RECORD: Ritchie, Hester ed. 1924. [Recollection of an 1882 visit to Darwin]. In Hester, Letters of Anne Thackeray Ritchie. London: John Murray, pp. 183-4.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by John van Wyhe 3.2018. RN1

[page] 183

Journal 1882

Early in the years Mrs Darwin asked us to go to stay at Down, and so anxious was I to go, that I mistook the day, and went just a week before they asked us!

We drove to the door, the butler hospitably said, “Mr and Mrs Darwin are sure to wish you to remain pray don’t go,” and Mrs and Mr. Darwin came out and called us in, and Mr. Darwin said, “You’re as welcome as can be, and you must forgive me for laughing. I can’t for the life of me help laughing.”

There never was a more charming visit, nor a more delightful host and hostess. He told us about his travels with Admiral FitzRoy, he told us about birds, he told us about fishes, he told us about the tortoises in the Island of Ascension, hatched from the eggs in the sand and starting off and plunging into

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the sea, and, “by Jove,” says he, “the little tortoises, without compass or experience, sail straight by the nearest way to Algiers. It’s perfectly wonderful.” Then he announced he should go to rest. “These ladies” he said, “are good enough to carry me off and read me to sleep when they think I’m getting over excited.”

At breakfast he appeared, having breakfasted, and sat in an arm-chair and talked about Madame de Sevigne. He said when they were all young, they knew her letters so well that they nicknamed their friends by the names of her characters, the obliging Haqueville and so on.

We walked in the garden, and he showed us his worms which had just been turned out of the study, after a course of French horn.

After we came home, there arrived a present for the children from him, a long sliding board to be leant against the stairs, and up and down which the children slide with delight.

The day we should have really gone he was taken with his fatal illness. These two happy days were the last bright flash of that glorious life.

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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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