Letter from Erasmus Darwin to James Watt, 1788/11/18

18 November 1788

Darwin writes to Watt concerning Watt’s health, with advice on treatments and remedies and various theories of chemistry.

Dear Sir,

Mr. Wedgewood sent me the inclosed, & desired me to sign it, & to forward it to you – who he hopes will get it signed by the Birmingham F.R.S.’s & that you will then send it to Dr. Darwin of Shrewsbury, & desire him to remit it to Mr Wedgewood in London Greek street Soho.

I have some design, if not prevented, of coming to see the next Lunar Meeting, – pray acquaint me, whether yourself & Mr. Boulton & Dr, Priestly are likely to attend it &
likewise, what day it will be celebrated upon – – Pray take care of your health, & use the warm bath, & try Balsam of Canada for your stomach complaints, about 20 grains or drops mix’d with honey, & then with water according to art twice a day and remember the philosophical experiments Monr Rabelais determined to try upon himself for the good of the Public. – which was “to try how long an ingenious & agreeable man might last, if taken good care of.”

Where did you say Manganese was got, & whither sent to, & at what price? Pray read the 40 first pages of the Introduction to Fourcroy’s Elements, & tell me if the facts are in general true. – if they be, the theory holds them nicely together.

When steam if passed through red hot iron scrapings, if the water is not decompressed, whence comes the vital air, which unites to the iron? – does the water vanish, or is it annihilated? pray explain this experiment.

In Dr, Priestly’s Liquor of conviction? there is much nitrous acid, some marine acid, & tenfold the quantity of water. – what follows? – did the water exist dissolved in the two airs? or did the nitrous acid exist in either of the airs? or the marine acid in either of them? or are they all produced in the process? If the inflammable air was not pure, if it contain’d mephistic (phlogistic air) air the water & nitrous acid might both be form’d.

I shall wait with Patience to see to see this great dispute decided, which involves so great a part of the theory of chemistry, – thank the Lord, that chemical Faith is not propagated by fire & sword, – at present I am inclined to the heterodox side of the question. The Lord take you into his Holy keeping, – adieu

from your affect. friend
E Darwin

Mrs D. begs to be remember’d to Mrs. W

Mr Bennet is going on with his new discoveries on adhesive electricity.