skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Henry Bence Jones   2 August 1870

5 Albion Villas | Folkestone

Aug 2 1870

My dear Mr Darwin

Your letter was forwarded to me here.1

I am not of opinion that the pins & needles need stop your work. They shew some want of motion. Some stopped molecular action I suppose which is somehow related to your indigestion. Altho’ the manner is very dark to me and to every one else I suspect.

Whatever you can do in care as to quality & quantity of food, Plenty of air & gentle exercise without fatigue will help this feeling in the nerves away. I wish you would come here and stay ten days with me & I should soon have you well & fit to work at your new book as much as you require2   I do not think any medicine will help you. A teaspoonful of Sal volatile an hour after each meal in a small wineglass of water is all I advise you to take.3

If any more decided nerve symptoms come on you should stop work & ask what more must be done

I am sorry to hear that your son is not well.4 I do not expect to return to London until the 15th of October

With very kind regards | Believe me | Ys most truly | H Bence Jones


CD’s letter has not been found. Bence Jones lived at 31 Brook Street, London, and had a second home in Folkestone where he went sailing; he was a specialist in stomach and renal disorders (ODNB; Correspondence vol. 15, letter from H. B. Jones to Emma Darwin, 1 October 1867, and n. 5).
CD sent the manuscript of Descent to the printers in August 1870 (letter to John Murray, 5 [August 1870]).
‘Sal volatile’ is ammonium carbonate, often used as a smelling salt or internally as an antacid. CD took this on the advice of a former doctor of his, William Jenner (see Correspondence vol. 12, letter to J. D. Hooker, 13 April [1864] and n. 6, and Colp 1977).
Jones may refer to Horace Darwin, whom CD regarded as an invalid (see letter to W. D. Fox, 18 February [1870], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 25 May [1870]). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Horace was home from school from 22 July to 10 August 1870, but she makes no mention of any illness for any of the boys at around this time.


Colp, Ralph, Jr. 1977. To be an invalid: the illness of Charles Darwin. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

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 has complained of pins and needles keeping him from working on his book [Descent]. If he could spend ten days with HBJ, he would be well and fit.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henry Bence Jones
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 168: 79
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7293,” accessed on 20 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18