Letter from Erasmus Darwin to Matthew Boulton, 1766/03/11

Darwin writes to Boulton about his steam engine, which Darwin is impatient to see and conflicting theories of electricity.

Lichfield Mar 11. 1766

Dear Boulton,

I have not design to quarrel with you for not having answer’d my Letters; in respect to my last indeed, desiring you to sign your Consent to the Navigation, your fulfilling my Request was the politest answer you could give me.

Your Model of a Steam Engine I am told gain’d so much approbation in London, that I can not but congratulate you on the mechanical Fame you have acquired by it; which, assure yourself, is as great a Pleasure to me, as it could possibly be to yourself; so much do I interest myself in what belongs to your Reputation. This Model I am so impatient to see, and to hear any Observations you have made or heard on this Subject, that I am determined to spend a Day with you, the first vacant Day that occurs to me: and shall trust to the Stars for meeting with you at Home. ”
“– But if the Stars should not shine upon me, pray contrive, that, in your Absence, Mrs Boulton may have it in her Power to shew me this celebrated Model, which I will trust to her good Temper for her complying with.

I should some Months ago have sent you the Impression of Le Brun’s Battles of Alexander, but as I was told it is the best Edition, I have determined to endeavour to clean or bleach them, to render them more worthy of your Acceptance: but from native Indolence, common to me with the rest of Mankind, I have defer’d doing that long, with it was not necessary to do immediately.

Yesterday I was informed another Physician was arrived in Birmingham, but hope this gives no Uneasyness to our ingenious Friend Dr Small, from whom and from you, when I was last in Birmingham, I received Ideas, that for many Days occurred to me at the Intervals of the common Business of Life, with inexpressible Pleasure.

Capt. Valentine Gardiner, a Philosopher militant tells me He heard 3 or 4 Lectures about a Month ago from the Abbè Nollet at Paris, who I find continues to assail Dr Franklin’s electrical Theory, but with weak and impotent attacks – and amused his spectators with a floating Electrometer, the Degrees of which were magnified by their Shadows being observed instead of the Scale, and by this means you was not necessitated to approach within the magic Circle of electric Attraction – but I think this is not new, and no wonderful Discovery.

Don’t tease yourself, my dear Friend, about answering this long Letter; indeed I don’t expect to hear from you, why then will you let it prey upon you Mind? – But I assure you I intend very shortly, if G-d permit, to pay you a Visit – “Ay, for God’s sake, come and welcom,” (you say) “anything but these damn’d long Letters”


E Darwin