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Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. H. Darwin   [24 March 1868]1

4 Chester Place NW


Dear George

I have just returned from Grove—2 He takes a dismal view of things; says his own son & two sons-in-law get no business tho’ clever men but admits that all professions are bad.3 As everyone says business depends on connection with attorneys & these will sometimes not employ a junior rather than introduce a new man. Yet he allowed that hard work & good fortune together did pretty often bring forward a man (give him a good position)   He thought attending specially to science might possibly help a young barrister, but he was very strong that being a fellow of Trin: wd be much more useful.4 For high positions such as judges he thought having attended to any special branch of practise was actually injurious & that he himself wd. have been a judge many years ago had it been otherwise but this seems to me looking m. too far ahead.5 He maintained that science in the abstract was not in the least valued, & he did not believe that I shd. have any influence in getting my sons such a place as a magistracy or commission. But I hope this is too despondent a view. Men who intend to practise in Chancery almost all enter at Lincoln’s Inn; those who go circuits generally enter at Temple, but he thought there was no objection in the latter case to enter at Lincoln’s Inn; & if you decide for Lincoln’s Inn he offered to enter you.6 Grove said that some degree of dash & quickness was requisite for the circuit & that quiet hard working men could succeed in Chancery & that it was an advantage to avoid the expence & trouble of circuits. I do not know what on earth to advise about the whole question of the law. You must settle for yourself. I suppose you wd. not like to think of entering on business. It is a very bad lookout but you must decide on what appears the least disagreable to yourself. I wish I cd have written a pleasanter letter.

Your affect Father | Ch. Darwin

World is better. Sothern tomorrow.7 Monday Pops most other days this week8


The date is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. R. Grove, 23 March [1868].
The reference is to Grove’s eldest son, Florence Craufurd Grove, and to his son-in-law, William Edward Hall. Grove’s other son-in-law has not been identified.
George was elected a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1868 (see letter from Adam Sedgwick, 11 October 1868).
Grove’s scientific expertise had ensured that he was sought after for patent cases and he had been a member of a royal commission to inquire into the law of patents in 1864 (DNB). Grove was appointed judge to the Court of Common Pleas in 1871 and to the Queen’s Bench in 1880 (ODNB).
George entered Lincoln’s Inn on 21 April 1868 and was called to the bar there on 30 April 1872 (Men-at-the-bar).
CD refers to the comic actor Edward Askew Sothern. George might have seen him in a performance of Our American cousin in 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to W. E. Darwin, 26 April [1862] and n. 3).
CD probably refers to popular concerts. Henrietta Emma Darwin also mentioned attending a ‘Mon. pop.’ in a letter to George written around the same time (letter from H. E. Darwin to G. H. Darwin, [March 1868]; DAR 245: 281).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNB: Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1912. Dictionary of national biography 1912–90. Edited by H. W. C. Davis et al. 9 vols. London: Oxford University Press. 1927–96.

Men-at-the-bar: Men-at-the-bar: a biographical hand-list of the members of the various inns of court, including Her Majesty’s judges, etc. By Joseph Foster. London: Reeves & Turner. 1885.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


CD relays the advice of Sir W. R. Grove on the dismal prospects of a law career.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Howard Darwin
Sent from
London, Chester Place, 4
Source of text
DAR 210.1: 5
Physical description
LS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6044,” accessed on 16 August 2022,

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