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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Matthew   [2 February 1831]


My dear Darwin

Though I have little or nothing to say which can be of any Interest, yet I am vain enough to think that you will not be sorry to hear from me—

Here I am in London, alone in a crowd, without a human being to exchange a word with, To me this is a situation totally new and I can not describe to you the horrors and depression of spirits to which it subjects me. I have hired Lodgings at 15 shillings per week for which I am furnished with a Study, Sitting Room Bedroom Kitchen and Dressing Room. Is not this a splendid establishment for a single man? There is one circumstance which does however slightly diminish the grandeur of the thing and that is the painful fact that this long enumeration of apartments is only one room with many names. I eat drink sleep study and partly dress my food in a garret about half as large as my Cambridge Rooms.— But remember, this is a mighty secret and I do not wish it to be known in Cambridge that I am in London at all much less in such a degraded condition.

I have this morning penned some sentimental ditties which I mean to get money for from some periodical Publication, if verse fails I shall try prose and not succeeding in either I shall pawn my coat and sell my Books

As if I had not curses enough to bear in my own proper person I am harassed with moaning supplicatory Letters from my wife, and another whom you know, full of entreaties to be allowed to join me and vehement assertions of their being willing to go through anything with me, even to living on potatoes and salt. All this is very fine but I have not even potatoes and salt to give them. My application at Royston1 was answered by a Letter almost insulting. Cookesleys2 Letter to Rivington3 has not been answered at all. A happy state this for a man without a sous. Yet believe me I do not despair. Mergas profundo—etcet.4 You love a quotation I know particularly when you do not understand it. I hope you have got your Book at Last. If not you will find it at Aikins. I forgot to add to my list of Blessings that I am going tomorrow before a Magistrate about my bastard, with one sovereign in my pocket to meet Law expences, arrears, and advance for a quarter— I suppose you guess by this where I shall Lodge tomorrow night— I do not date my letter because I do not mean to let you know where I am, but if I do not come down next Term I will see you here as you pass through, before which time you shall have my Direction— God bless you old Fellow | I am your sincere friend H Matthew

Upon second thoughts I almost wish that I had not sent you this wretched account of my self because I am sure that you Love me well enough to be concerned at it, but my dear Fellow I do assure you that after what I have gone through poverty is but a light misfortune— I am sure indeed that if I prosper in my Literary efforts, this Life of constant exertion, compelled by Necessity will be the only thing without wine, to save me from Madness.

By the way, I hear from Heaviside5 that my marriage as it is termed is made known in Cambridge. Do not you ever allow it to be true—


A publishing firm founded by Richard Royston.
Henry Parker Cookesley.
Rivington was a leading theological publisher; since 1760 the publisher for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (DNB).
Possibly a reference to Horace, Odes IV. iv. 65 ‘merses profundo pulchrior evenit.’ The Delphin text gloss reads ‘si mari demergas.’ The sense is ‘you may plunge it into the deep—it will come up more beautiful.’
In a letter to Francis Darwin (15 September 1882), James William Lucas Heaviside recalls that CD as an undergraduate was ‘rather fascinated’ by Matthew, an attractive but ‘very intemperate’ man (DAR 112: 56).


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.


Is in London living in a garret, almost penniless, and has legal and marital difficulties. He hopes to sell some verse.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Matthew
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
GB 2 FE 1831
Source of text
DAR 204: 37
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 91,” accessed on 4 August 2021,

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