RECORD: Anon. 1927. Obituary of Mrs. Litchfield. The Times (20 December), p. 1, (24 December), p. 10. Transcribed by Christine Chua, edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe 10.2019. RN1

NOTE: Henrietta Emma Litchfield left behind property of the value of £33,728, with net personalty £29,762. The Times (20 February 1928), p. 15. The sale of her home published in The Times (27 February 1928), p. 20 is also included here.

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LITCHFIELD. – On Dec. 17, 1927, at Burrows Hill, Gomshall, HENRIETTA EMMA, widow of RICHARD BUCKLEY LITCHFIELD and daughter of the late Charles Darwin, aged 84.

[24 December, page 10]



A correspondent writes :_

Mrs. Litchfield, whose death at the age of 84 was recorded in The Times a few days ago, was Henrietta, the fourth and eldest surviving child of Charles Darwin. She had outlived nearly all her friends of her own generation, but perhaps one of a younger generation might say something of a very remarkable and lovable character. As a young woman, before her marriage, she helped her father in his work. As recorded in his biography, it was when the proofs of his books arrived at the "slip" stage that he began seriously to consider the question of style. His sentences had a way of getting themselves inverted, and he welcomed, suggestions in the disentangling of them. It was at this stage that his daughter came to his aid, and she herself wrote of it.-"I do not think that he ever used to forget to tell me what improvement he thought I had made, and he used almost to excuse himself if he did not agree with any correction."

The late Mr. Richard Buckley Litchfield, to whom she was married in 1871, was one of the founders of the Working Men's College; she took a great interest in it and helped it in various ways. Besides a little memoir of her husband; she edited "Emma' Darwin: A Century of Family Letters," beginning with the letters of a remarkable sisterhood, the Misses Allen of Cresselly, one of whom was her grandmother, Mrs. Josiah Wedgwood, and coming down to the death of her mother, Mrs. Charles Darwin, in 1896. It was an admirable piece of work, in which the editor, while largely effacing herself, yet gave a notable picture of an interesting family life.

But Mrs. Litchfield will be remembered by all who knew her, not for anything she did, but for what she was in herself. She had an extraordinarily clear and vigorous intellect, wide reading, and a great power of grasping a subject. Hers was, I think, essentially a virile mind, but with it there went a feminine and Victorian quality which made her listen respectfully to men whom intellectually she could have "bought and sold" many times over. To the last day of her life she was vitally interested in politics and there was something pathetic in the eagerness with which she could question those who came to her quiet home in Surrey from a busier world, wanting to know what that world thought of the questions of the day and receiving with a little disappointment vague and unsatisfactory answers from those much less well-informed and more lazy-witted than herself.

She was just as much interested in people as in questions, and all her nephews and nieces will think of her as the perfect aunt. She tilled her house with them and their children and they were always in her mind when absent. her "plans" were proverbial in her family and she would think out with astonishing clarity all manner of devices to help the younger generation in its domestic problems, appearing, indeed, to keep in her head separate maps of their houses and gardens. These suggestions came in much-prized letters. Her letters were not long; that clear and masterful handwriting took up a good deal of room on the page, but she had a real genius for the right phrase and every sentence was compact, unwasteful, and if not witty, yet full of a most engaging humour. She was always frail in health but had inherited something of her father's capacity for working up to the exact limit of his powers and then stopping. Thus, by adroit nursing of her strength, she could read and write much, enjoy small doses of her friends, manage her little household of devoted servants, and enjoy her garden and the pleasant wood on its borders.

Her father once wrote to her of her childhood:-"How proud I was when you would come in and sit on my knee, and there you sat for a long time, looking as solemn as a little judge." That judicial solemnity of expression remained with her, as it seems to me, all her life, but it was constantly broken and lighted up by a smile of equal charm and sincerity. It may be permissible to say that there have been few more acute minds and no warmer hearts among the number of those who " rest in unvisited tombs."

The Times (London, England), Monday, February 27, 1928, p. 20.


The Estate Market.



The late Mrs. Litchfield, who was at the time of her death last December the eldest surviving daughter of Charles Darwin, lived at Burrows Hill, Gomshall. The house is for sale by order of the executors, of whom Mr. Bernard Darwin is one. The sale is entrusted to Messrs. Harrods, Limited (Brompton-road), who have illustrated the house in their list in The Times, first on February 15 (p. 28). It stands in four acres of garden, 400ft. above sea level, and a buyer can acquire an adjoining area of the same extent. Burrows Hill is a well-designed modern house, having three or four reception rooms and eight bed and dressing rooms, with conveniently planned accommodation for a small domestic staff. It has central heating, "main" water and other services, and a garage for two cars. Gomshall and Shere lie west of Abinger Hammer, one of the villages along the short course of the Tillingbourne, which is by many esteemed the prettiest part of a county noted for scenery. Burrows Hill is near the Pilgrims' Way and Albury Park. As the executors wish to wind up the estate at once, they will accept a very moderate price for the property.

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