COLERIDGE, WEDGWOOD and DARWIN. Autograph letter signed by Josiah II Wedgwood, to George Coleridge, announcing the birth of a daughter and a visit to Dr Darwin, 1808
Lot 285
Sold for £2,500 (US$ 3,373) inc. premium

Lot Details
Property of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's direct descendant
Autograph letter signed by Josiah II Wedgwood, to George Coleridge, announcing the birth of a daughter and a visit to Dr Darwin: "Mrs J Wedgwood has very lately added a daughter to my flock, making my number eight, and she is perfectly recovered. Jos is still at home, and I think his constitution is gaining greater strength by the increased exercise that he uses in the present way of life. He looks robust and Dr Darwin, to whom I took him last week, is of opinion the breast bone is regaining its natural form"; the immediate pretext of the letter being to assure George that "I immediately wrote, to your brother Samuel, to deny the accusation contained in his letter to you, in such a manner as I trust cannot leave a doubt in his mind"; much of the rest of the letter being devoted to the fortunes of the Wedgwood pottery business, of which Josiah was then manager: "Since my return to this place [Etruria] from your hospitable house I have been very little about. Our business has to struggle against the total loss of foreign trade, which formerly made a great part of it, and now we have to pay three times the old price for an essential raw material, cobalt, owing to the cessation of commercial intercourse with the continent. Buonaparte succeeds so certainly in all he undertakes that I can scarcely fix any limits to his attempts or their accomplishment, and I do not fear the less for his ultimate grand objects, from seeing that he is not in a hurry to obtain it, but patiently preparing his means without a check. For my own part I have no confidence in the men who have to direct our means of opposing him"; docketed by recipient (see note below), address panel and postmarks, wafer-seal, 3 pages, seal-tear affecting one or two words, light overall browning but still in attractive condition, 4to, Etruria, 31 May 1808; together with George Coleridge's autograph retained draft, signed with initials, of his letter to Wedgwood which solicited this reply, in which George informs him that he has received a letter "from my Brother Samuel about a fortnight ago" [the letter of 11 May, see above] with its accusation that he has prejudiced Wedgwood against Samuel: "If you will do me the kindness to declare to my Brother (who dates from 348 Strand, London) whether his accusation be true, you will add to the favors for wch I am happy to subscribe myself", 2 pages, very light spotting, 4to, [Ottery St Mary, 26 May 1808]


  • 'MRS J WEDGWOOD HAS VERY LATELY ADDED A DAUGHTER TO MY FLOCK': Josiah II Wedgwood announces to the Coleridge family the birth of his daughter Emma – future wife of Charles Darwin – and describes a visit to Dr Robert Waring Darwin – Charles Darwin's father. Emma, the youngest of the eight children born to Josiah (Jos) Wedgwood, had been born on 2 May, soon after the family's stay at Ottery St Mary with George (see his letter to Samuel of 6 April 1807, above). She was to marry her first cousin Charles Darwin in 1839; Charles father, Robert Waring Darwin, having married Wedgwood's sister Susannah (Sukey) in 1796. Charles, their fifth child, was to be born on 9 February 1809 (having therefore been conceived a few weeks before our letter was written). The 'Jos' of our letter was Josiah III Wedgwood, later to be known as 'Joe'. He had been born in 1796 and was to marry Charles's elder sister Caroline in 1837; their daughter Margaret being mother of Ralph Vaughan Williams.

    As well as being both his uncle by marriage and father-in-law, Josiah II Wedgwood was to be something of a mentor for the young Darwin: when Darwin was invited to join Fitzroy on the Beagle, his father had first demurred but then told him to seek the opinion of 'Uncle Jos'; and it was he who secured Dr Darwin's consent. One upshot of this was Darwin visited the Wedgwoods at Maer Hall, Shropshire, soon after his return from the Beagle, writing to his uncle that 'I hope in person to thank you as being my First Lord of the Admiralty' (6 October 1836); thus renewing his connection with his cousin Emma. As regards Coleridge, it was Jos together with his brother Tom who was responsible for paying the annuity of £150, granted on condition that Coleridge give up plans to earn his living as Unitarian minister and devote himself to literature and intellectual pursuits instead. Wedgwood's letter has been docketed by George: "Letter from Mr Wedgwood occasioned by that which I had sent him on the subject of an accusation made by my Brother Samuel. This encloses the said letter, as also one which I wrote to my Brother Sam" (contractions expanded). Neither letter is printed or extracted by Griggs, although Wedgwood's is alluded to in a letter by George to STC (see Griggs, p. 103).
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