RECORD: [Litchfield, Henrietta Emma.] 1910. Richard Buckley Litchfield: a memoir written for his friends by his wife. Cambridge: privately printed. [Darwin extracts only]
REVISION HISTORY: Scanned by John van Wyhe, transcribed (single key) by AEL Data 9.2012. RN2
pleasures—brief snatches of holiday got by men of small means and limited leisure—you have been the chief organiser, and it is owing to you that a large number of us are able to cherish recollections which we shall not willingly let die, of holidays that but for your care would have been wholly unattainable.
It may be that in looking back you may have at times the feeling that your work has not had the results you had a right to look for. This may be true in part; undoubtedly we have most of us not made such use as we should of the generous help so freely given to us. But let it never be Forgotten that the teaching and example of yourself, of our beloved Principal, and of those who have so earnestly laboured with you, have kept the standard of life far higher for us than, but for such teaching and example it might have been; and we believe that your work and life will also influence those who come after.
We desire specially to welcome Mrs Litchfield amongst us. As the daughter of a great and original scientific thinker, she would at all times have found respect and interest in this College; but now that she comes as your wife, bearing a name we shall always think of with affection, we feel that she comes as a dear friend, and that no welcome we can give can be too full of heartiness and goodwill.
We pray that there may be now in store for you both long years of happiness, with—
"Honour, love, obedience, troops of friends."
WORKING MEN'S COLLEGE, November 4, 1871.
Richard's speech of thanks followed and concluded the formal proceedings. His manner in speaking was always very simple, with absolutely no pretence and no apparent nervousness. He never hesitated, and said what he wished to say in a direct manner. That night his speech was striking from its calmness and simplicity. We then adjourned to the other rooms and were shewn our wedding gift from the College—a large and beautiful picture of cedars at Chiswick by Maccallum. We were told that almost everyone in the College joined in this gift.
I wrote to my mother: "No words can say how they all seemed to delight in seeing Richard. The enthusiasm was wonderful and filled my inmost heart with delight."
Charles Darwin to his daughter Mrs Litchfield.
MY DEAREST ETTY,
We were all so rejoiced yesterday; and what a very good girl you were to write us so long a letter. We have been all profoundly interested and touched by your account. Pray tell Litchfield how much I have been pleased, and more than pleased, by what he said about me. When the address and your letter had been read, the first thought which passed through my mind was "What a grand career he has run,"— but I hope his career is very far from finished.
I congratulate you with all my heart at having so noble a husband. What an admirable address, and how well written! Even You, Miss Rhadamanthus, an thus, could not have improved a word. It is as superior to all ordinary addresses as one of the old Buccaneer voyages are to modern travels. Goodbye, dearest; keep quiet. Goodbye.
With the exception of the singing class, Richard now gave up for a time teaching at the College. The singing classes were held from eight to ten, and every Thursday evening from October to June he would be at the school-room in Theobald's Road where they were held. He was allowed to keep there a grand piano and the music then in use. He had a large repertory of music, which he kept in file-covers arranged alphabetically, each file containing thirty or forty copies of glee, madrigal, or chorus from some opera or oratorio. He would go periodically to the music shops to search out fresh music and one file-cover was kept for music on approbation. It was a familiar sight to see him sitting in his armchair by the fire, humming or whistling under his breath some piece new to the class, though not new in itself, for almost all the music was old.
Though he no longer taught at the College he took the same interest in the management and in the social life. This winter he gave his usual Christmas party at the College. This was held just before the winter
Conversazione, and one set of decorations served for both parties. A faggot of holly and greenery was sent from Down, which kind and zealous helpers made use of. To reach the rooms used for parties, one had to pass down some steps and then through the long garden at the back of the fine old house in Great Ormond Street. On our grand reception night this was all tented in and covered with red felt, as if for royalty. But on other occasions we hurried along in almost complete darkness, through snow, or rain, and always through smuts. The "Oval" room, used for all functions, was, on ordinary nights, the art-class room. It was a strangely shaped room, lit by a skylight, the walls unplastered and kept in their native brick. All around there were groups of statuary, Niobe and the Laocoon, and one especially prominent life-sized anatomical preparation of a man without his skin. The look of his unabashed muscles in stripes is always associated in my mind with blindman's-buff or hunt-the-slipper, or Mr John Bromhall's famous comic songs. These unlike so many comic songs were really funny; the points delicately touched, and brought out in his soft, high tenor voice. Then last of all, we joined hands all round for Auld Lang Syne. The whole spirit of these Christmas parties was almost like that of a great family group—everyone knew everyone, and all were bound together by love for Richard.
All through the winter months we had pleasant opportunities of meeting our College friends at Mr Tansley's house in Regent Square, where Mrs Tansley had an open night once a fortnight for the College circle. There was an informality in these evenings, and
The scheme was well received by many of the Council but it was negatived by a considerable majority. At this time his term of Vice-Principalship came to an end and he determined not to take it again under present circumstances. He was much pressed but stood to it, retaining the office of Treasurer (now to be called Bursar) and, in that capacity only, a place on the Executive Committee.
