Indiana University Bloomington

Charles Darwin to James Paget, July 14, 1874.

Charles Darwin to James Paget, July 14, 1874. Miscellaneous Mss.

Autograph letter to Sir James Paget (1814-1899), an eminent British surgeon and pathologist, the discoverer of Paget’s disease, a deformation of the bone. The letter was written to accompany a book Darwin was returning to him. Darwin’s personal stationery included a reference to the nearest railway station (“Railway Station Orpington S.E.R,” owned by the South Eastern Railway or “S.E. R.”), because this would tell correspondents where to send their parcels. Paget had supplied Darwin with a book to help him with a “little life” of his grandfather Erasmus, which Darwin had just completed. The “notice” was in fact a 129-page preface to an article half as long, by the German biologist Dr. Ernst Krause, which Darwin had offered to have translated. John Murray published the book in November 1879. Dr. Darwin’s views on the use of stimulants (such as wine or beer) in the treatment of fever are discussed on page 107 (displayed here), with reference to a book by Henrique Xavier Baeta, M.D., Comparative View of the Theories and Practice of Drs. Cullen, Brown, and Darwin, in the Treatment of Fever, and Acute Rheumatism (London 1800), probably the very same one Darwin was sending back that day. Paget thanked Darwin, on November 18, 1879, calling the book “intensely interesting, not only as the history of a very rare life and the evidence of a greatness of mental power only now fully estimated, but as an unmatched illustration of the transmission of ...intellectual strength” (Memoirs and Letters of Sir James Paget, 3rd ed. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1903, 414). Paget’s Memoirs also contain a first version of the letter below (p. 414, note 2) :

July 14th. 79

My dear Paget.

It was vy [very] kind of you to take the trouble to hunt up the enclosed old Book. — I have been glad to see it, as at least showing that Dr. D’s views were attended to; & I have read it, as these old views on fever seem curious rubbish. — I fear that my little life of Dr. D. will be a very poor affair, & never again will I be tempted out of my proper work.

Believe me yours vy [very] sincer[el]y

Charles Darwin

  • Illustration no. 40.

    Illustration no. 40.

  • Illustration no. 40a.

    Illustration no. 40a.

  • Illustration no. 40b.

    Illustration no. 40b.

Select image to view full size.