Item 3 - Letter from W. K. Clifford to [Lucy Clifford]

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CLIF/A2/3

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Letter from W. K. Clifford to [Lucy Clifford]

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  • [Mar. 1877?] (Creation)

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2 sheets, one of them folded

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Combe Bank, Sevenoaks.—Gives an account of visits to the Darwins and Lady Lubbock. Will be able to return home with the Moultons, who arrive today. Looks forward to seeing her and the ‘dear little kid’. Contrasts Daniel Deronda with and the writing of Mallock.

(Dated Wednesday.)

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Combe Bank, Sevenoaks
Wednesday—

My own darling child—we had such a nice day yesterday: breakfasted lightly in our rooms and then ate déjeuner at 12, so as to start early for an expedition in the afternoon, to the Darwins, who live about six miles off {1}. We partly walked and partly went in a fly. The object was to persuade George Darwin to lecture at the Royal Institution on the figure of the Earth {2}. He was very unwilling but I think he may come round. The grand old man talked beautifully and they were all very kind. They are reading the Symposium, but have only got as far as Martineau; Darwin says that M. is too flowery for him. I thought in this case he was more matter-of-fact than usual, but I suppose there remains a certain amount of clerical haze {3}. I told Darwin I should now regard myself as a Hadji, having made pilgrimage to my Mecca. In coming home the flyman insisted on going a long way round to avoid hills, and we suddenly found ourselves at Sir John Lubbock’s gates {4}. He is at his antics at Biarritz, but Lady Lubbock gave us some tea and was much wickeder than usual because the Archbishopess of Canterbury {5} was there—a most respectable stout party in a gorgeous black silk gown. She (L.L.) {6} told us all about her daughter’s marriage, and how the young man paints in water colours, and of such is the kingdom of heaven {7}. The next girl but one {8}, with whom I went bird’snesting at Grant Duff’s {9}, is grown very lovely, with a really splendid figure (only 14). The Moulton’s† are coming today to stay till Friday, so that I can go back with them. I will tell you all about the train. How good it will be to see my own sweet wife and the dear little kid again. Nobody can tell how fond I am of you, darling. I am reading Daniel Deronda {10} and have got through ⅓ of it. I don’t see the least falling-off in it; it is quite as interesting quâ story as any of the novels we have been reading, and one feels that one is looking at things with a large-minded sympathetic companion who is great enough to take in the best side of all the people she describes. It is exactly opposite to that poor creature Mallock, who catches superficial traits of men one knows to be great, and makes them mean {11}.

It is blowing great guns, but I must manage to go out a little before lunch. 10000 kisses to my own darling wife from her loving old man

Willi.

—————

{1} Charles Darwin and his family lived at Down House, near Downe.

{2} George Darwin had read his first major scientific paper ‘On the influence of geological changes on the earth’s axis of rotation’ before the Royal Society the previous year. He returned to Cambridge by 19 April, probably about the beginning of Easter term, 6 April. See Calendar of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin, No. 10933.

{3} ‘A Modern Symposium’ was the general title of two series of essays, each by various hands, published in the Nineteenth Century in 1877 and 1878. The subjects were respectively ‘The Soul and Future Life’ and ‘The Influence upon Morality of a Decline in Religious Belief’. The reference here is to the latter series, comprising eleven essays in all, of which James Martineau contributed the third and Clifford the seventh. Clifford’s essay appeared in the April number.

{4} Sir John Lubbock’s country home was at High Elms, near Bromley.

{5} Catharine Tait.

{6} ‘L.L.’ interlined; brackets supplied.

{7} The Lubbocks’ eldest daughter, Amy Harriet, married Andrew Walter Mulholland on 15 March 1877, but he died less than three months later, on 2 June (Burke’s Peerage). It is unclear from the reference here whether the marriage had yet taken place.

{8} Gertrude Lubbock (born 1863), the Lubbocks’ youngest daughter.

{9} Possibly Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff (1829–1906).

{10} Daniel Deronda, George Eliot’s final novel, published the previous year.

{11} W. H. Mallock had satirised various prominent figures, including Clifford himself, in his novel The New Republic, first published in monthly parts in the magazine Belgravia between June and December 1876, and issued in a single volume in 1877.

† Sic.

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