RECORD: Galton, Emma Sophia. 19 Nov. 1879. Letter to Charles Darwin. PC-Virginia-Galton1879 (Private collection). Edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online,

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua, corrections by John van Wyhe 7.2019. With thanks to Anke Timmerman. RN1

NOTE: See record in the Darwin Online manuscript catalogue, enter its Identifier here. Reproduced with the permission of the anonymous owner.


Emma Sophia Galton (1811-1904) was one of the seven children of Samuel Tertius Galton (1783-1844) and Violetta Darwin (1783-1874). The sister she mentions in this letter to Darwin was Elizabeth Anne Galton (1808-1906). In the letter, Emma Sophia discusses Darwin's recent biographical "Preliminary notice" of their grandfather of Erasmus Darwin (F1319) and commented on a few errors. This letter fits between others exchanged between Galton and Darwin on the subject, see the Darwin Correspondence Project website here. Darwin retained the letter with other notes for a projected second edition. That work appeared, posthumously, in 1887, published by Francis Darwin, as F1321.


5. Bertie Terrace. Leamington Nov 19th 1879

[pencil insertion by Darwin:] Errata

My dear Cousin,

When I wrote to you on Thursday last, I had read the life of our grandfather rather hurriedly, as we were daily expecting the death of my Brother-in-law – Edward Wheler – he lingered on till early on Sunday morn, when he ceased to breathe, at the age of 81 –

In him, I have lost a most kind friend – my sister is dreadfully cut up – but she has one son & one Daughter – who will be real comfort to her.

She begs me to tell you, how much interested she has been, in reading the Book, you kindly gave her – at times when able – she is sure you will excuse her writing herself –

A few mistakes, the Printer has made, which I dare say, you have already noticed – viz


Page 29 – Last line but 3.

Boulton (not Bolton)


" 87. – Line 10. He died Nov: 13th 1848 (not 1849)

I always remember the year your Father died, as my sister Lucy Moilliet died the week before, & the two deaths, quite upset my mother


Page 41. I have more lines, in my grandfather's writing

"From Lichfield famed two giant critics come"


Page 7.8.9 The letters to & from Susannah Darwin are excellent - & one of my grandfather's earliest attempts to poetry was this, my mother has often told us _________________________________________________________

"My dearest Sue

of lovely hue

No sugar, can be sweeter

You do – as far

Excel su-gar

As sugar, does saltpetre"


Page 40 & 81. The stammering – Dr E Darwin's daughter Violetta also inherited his stammering to a great degree & till age of 12. Could hardly make herself understood – He sent for a person fr. Edinburgh, who cured her in a great degree

She could not pronounce the [illeg] sounds L, M, N, R & Y – His remedy was to put a vowel before each of those letters, when beginning a word –

such  - as Er-yes – Er – No

In the same way an E – between the letters Br – in Brothers, Bread, So Ber – others. Ber – ead – She always managed to do it so well, it was scarcely perceptible, to those who did not know her infirmity – & she cured many, who stammered in the same way

Page 54 – I often heard my mother say, that the small pox so raged


in Derby, when she was born (Apr 1783) that her Father inoculated her when only six weeks old – tho' it was a risk, but he thought the risk greater, as she was in a Doctor's House where so many patients came -

64. My mother used to say that when her Father visited the Robber in prison, He said – "Now tell me, as you are condemned what is the best preservative against thieves" – The man replied – a little dog, so fastened that we cannot give him anything to quieten him – a Light, or a Baby in the House - & an old fashioned rusty lock which makes a noise, when trying to do any thing to it –

My mother, in consequence, always had one Light, burning all night in the House

[See Life of Erasmus Darwin, p. 64]


Page 116. Line 6. frm the Bottom

Dr E Darwin had always a great objection to nurses who squinted, & who had an unpleasant expression of countenance – he thought children were much influenced by it

118 – Amongst other curious inventions, was a clock, to watch the watchman – it was invented by Dr E Darwin & Mr. William Strutt - & we long had one in our possession – I think my Brother Darwin must have it now –

126. I always understood my grandfather had only regularly taken up his abode at the Priory about 3. weeks before his death, as several rooms had to be built after his son Erasmus died.


Page 127 – line 5 – Evidently a mis-print

died April 18th (not the 10th)

Dr E Darwin had a severe illness 2 or 3. years before his death, & in his delirium, he often fancied himself a tree - & my mother used to say, how painful it was, as she sat by his bedside – he would point to his heart & say – "If you would only cut out this decayed part, the tree would live" –


The Picture by Rolleston was taken after his illness –


In the Book – of Holland House, published abt. 1874 – Some lines on one of the trees there, was quoted, as having been written by Rogers – an old friend of ours, & especially of


W. Keer's (Dr. Alexr. Blair) then much upwards of 90 – wrote to us saying the lines were not Rogers, but Dr. Darwin's – an ode to Swilear Oak in Needwood Forest – on making enquiries, we found it, in the Phytologia - & originally written to Mr Mundy – who wrote on Needwood forest & received complimentary verses frm Dr. E Darwin. His son, Erasmus, Sir Brook Boothby & others –


How well you have explained at Page 80 – about my grandfather having a large appetite –

We are glad to hear that your son Horace is going soon to be married, in a way you all like


With our kind regards to yourself & Mrs Darwin & yr family

Believe me

Your's very sincerely

E. S. Galton

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

File last updated 17 October, 2023