EXTRAORDINARY SIGNED AUTOGRAPH LETTER FROM EMMA DARWIN, CHARLES DARWIN’S WIFE, TO THOMAS GOLD APPLETON
(DARWIN, Charles) DARWIN, Emma. Autograph letter signed. Bromley, Kent, June 28, . Single sheet of letterhead, measuring 4 by 6 inches folded in half; pp. 4.
Original signed autograph letter from Charles Darwin’s wife Emma Darwin to painter and essayist Thomas Gold Appleton relating Charles Darwin’s gratitude for the natural history book Appleton sent him, mentioning Darwin’s continuing illness, remarking on the Civil War and slavery, and imploring Appleton to visit if he planned to come to England as Darwin was eager to see him again.
The letter, written entirely in Emma Darwin’s hand on the stationery of Darwin’s residence at Down House, reads: “June 28. My dear Mr Appleton, It was very pleasant to find ourselves so kindly remembered by you at such a distance of time & Mr. Darwin begs me to thank you most cordially for the beautiful book… He begs me to say that the book is one of the most beautiful specimens of work of Nat. History he has ever seen. I wish we could have had the pleasure of seeing your brother here but Mr Darwin has been too unwell to see any visitors. We shall rejoice at the termination of the war & if we cannot hope to see slavery abolished I think it must at all events be prevented from spreading. If you shd be coming to England I hope you will let us know as we should be so glad to see you again. Mr Darwin… has the pleasantest recollection of the days you spent here. Very truly yours. E. Darwin.” This autograph letter is accompanied by the first mainstream publication of Emma Darwin’s collected letters, edited by her daughter, Henrietta Litchfield. “Although a biography of Emma, this contains a large number of letters from Charles and is an important source of information about his day to day and family life” (Freeman 1553). With 19 illustrated plates. Accompanied by the first published edition of Emma Darwin’s collected letters, edited by her daughter. (New York: Appleton, 1915). This edition was preceded by a 1904 privately printed edition of only 250 copies that were distributed only to family and friends. This edition contains substantial textual alterations. The recipient of the letter, Thomas Gold Appleton, was distantly related to both Charles and Emma Darwin by marriage (the Darwins themselves were first cousins). Appleton and his wife were close friends of the Darwins and they corresponded frequently and at length. A Boston native, Thomas Appleton was incredibly popular, particularly among prominent members of the Unitarian community such as Charles Darwin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (his brother-in-law), both for his remarkable kindness and for his wit, which was so acute that Oscar Wilde quoted him in A Woman of No Importance. Though remembered best for his sociability, Appleton was also a talented painter and essayist who frequently focused on social matters such as abolition, as eluded to in this letter. Like Appleton, Darwin was a devoted abolitionist who once criticized The Times for failing to show even “a shade of feeling against slavery.” Darwin and his wife both expressed their understanding, if not unqualified support, of the Northern cause, even at a time when much of England sided with the South. Darwin was deeply disturbed by the political climate on both sides of the Atlantic and his correspondence from the time clearly showed his frustration and dismay over slavery and the costs of war. Although 1862 was once of Darwin’s most scientifically productive years, he spent much of the early summer afflicted by a case of eczema and a fever-type illness that prevented him from attending several important meetings and from visiting with friends such as Appleton’s brother. Nevertheless, by the end of the year, Darwin had performed a large number of complex botanical experiments and had succeeded in publishing two botanical papers and a book on the pollination mechanisms of orchids, all while remaining deeply involved with the British scientific community and developments in the field of evolution. Also included with this autograph letter is a typed letter from a researcher at the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge requesting permission from the former owner, prominent gerontologist James G. Zimmer, to include this letter in Volume X of The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Book contains owner signatures of E.C. Case, possibly the prominent American paleontologist.
Autograph letter in exceptional condition, with only original mailing creases, two very faint areas of discoloration, and a single bit of paper residue not affecting text. Books most attractive, with only minor scattered foxing, a bit of toning to spines, and slight soiling to original cloth. A most desirable and interesting letter with a wonderful association, accompanied by Henrietta Litchfield’s classic biography of her mother, Emma Darwin.