Some twelve year old letter writer…

This post is part of a series on The Origin Of Species.  It was originally posted on the old blog in feb 2009, during the Darwin 200 celebrations.

In addition to The Origin, over the past few months I have been slowly working through an anthology of Darwin’s letters, which I keep for entertainment, should it be required, in the smallest room of the house. The book, one of a two volumes of letters, is Origins, edited by Frederick Burhardt and published by Cambs Univ Press. In the absence of sufficient time to write something original today, I give you instead five marvelous “letters” written by a twelve year old Charles Darwin to either his imaginary friend, or perhaps to his youngest sister.

The first, from January 1st, 1822, concerns Darwin’s elder brother and eldest sister:

My Dear friend

I think it is a most abominable thing, the minute Erasmus went out of the room, they began abusing him for being out of temper, you must know that he is not well, and that he hath got the rheumatism, and very pale, and particularly Maryan of couse you know how peevish Maryane is when she is unwell [1] but just the reverse I think Erasmus very good humered to day he came back from enquiring about his ticket, on purpose, because he thought I should like it, the reason was because he was going to draw for Cam bell Bible, and I must now conclude

so therefore your

Note this day I received this ye cabinet

[1] Somebody else has scribbled “a big lie” here.

From January 2nd, 1822:

My Dear friend

I think Erasmus is quite good humered to day as he was yesterday and they have not abused at all, I hope you will help me in looking out and washing the fossils out of the plate closet, as soon as you can conveniently, I hope you received yesterdays letter—

I remain, you know what

A PUg, January 2d 1822

On January 3rd, 1822, Darwin bitches about family friends:

January the 3 1822

My dear friend

I hope you like that inquisitive man Monseur Beodoes, when I was a boy I used to think him a most impertinent man but you may differ in your opinion, he always used to be asking about my father and other things; In you last letter you told me you knew, who, my sisters at Shrewsbury were talking of, I think Papa you will inform me in return of post

I remain—


Tobe Case

P. S. Mr Bayly was formerly a devlish boor but I dare say he is not so to you

And on January 4th, 1822, Darwin writes gibberish about his sister and the housemaid, while adopting another wonderful pen name:

My Dear friend,

You must known that I am very sorry about shakespeare when Maryane, told me to put it up, and I like Mariane excessively, she is so very good to Miss Jone, I will tell you a little accident that happened to me of course you know Miss Jones is in bed, and when I went there with Mariane last night, while she stoopped there I went in town and bought the cakes, and I came back sooner than Mariane was ready, and that foolish old man shoed in the bedroom then there was a bit of Kick-hoop, not that I went quite in, oh no, quite the reverse

Your affectionate

Justice brust with a nose as big as your fist

PS I hope you were not much alarmed at Miss Clare accident

Later that day:

My Dear friend

You must know that after my Georgraphy, she said I should go down to ask for Richards poney, just as I was going, she said she must ask me not a very decent question, that was whether I wash all over every morning no then she said it was quite disgustin then she asked me if I did every other morning, and I said no then she said how often I did, and I said once a week, then she said of cour you wash your feet every day, and I said no, then she begun saying how very disgusting and went on that way a good while, then she said I ought to do it, I said I would wash my neck and shoulders, then she said you had better do it all over then I said upon my word I would not, then she told me, and made me promise I would not tell, then I said, why I only wash my fett once a month at school, which I confess is nasty, but I cannot help it, for we have nothing to do it with, so then Caroline pretended to be quite sick, and left the room, so then I went and told erasmus , and he bust out in laughing and said I had better tell he to come and wash them her self, besides that she said she did not like sitting by me or Erasmus for we smelt of not washing all over, there we sat arguing away for a good while.

I remain your affectionately

Justice burst with a nose as big as your fist

January the 2, 1822

The second letter today

January 12th, 1822, and Darwin is now bitching about the neighbours:

My Dear friend

I hope you had a pleasant ride yesterday on Domben I had a very pleasant walk at first we were very dull but afterward we were quite merry till Curnell Burg Leighton stoped us and walked with us in the quarry I have had such fun with nany and May about some stuff* that I thought very shocking it is in paling skin I thought it rogue I believ it cost eighteen pence a saucer of it—and that Maryan called very dear

I remain your Pug puller

*that stuff in the washroom

The book contains a sixth letter from the twelve year old Darwin, and it’s perhaps the best of all, containing a wonderful diagram — sadly, despite my new found reputation for drawing like a child, I can’t go so far as to transcribe the diagram, so you will just have to get the book!

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