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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Wilson   4 February 1868

Hayes | Bromley, Kent.

4 Feby 1868

My dear Mr Darwin

I promised your son a specimen of the Australian boiled beef, which is likely to form a very important addition some day to the food of the sadly underfed working classes of the northern country.1 A tin is now sent. Please taste the beef & 〈    〉 what you think of it. It 〈is〉 best cold, with potatoes, & some 〈    〉 mustard, as being preserved 〈& not〉 fresh, it wants condiments to make it as palatable as it can be. The retailers sell it at 7d cooked, & without bone, which makes it pretty cheap, but as the “industry” expands it will [remain] both better & cheap:—

I most heartily congratulate you on the achievement of your great “wrangler”.2 What a pleasure it must have given you all to find his name so high on such a list! Let us hope that such a success is a prelude to a brilliant future, & that in his case at least one may find the greatly useful securely grafted upon the greatly distinguished. I was quoting Woolner’s rather startling theory as to the contemptibility of uselessness to your other son, & he seemed rather amused by it.3 But these high spirited young fellows cannot be too thoroughly impressed with the idea that they are sent into the world for a purpose, & that the world is big enough for each man to leave his foot-prints if he pleases

I am, Dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Ed Wilson


It is uncertain to which of CD’s sons Wilson refers. On the history of the meat-canning industry in Australia and the export of canned beef to Britain, see Thorne 1986, pp. 125–30, and Shephard 2000, pp. 242–49.
George Howard Darwin was second in the final examination for the mathematical tripos at Cambridge in 1868 (Cambridge University calender 1868).
The reference is to Francis, Leonard, or Horace Darwin. Wilson may also refer to the sculptor and poet Thomas Woolner; however, the source of the theory alluded to has not been identified.


Shephard, Sue. 2000. Pickled, potted and canned: the story of food preserving. London: Headline Book Publishing.


Sends some Australian boiled beef for CD to sample.

Congratulations on George Darwin’s success at Cambridge.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Wilson
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Hayes, Kent
Source of text
DAR 181: 122
Physical description
3pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5838,” accessed on 18 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16