Charles Darwin's 'Things for a week' CUL-DAR210.9.30

An introduction by Janet Browne

Probably written in May 1859, this scrap of paper carries a handwritten list of things that Darwin wished to take with him for a short visit to Edward Lane's water-cure establishment at Moor Park, Surrey. Darwin's diary records that this visit took place 21-28 May 1859. The domestic nature of the list makes it a rare curiosity in the Darwin archive. In the early months of 1859 he was exhausted by the intense effort of composing On the Origin of Species and was using the water cure increasingly to relieve what he called 'great prostration of mind & body'. The Origin was published in November that year. Therapy at Lane's establishment combined relaxation with active external treatment such as rubs, showers, blanket wraps and douches. The hair glove mentioned in the list was possibly used by either Darwin or his manservant Joseph Parslow to provide invigorating rubs. Darwin had begun the water cure in Malvern in 1849 and thereafter felt that it relieved many of his symptoms. He moved to Lane at some point in 1857 and liked the establishment very much. When the Origin was published he was at another water establishment, this time at Ilkely in Yorkshire.

The books listed give an insight into Darwin's taste for contemporary Victorian fiction. He took Anthony Trollope, The Bertrams (3 vols., 1859); Charles Kingsley, Yeast (1851, 4th edn. 1859); Edward Bulwer Lytton, The Caxtons: A Family Picture (1849); the first volume of George Eliot, Adam Bede (3 vols., 1859) and a romantic melodrama by Dinah Mulock, Agatha's Husband (1853, new edn. 1858). On his return to Down House at the end of May 1859, Darwin said in a letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker that 'Entire rest & the douche & Adam Bede have together done me a world of good' (Correspondence vol. 7, p. 300; extracted in LL 2: 159).

Janet Browne

October 2006

[Charles Darwin's] 'Things for a week' (nd). CUL-DAR210.9.30 Text


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