I recollect when I was at Mr. Case's inventing a whole fabric to show how fond I was of speaking the TRUTH! My invention is still so vivid in my mind, that I could almost fancy it was true, did not memory of former shame tell me it was false. I have no particularly happy or unhappy recollections of this time or earlier periods of my life. I remember well a walk I took with a boy named Ford across some fields to a farmhouse on the Church Stretton road. I do not remember any mental pursuits excepting those of collecting stones, etc., gardening, and about this time often going with my father in his carriage, telling him of my lessons, and seeing game and other wild birds, which was a great delight to me. I was born a naturalist.
When I was 9 1/2 years old (July 1818) I went with Erasmus to see Liverpool: it has left no impressions on my mind, except most trifling ones--fear of the coach upsetting, a good dinner, and an extremely vague memory of ships.
In Midsummer of this year I went to Dr. Butler's School. (Chapter I./5. Darwin entered Dr. Butler's school in Shrewsbury in the summer of 1818, and remained there till 1825 ("Life and Letters," I., page 30).) I well recollect the first going there, which oddly enough I cannot of going to Mr. Case's, the first school of all. I remember the year 1818 well, not from having first gone to a public school, but from writing those figures in my school book, accompanied with obscure thoughts, now fulfilled, whether I should recollect in future life that year.
In September (1818) I was ill with the scarlet fever. I well remember the wretched feeling of being delirious.
1819, July (10 1/2 years old).
Went to the sea at Plas Edwards and stayed there three weeks, which now appears to me like three months. (Chapter I./6. Plas Edwards, at Towyn, on the Welsh coast.) I remember a certain shady green road (where I saw a snake) and a waterfall, with a degree of pleasure, which must be connected with the pleasure from scenery, though not directly recognised as such. The sandy plain before the house has left a strong impression, which is obscurely connected with an indistinct remembrance of curious insects, probably a Cimex mottled with red, and Zygaena, the burnet-moth. I was at that time very passionate (when I swore like a trooper) and quarrelsome. The former passion has I think nearly wholly but slowly died away. When journeying there by stage coach I remember a recruiting officer (I think I should know his face to this day) at tea time, asking the maid-servant for toasted bread and butter. I was convulsed with laughter and thought it the quaintest and wittiest speech that ever passed from the mouth of man. Such is wit at 10 1/2 years old. The memory now flashes across me of the pleasure I had in the evening on a blowy day walking along the beach by myself and seeing the gulls and cormorants wending their way home in a wild and irregular course. Such poetic pleasures, felt so keenly in after years, I should not have expected so early in life.
Went a riding tour (on old Dobbin) with Erasmus to Pistyll Rhiadr (Chapter I./7. Pistyll Rhiadr proceeds from Llyn Pen Rhiadr down the Llyfnant to the Dovey.); of this I recollect little, an indistinct picture of the fall, but I well remember my astonishment on hearing that fishes could jump up it.
(Chapter I./8. The autobiographical fragment here comes to an end. The next letters give some account of Darwin as an Edinburgh student. He has described ("Life and Letters," I., pages 35-45) his failure to be interested in the official teaching of the University, his horror at the operating theatre, and his gradually increasing dislike of medical study, which finally determined his leaving Edinburgh, and entering Cambridge with a view to taking Orders.)
LETTER 1. TO R.W. DARWIN. Sunday Morning [Edinburgh, October, 1825].
My dear Father
As I suppose Erasmus (Erasmus Darwin) has given all the particulars of the journey, I will say no more about it, except that altogether it has cost me 7 pounds.