Vivisection—Tours abroad—A serious illness—Sir Andrew Clark.
In 1874—5 the question of vivisection came to the front and my father took an active part in the matter. At first, the natural horror which all humane people must feel in thinking of this subject affected both my husband and myself. Afterwards, on hearing and learning more about the subject, we were convinced that the abolition of vivisection would be a grave misfortune to the world.
Charles Darwin his daughter Mrs Litchfield.
4 January, 1875.
MY DEAR H—. Your letter has led me to think over vivisection (I wish some new word like anæs-section could be invented) for some hours, and I will jot down my conclusions, which will appear very unsatisfactory to you. I have long thought physiology one of the greatest of sciences, sure sooner, or more probably later, greatly to benefit mankind; but, judging from all other sciences, the benefits will accrue only indirectly in the search for abstract truth. It is certain that physiology can progress only by experiments on living animals. Therefore the proposal to limit research to
points of which we can now see the bearings in regard to health, etc., I look at as puerile. I thought at first it would be good to limit vivisection to public laboratories; but I have heard only of those in London and Cambridge, and I think Oxford; but probably there may be a few others. Therefore only men living in a few great towns could carry on investigation, and this I should consider a great evil. If private men were permitted to work in their own houses, and required a licence, I do not see who is to determine whether any particular man should receive one. It is young unknown men who are the most likely to do good work. I would gladly punish severely anyone who operated on an animal not rendered insensible, if the experiment made this possible; but here again I do not see that a magistrate or jury could possibly determine such a point. Therefore I conclude, if (as is likely) some experiments have been tried too often, or anæsthetics have not been used when they could have been, the cure must be in the improvement of humanitarian feelings. Under this point of view I have rejoiced at the present agitation. If stringent laws are passed, and this is likely, seeing how unscientific the House of Commons is, and that the gentlemen of England are humane, as long as their sports are not considered, which entail a hundred or thousand-fold more suffering than the experiments of physiologists— if such laws are passed, the result will assuredly be that physiology, which has been until within the last few years at a standstill in England, will languish or quite cease. It will then be carried on solely on the Continent; and there will be so many fewer workers on this grand subject, and this I should greatly regret.
By the way F. Balfour, who has worked for two or three years in the laboratory at Cambridge, declares to George that he has never seen an experiment, except with animals rendered insensible. No doubt the names of doctors will have great weight with the House of Commons; but very many practitioners neither know nor care anything about the progress of knowledge. I cannot at present see my way to sign any petition, without hearing what physiologists thought would be its effect, and then judging for myself. I certainly could not sign the paper sent me by Miss Cobbe, with its monstrous (as it seems to me) attack on Virchow for experimenting on the Trichinæ. I am tired and so no more.
During a visit paid us by my parents in April, 1875, my father's time was wholly taken up with this question, and Richard was extremely active in helping him in every way he could. He drew up a bill in consultation with my father, Burdon Sanderson, Huxley and others, to be put forward on behalf of the physiologists, and taken charge of by Lord Cardwell in the House of Lords. The Government, however, announced a Royal Commission of inquiry and on this being appointed the bill was allowed to drop.
All through the early years of our married life we spent most Saturdays and Sundays out of town. Unless we had other engagements we usually went to Down, but more than once we made a longer week-end and went together on the Thames, staying in some cottage
After my return from Kreuznach, we set off, as usual, for an autumn holiday abroad and arrived at Engelberg early in September. Almost immediately my husband was attacked with acute appendicitis. We fell into the hands of an entirely ignorant Swiss doctor, and the illness would certainly have ended fatally had it not been for the kindness of a fellow visitor, Dr Fagg of Guy's, who prolonged his stay at Engelberg for our sake. Afterwards our friend, Dr Norman Moore, then only beginning his career, came out, and by his skill and great care saved Richard's life, not leaving us till we were able to move to Lucerne.
Charles Darwin to his daughter Mrs Litchfield.
DOWN, 4 October .
MY DEAREST H.,
I must write to tell you how deeply I have sympathized with you in all your dreadful anxiety. We were at first quite panic-struck, and how we rejoice over Litchfield's much better state. How I wish you were safe at home, and that a law was passed that no one should go abroad. I want to advise you to take a courier from Lucerne; and so have no bothers on the journey.
There ought to be another law not to ride horses, or play at lawn tennis1. Poor dear old L.
1This is an allusion to accidents which had lately happened in our family.
lies on the sofa a bulky monument of patience, and never grumbles a bit…. When you return you had better come to Down; it is safer than London, and in earnest I should think country air must be better for convalescence, and there will be no business to bother Litchfield.
I am tired, so Goodbye. Frank and I have been working very hard at bloom1 and the automatic movements of plants from morning to night, and we have made out a good deal. Goodbye my clear, love to Litchfield—
How I rejoice that your anxiety is over.
