which I find sadly changed: Charlotte’s loss is quite irreparable! & Frank being gone too, makes the party appear much smaller.— Uncle Jos talks much of poverty his Children having taken off so much money with their Marriages:— Fanny Wedgwood has a flirtation in han〈d〉 with Mr. Paget Moseley (brother to Franks wife) but as I hear he is a very dull man, I have no f〈ear〉 of Fanny accepting him.— Politics are much t〈alked〉 of here, as the Ministers are gone out, not being able to get the King to make Peers to carry the Reform, & of course that interests this public spirited family very deeply.— The week before I left home Mr. & Mrs. Edward Holland on their bridal Tour came & spent 3 days with us.— It was rather strange their liking to come so directly after their marriage, particularly as little Mrs. H. is very shy.— however Papa joked away with them famously & made them very merry & easy.— We heard such dismal accounts of the Bride from Erasmus who is a most fastidious mortal: that we were very agreeably surprised to find her rather pretty & a nice little creature all together & particularly well suited to Edward who seemed very proud of her.—

I am come home from Maer, & I find Eyton has been calling in consequence of our hearing from you: but he is going immediately into Germany for the next 3 months with Mr. F Hope on a Beetle expedition.— Professor Sedgwick dropped in here last week on his way into Wales: he talked much about you & sent his kind regards, & begged you might be told to examine the gravel banks of small rivers for animal remains.— We have seen to day in the papers a sad piece of news: that Sir James Mackintosh is dead: he had been ill about a week, & died the 30th. of May:— Mr. & Mrs. Hensleigh Wedgwood will be obliged to retrench very much after losing £1200 a year.— Lord Grey is come into Office again so the Reform Bill will certainly pass triumphantly. It is a great pity poor Sir James has died before he has finished his History of England.—4 Papa desires I will give you his most affectionate love & many thanks for your very nice letter which has given him a great deal of pleasure.— When I told Mr Owen how happy you were tears came into his eyes with pleasure I am sure he considers you one of his own children.— Fanny was married on the 31st. of May to Mr. Biddulph. I have not room here for any particulars, but Caroline will fill her next letter with them.

God bless you my very dear Charley. All our Loves & I am | Ever yr affecti | Susan E Darwin

We have written once every Month since you left us. All directed to Rio Janeiro, till 1st. of April, & then M Video Mr. Owen has also written to Rio Janeiro.—


Widow of the Vicar of Highbury, in Jane Austen’s Emma (1816).
The italicised phrase echoes an aphorism of Samuel Johnson (Boswell 1791, 2: 21): ‘A ship is worse than a gaol. There is, in a gaol, better air, better company, better conveniency of every kind; and a ship has the additional disadvantage of being in danger.’
Writer: ‘A clerk in the service of the former East India Company’ (OED).


Boswell, James. 1791. The life of Samuel Johnson. 2 vols. London: Charles Dilly.

Mackintosh, James. 1830–2. First 3 vols. of The history of England in the Cabinet cyclopaedia. London. Vols. 4–10 (1835–40) continued from the late James Mackintosh by William Wallace and Robert Bell.

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.


News from Maer and Shrewsbury of family, friends, and reports of reactions to CD’s first letters.

Sedgwick suggests he look for fossils in gravel banks of rivers.

Fanny Owen is married to R. M. Biddulph. Reform Bill prospects.

Letter details

Letter no.
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Maer and Shrewsbury
JU 2 1832
Source of text
DAR 204: 96
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 170,” accessed on 24 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1