Letter from Erasmus Darwin to James Watt, 1793/12/13

13 December 1973

Darwin writes to Watt concerning the care of Jessy Watt, encouraging her to exercise and play sports.

Dec 13-93


Dear Sir,

I am truly happy to hear that Miss Jessey continues to get stronger, & keeps free from those alarming affections of her lungs or side, to which she has so long been in a greater or less degree subject. As the chalybeate in such small quantity, & the laudanum in such small quantity, seems to have been of service to her, I think I should advise the continuance of them even for 3 months longer; I mean, till the vernal warmth approaches, – unless any unforeseen accidental inflammatory cough or pain should make it dubious, whether the chalybeate should be continued.

I have seen people so essentially weakened by being cover’d with flannel next to their skin, which by the stimulus of its points keeps the cutaneous vessels on too great action, & thus wastes the general quantity of animal power, similar to what happens in scarlet fevers; that I generally recommend the flannel to be put on the outside of the shirt or shift, – & to be disused in warmer months. The cold air in winter should be used as a cold bath, Miss Jessy should go into it 3 or 4 times a day, but should remain in it but a few minutes at a time. In other respects employment, which produces change of posture frequently, in the house in the cold season; & exercise frequent but gentle; such as dancing, swinging, shuttle-cock, & persistently going about the house to fetch what she wants to be brought to her, are good winter amusements. – to which should be added that humble & too much neglected yet delightful contest at Taw vulgarly call’d playing at marbles. – so much more wholesome for rendering the joints supple, & varying the attitudes of the body, thus its’ proud son & successor, Billiards.

Ye days which are past! – when I could have pursued the rolling Taw with spirits light as air; & limbs supple as the bending grass-blade; when I could have crept through an alderman’s thumb-ring! – where are ye! – Corpulency of body, hebitude of mind, or in one word old-age I feel your irresistible approach, – but care little about it.

Law is a bottomless pit! – I wish you well out of it! Now I come to conclude, I beg you will present my kindest compl. to Mrs & Miss Watt in which Mrs Darwin begs to join, & to say that she does not despair of giving them a call next summer – from your affect. friend

E Darwin