Your affect. father,
We remained at Lucerne until November, when we were able safely to reach Down. Mr Litchfield was not sufficiently recovered to take up work till after Christmas, nor the Singing Class till May. For the first time, too, there were no "Sunday Walks" in the summer. His life had to be quiet all this year and he read much, chiefly the Classics. He began learning by heart, and all that he learnt he copied in a delicately neat hand, using a crow's quill, into two little red leather books, one of which, at least, was always at hand. All clerkly work was carried out by him with a peculiar thoroughness and neatness shewing that it was a labour of love.
1The wax coating on leaves which makes come out dry after being dipped in water.
Death of Charles Darwin—31, Kensington Square—People's Concert Society—Musical Diary—Operas—A Browning dinner —George Eliot's Life— Lincoln Cathedral—Malvern and Birmingham Festival—Programme-making.
MY father died on the 19th April, 1882. Richard wrote: "The death of Mr Darwin has been the one thing which has made this year different to us from all others. It has brought about a break up of the Down circle and at the same time we have been ourselves in an unsettled state as to home—changing houses. H. was very much at Down after the death, staying with and helping her mother."
4, BRYANSTON STREET, 4 May, 1882.
I've just come in from my "Last Judgment." I liked being there, and singing— the service and all sounded so full and solemn and the choruses very noble. But I feel this house and everything very blank. I never knew till now what an immense part of our common life your father was. It was such a placid and silent influence that we didn't, at least I didn't, consciously feel how much it was.
We bought 31, Kensington Square this year. He writes: "A great point with us in choosing a house was
to get one where we could well take in Mr and Mrs Darwin. The death happened about a month or so after we had agreed the purchase."
This house was a happy choice for us. There was a peculiar charm in the low well-proportioned rooms which made it quite unlike a modern London house. At the back there was a picturesque bit of garden. It was the width of the house for the first part, and then, an old encroachment on the garden of our next door neighbour, enabled us to have a little square lawn, a pear-tree, a mulberry and a row of limes. The old brick walls enclosing it were clothed with creepers, and we kept the borders gay. When first we came, the spire of St Mary Abbott's showed over a group of old red roofs and made a pleasant scene which might have been in any country town far away from the roar of London. My husband loved his little garden and spent many hours sitting there with his books or talking with friends. Another great advantage of this house was its neighbourhood to our friends Mr and Mrs Vernon Lushington and their three daughters, whose house in the Square was only a few steps from ours. Richard all his life had a strong love for the young, and they too liked to be with and talk to him. He met them on a level of equality, and his simplicity and unselfconscious nature set them quite at ease. His knowledge, too, was always at their service. Nothing pleased him more than to go with his girl-friends to hear music, or to take them to see pictures or any of the sights of London.
In 1883 Mr Hughes gave up the Principalship of the College and Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury) agreed
A serious illness—The death of Mrs Darwin— A Century of Family Letters—Life of Tom Wedgwood—Millet's Life—The Browning Letters—Professor Dicey elected Principal of the Working Men's College—Wintering abroad—Resignation of all Work— A legacy from an old pupil—Alassio—Cannes—Letter from George Tansley—His death—Letter to L. Pocock.
IN the summer of 1896 as we were on our way abroad, Richard had a serious illness which detained us at Dover till he could travel home with safety. My mother fell ill a few days after our return and died on the 4th of October. I was able to leave him and go to Down and bad the comfort of being with her for the last day of her short illness. This loss altered the whole framework of our lives, for the family life at Down—the house which was like a second home to us—came to an end. As I was hardly ever separated from him again, there are but few letters now to give.
His recovery was slow and all through the winter he led the life of an invalid. Whilst thus confined to the house, almost to the sofa, he undertook the task of reading a mass of old letters which had belonged to my mother. These were given to me by my brothers to read and decide what should be done with them. They were for the most part written by my grandmother, Mrs Josiah Wedgwood, and her sisters, Madame de
Sismondi, Emma and Fanny Allen. We soon saw that they possessed much family interest. They were however in great confusion and numbers of them were undated, but by means of carefully collating them, and with the aid of a perpetual calendar, he gradually got them into order. He wrote the dates in red ink at the top of each letter, also by whom it was written and to whom. As the letters were generally signed with initials only and the Christian names were in many cases the same, this was necessary. He also made a short précis of the contents of each letter. He then read them all aloud to me. His excellent short-sighted eyes served him well with the faded ink and close neat writing of these voluminous letter writers. I began almost immediately after my mother's death to write down my memories of her and we presently agreed that these letters should form the groundwork of the privately printed book called Emma Darwin: A Century of Family letters.
Amongst other letters and papers belonging to the family, there were a number relating to my great-uncle, Tom Wedgwood, A hundred years ago, Coleridge and Mackintosh had undertaken jointly to write his life but neither had ever done anything towards fulfilling their promises. Finding that the family, especially my cousin, Mr Godfrey Wedgwood, would like him to take up the task, Richard began working on this subject in 1897. It occupied him at intervals for the rest of his life. The facts as to how far Tom Wedgwood's discovery of photography was valid were obscure and difficult to unravel. They were worked out by him with great thoroughness and care. Tom Wedgwood's connection
R. B. Litchfield
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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