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Darwin Correspondence Project

From H. E. Litchfield to Charles and Emma Darwin   [5 November 1871]1

6 Qu Anne


Well, dearest Mother the great day has come & gone & behold me not a corpse!2 but after having breakfasted & talked to R. for an hour am sitting up in bed to write to you. He has gone off for a series of larks—1st. food for his ears in the shape of hi church hymns, then food for his social instincts in going to see Hensleighs3 & others & lastly to refresh his soul in St George’s Hall with a little unorthodoxy. Todays sermon is by W. G. (public orator) Clarke4 so I shan’t see him till afternoon & have lots of time to write you our history au long & au large. I laid a-bed all day & eat my food as if the fate of an empire hung on each mouthful. At 7 o’clk I bundled out of bed & changed my nightgown for a white silk—Lor! it did feel so funny—but as I felt quite well only as weak as a cat I knew I shd get along all right once in my white silk fortified up to the last with quinine & sherry. Fortunately excitement lent me colour & every scrap of my bones were covered with tulle & my hair looked only fashionably buzzy with lying abed—& the Saint Esprit for my sole ornament gave me distinction & elegance—so that R. was satisfied w. my appearance & said nobody wd. have guessed what a little sicky I was. R. goodnaturedly managed for Anne & Mrs. Pearce to go—& we went off two flys full George R. & self   Sno & the two maids & got there at 8.5 My Circe6 was waiting for us & went up w. me to the cloak room—& then I came down & R & I were marched along a series of passages into the music room which was decorated all over with wreaths wh. have a v. pretty effect on the red brick & rough stone pillars. The choir struck up as we entered the marriage chorus out of the Huguenots7—so bright & pretty it sounded—& they had taken such a lot of trouble to get it up—in fact they had had to rearrange it & get it lithographed. R. felt v. funny not to be leading,8 but to be standing by me—I was seated on a chair as it were a queen for the moment, with people making me reverential bows as they were presented to me & tall Jane behind me for my maid of honour.9 You wouldn’t believe how swell I felt. Then after a little more singing I was marched off by Prof Maurice10 to the supper room—which was a gorgeous tent all decorated—with seats for about 250 & an excellent supper of chickens & such & grapes— It was all festooned over with evergreens at no end of trouble. There were no professional waiters   it was all done by a selection of the old College men— The jeweller who made my ring amongst them. We swells were at a sort of high table I between Prof Maurice & R. The principal swells present were the Tom Hughes the Flowers, V. Lushingtons, Lewellyn Davies Sheldon Amos, Ludlow, Dickinson the artist & a few more whose names I’ve forgotten—11 George of course   He was ravenously hungry— R & I had fortified but he was luckily before a v. good tongue of which he eat profusely. After the eating was done there was a little singing & then Prof Maurice got up & made his speech— He seemed v. nervous & I think at one place nearly broke down from emotion. He said all sorts of charming things but I can’t repeat them. The gist of it all was that R. was the one who had entered into their lives who had obliterated all class distinctions & made them only feel their common humanity & I shd. say they just about worship the ground he treads on. Then there was a little more singing & then short & nice feeling but not v. interesting speech of T. Hughes   Then a slightly lengthy speech of one of the old set of college men— It wasn’t really long but very short speeches were best— Then a really charming little speech by one of the present students—saying that tho’ he had been so short a time at the college no one could be there at all without coming under R.s influence— It was so prettily & sincerely said. After this there came the reading of the address— Mr. Tansley12 read it & that was the thing that made me have the biggest lump in my throat— I send you a copy—13 isn’t it a charming address—so simple & unflummery & yet as strong as words can make it.

