The Letters of Charles Darwin HTML version

From The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin
Edited by his Son
Francis Darwin
[My father’s autobiographical recollections, given in the present
chapter, were written for his children,–and written without any
thought that they would ever be published. To many this may seem
an impossibility; but those who knew my father will understand
how it was not only possible, but natural. The autobiography
bears the heading, ’Recollections of the Development of my Mind
and Character,’ and end with the following note:–”Aug. 3, 1876.
This sketch of my life was begun about May 28th at Hopedene (Mr.
Hensleigh Wedgwood’s house in Surrey.), and since then I have
written for nearly an hour on most afternoons.” It will easily
be understood that, in a narrative of a personal and intimate
kind written for his wife and children, passages should occur
which must here be omitted; and I have not thought it necessary
to indicate where such omissions are made. It has been found
necessary to make a few corrections of obvious verbal slips, but
the number of such alterations has been kept down to the
minimum.–F. D.]
A German Editor having written to me for an account of the
development of my mind and character with some sketch of my
autobiography, I have thought that the attempt would amuse me,
and might possibly interest my children or their children. I
know that it would have interested me greatly to have read even
so short and dull a sketch of the mind of my grandfather, written
by himself, and what he thought and did, and how he work ed. I
have attempt ed to write the following account of myself, as if I
were a dead man in another world looking back at my own life.
Nor have I found this dicult, for life is nearly over with me.
I have taken no pains about my style of writing.
I was born at Shrewsbury on February 12th, 1809, and my earliest
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recollection goes back only to when I was a few months over four
years old, when we went to near Abergele for sea-bathing, and I
recollect some events and plac es there with some little
My mother died in July 1817, when I was a little over eight years
old, and it is odd that I can remember hardly anything about her
except her death-bed, her black velvet gown, and her curiously
constructed work-table. In the spring of this same year I was
sent to a day-school in Shrewsbury, where I stayed a year. I
have been told that I was much slower in lea rning than my younger
sister Catherine, and I believe that I was in many ways a naughty
By the time I went to this day-school (Kept by Rev. G. Case,
minister of the Unitarian Chapel in the High Street. Mrs. Darwin
was a Unitarian and attended Mr. Case’s chapel, and my father as
a little boy went there with his elder sisters. But both he and
his brother were christened and intended to belong to the Church