Everything else, novels, travels, history, was read aloud to him. He took so wide an interest in life, that there was much to occupy him in newspapers, though he laughed at the wordiness of the debates; reading them, I think, only in abstract. His interest in politics was considerable, but his opinion on these matters was formed rather by the way than with any serious amount of thought.

After he read his paper, came his time for writing letters. These, as well as the MS. of his books, were written by him as he sat in a huge horse-hair chair by the fire, his paper supported on a board resting on the arms of the chair. When he had many or long letters to write, he would dictate them from a rough copy; these rough copies were written on the backs of manuscript or of proof-sheets, and were almost illegible, sometimes even to himself. He made a rule of keeping ALL letters that he received; this was a habit which he learnt from his father, and which he said had been of great use to him.

He received many letters from foolish, unscrupulous people, and all of these received replies. He used to say that if he did not answer them, he had it on his conscience afterwards, and no doubt it was in great measure the courtesy with which he answered every one, which produced the universal and widespread sense of his kindness of nature, which was so evident on his death.

He was considerate to his correspondents in other and lesser things, for instance when dictating a letter to a foreigner he hardly ever failed to say to me, "You'd better try and write well, as it's to a foreigner." His letters were generally written on the assumption that they would be carelessly read; thus, when he was dictating, he was careful to tell me to make an important clause begin with an obvious paragraph "to catch his eye," as he often said. How much he thought of the trouble he gave others by asking questions, will be well enough shown by his letters. It is difficult to say anything about the general tone of his letters, they will speak for themselves. The unvarying courtesy of them is very striking. I had a proof of this quality in the feeling with which Mr. Hacon, his solicitor, regarded him. He had never seen my father, yet had a sincere feeling of friendship for him, and spoke especially of his letters as being such as a man seldom receives in the way of business:--"Everything I did was right, and everything was profusely thanked for."

He had a printed form to be used in replying to troublesome correspondents, but he hardly ever used it; I suppose he never found an occasion that seemed exactly suitable. I remember an occasion on which it might have been used with advantage. He received a letter from a stranger stating that the writer had undertaken to uphold Evolution at a debating society, and that being a busy young man, without time for reading, he wished to have a sketch of my father's views. Even this wonderful young man got a civil answer, though I think he did not get much material for his speech. His rule was to thank the donors of books, but not of pamphlets. He sometimes expressed surprise that so few people thanked him for his books which he gave away liberally; the letters that he did receive gave him much pleasure, because he habitually formed so humble an estimate of the value of all his works, that he was generally surprised at the interest which they excited.

In money and business matters he was remarkably careful and exact. He kept accounts with great care, classifying them, and balancing at the end of the year like a merchant. I remember the quick way in which he would reach out for his account-book to enter each cheque paid, as though he were in a hurry to get it entered before he had forgotten it. His father must have allowed him to believe that he would be poorer than he really was, for some of the difficulty experienced in finding a house in the country must have arisen from the modest sum he felt prepared to give. Yet he knew, of course, that he would be in easy circumstances, for in his 'Recollections' he mentions this as one of the reasons for his not having worked at medicine with so much zeal as he would have done if he had been obliged to gain his living.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I Page 50

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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