I send you a copy which please keep for me. We are to have the swell one—all illuminated it is, when all the signatures are put, but I shall like my own humble copy. Then came R.s speech. As soon as he stood up they clapped tremendously & he made me stand up too. He didn’t seem a bit nervous & spoke in his natural tone of voice which was heard perfectly— I can’t tell you what he said except that he talked a little about Father & said how he know Father wd. have liked to be present—& how only those who knew him in the quiet country house I had left, would not only honour & admire him but love him & that nowhere would such a career as his be appreciated more warmly than by those present. I cannot turn this sentence like he did. I thought it very pretty as he said it. He also said that we’d had a little honeymoon14 but we didn’t think it enough & therefore that he shdn’t begin work just yet—all but the singing classes which he considered play not work. This ended the formal proceedings—& we adjourned into the other rooms & there we were shown our picture. Mr Tansley says nearly everybody in the college has subscribed & they must have got a large sum for it is a great big oil painting by MacCallum15 of cedars at Chiswick— A beautiful picture & most delightful to have coming as it does. It was especially not to be a testimonial but a wedding gift. Soon after that I came away with George who said he was so very glad he had been present & thought it a pity Frank16 had refused & R. staid on till midnight when he came home in a cab with his dear little governess17 to whom I was introduced. We shall have such a lot of invites to decline we shd. like to accept! but only to be tolerably well at home will be too delightful if that can be compassed. My dear Jane went away w. tears in her eyes. R. & I were wonderfully stony— Now Goodbye dearest F. & M. you’ll both feel delighted that I did go I know. It wd have been too cruel to fail. Your peaceful if tired daur. H. E. L.

No words can say how they all seemed to delight in seeing R. The enthusiasm was wonderful & filled my inmost heart with delight—

As F. H. wasn’t well eno’ to go— T’was rather diz for poor Sno.18

I hope Bessy is having some good walks. I daresay LHP is still looking very pretty with the dregs of the leaves.19 F. Galton20 has been here but neither of my gents seem to have gathered a scrap of news from him. & that I think is the last of my news. I shall have Hope21 to come & see me tomorrow.

I think of having old Bencey instead of Dr Chambers.22


The date is established by the reference to the party at the Working Men’s College (see n. 2, below). In 1871, 5 November was a Sunday.
Henrietta attended a wedding party with her husband, Richard Buckley Litchfield, at the London Working Men’s College on 4 November 1871 (R. B. Litchfield, Record personal and domestic, vol. 1 (DAR 248/1)). The couple had married at St Mary’s church in Down on 31 August 1871.
Hensleigh and Frances Emma Elizabeth (Fanny) Wedgwood.
St George’s Hall was a function room in Langham Place, Regent Street, London. William George Clark, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, had recently published a tract that was critical of Anglican orthodoxy (ODNB).
Anne and Mrs Pierce were evidently maids of the Litchfields and have not been further identified. George Howard Darwin and Francis Julia Wedgwood (Snow) also attended.
Circe is a goddess in Greek mythology; the actual person referred to has not been identified.
Les Huguenots is a French opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer. Act 5 opens in a ballroom with the marriage of the queen of France to Henry of Navarre.
Richard Litchfield taught music, including singing, at the Working Men’s College.
Jane Litchfield.
John Frederick Denison Maurice.
Thomas Hughes, Cyril and Constance Flower, Vernon and Jane Lushington, John Lewellyn Davies, Sheldon Amos, John Malcolm Forbes Ludlow, Lowes Cato Dickinson.
George Tansley.
The copy of the address has not been found; it was published in Litchfield 1910, pp. 126–8.
Henrietta and her husband travelled in September and October to France, Switzerland, and Italy (R. B. Litchfield, Record, personal and domestic, vol. 1 (DAR 248/1)).
Andrew MacCallum.
Francis Darwin.
The governess, presumably to Richard Litchfield’s nephews and nieces, has not been identified. Litchfield’s sister Martha had died in 1864, and when her husband went to India in 1866 their four children were left in Litchfield’s care (Litchfield 1910, p. 116; R. B. Litchfield, Record, personal and domestic, vol. 1 (DAR 248/1)).
F. H.: Fanny Hensleigh, i.e. Hensleigh Wedgwood’s wife. Sno.: i.e. Snow (Frances Julia Wedgwood).
Elizabeth Darwin. Leith Hill Place in Surrey was the home of Josiah Wedgwood III.
Francis Galton
Hope Elizabeth Wedgwood.
Henrietta began consulting the physician Henry Bence Jones in November 1871 (R. B. Litchfield, Record, personal and domestic, vol. 1 (DAR 248/1)). CD had consulted Jones intermittently since 1865 (see Correspondence vol. 13). Dr Chambers has not been identified.


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

Litchfield, Henrietta Emma. 1910. Richard Buckley Litchfield: a memoir written for his friends by his wife. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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.


Describes the wedding party given for herself and Richard Buckley Litchfield at the Working Men’s College in London.

Letter details

Letter no.
Henrietta Emma Darwin/Henrietta Emma Litchfield
Charles Robert Darwin; Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
6 Queen Anne St, London
Source of text
DAR 245: 2, 9, 252

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8053F,” accessed on 27 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19