You all know your mother, and what a good mother she has ever been to all of you. She has been my greatest blessing, and I can declare that in my whole life I have never heard her utter one word I would rather have been unsaid. She has never failed in kindest sympathy towards me, and has borne with the utmost patience my frequent complaints of ill-health and discomfort. I do not believe she has ever missed an opportunity of doing a kind action to any one near her. I marvel at my good fortune that she, so infinitely my superior in every single moral quality, consented to be my wife. She has been my wise adviser and cheerful comforter throughout life, which without her would have been during a very long period a miserable one from ill-health. She has earned the love of every soul near her.
LETTER 11. C. LYELL TO C. DARWIN. [July?, 1841?].
(11/1. Lyell started on his first visit to the United States in July, 1841, and was absent thirteen months. Darwin returned to London July 23rd, 1841, after a prolonged absence; he may, therefore, have missed seeing Lyell. Assuming the date 1841 to be correct, it would seem that the plan of living in the country was formed a year before it was actually carried out.)
I have no doubt that your father did rightly in persuading you to stay [at Shrewsbury], but we were much disappointed in not seeing you before our start for a year's absence. I cannot tell you how often since your long illness I have missed the friendly intercourse which we had so frequently before, and on which I built more than ever after your marriage. It will not happen easily that twice in one's life, even in the large world of London, a congenial soul so occupied with precisely the same pursuits and with an independence enabling him to pursue them will fall so nearly in my way, and to have had it snatched from me with the prospect of your residence somewhat far off is a privation I feel as a very great one. I hope you will not, like Herschell, get far off from a railway.
LETTER 12. TO CATHERINE DARWIN.
(12/1. The following letter was written to his sister Catherine about two months before Charles Darwin settled at Down:--)
Sunday [July 1842].
You must have been surprised at not having heard sooner about the house. Emma and I only returned yesterday afternoon from sleeping there. I will give you in detail, as my father would like, MY opinion on it--Emma's slightly differs. Position:--about 1/4 of a mile from the small village of Down in Kent--16 miles from St. Paul's--8 1/2 miles from station (with many trains) which station is only 10 from London. This is bad, as the drive from [i.e. on account of] the hills is long. I calculate we are two hours going from London Bridge. Village about forty houses with old walnut trees in the middle where stands an old flint church and the lanes meet. Inhabitants very respectable--infant school--grown up people great musicians--all touch their hats as in Wales and sit at their open doors in the evening; no high road leads through the village. The little pot-house where we slept is a grocer's shop, and the landlord is the carpenter--so you may guess the style of the village. There are butcher and baker and post-office. A carrier goes weekly to London and calls anywhere for anything in London and takes anything anywhere. On the road [from London] to the village, on a fine day the scenery is absolutely beautiful: from close to our house the view is very distant and rather beautiful, but the house being situated on a rather high tableland has somewhat of a desolate air. There is a most beautiful old farm-house, with great thatched barns and old stumps of oak trees, like that of Skelton, one field off. The charm of the place to me is that almost every field is intersected (as alas is ours) by one or more foot-paths. I never saw so many walks in any other county. The country is extraordinarily rural and quiet with narrow lanes and high hedges and hardly any ruts. It is really surprising to think London is only 16 miles off.