The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I
by Francis Darwin
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I go on board to-morrow; I have been for the last six weeks in Corfield's house. You cannot imagine what a kind friend I have found him. He is universally liked, and respected by the natives and foreigners. Several Chileno Signoritas are very obligingly anxious to become the signoras of this house. Tell my father I have kept my promise of being extravagant in Chili. I have drawn a bill of 100 pounds (had it not better be notified to Messrs. Robarts & Co.); 50 pounds goes to the Captain for the ensuing year, and 30 pounds I take to sea for the small ports; so that bona fide I have not spent 180 pounds during these last four months. I hope not to draw another bill for six months. All the foregoing particulars were only settled yesterday. It has done me more good than a pint of medicine, and I have not been so happy for the last year. If it had not been for my illness, these four months in Chili would have been very pleasant. I have had ill luck, however, in only one little earthquake having happened. I was lying in bed when there was a party at dinner in the house; on a sudden I heard such a hubbub in the dining-room; without a word being spoken, it was devil take the hindmost who should get out first; at the same moment I felt my bed SLIGHTLY vibrate in a lateral direction. The party were old stagers, and heard the noise which always precedes a shock; and no old stager looks at an earthquake with philosophical eyes...

Good-bye to you all; you will not have another letter for some time.

My dear Catherine, Yours affectionately, CHAS. DARWIN.

My best love to my father, and all of you. Love to Nancy.

CHARLES DARWIN TO MISS S. DARWIN. Valparaiso, April 23, 1835.

My dear Susan,

I received, a few days since, your letter of November; the three letters which I before mentioned are yet missing, but I do not doubt they will come to life. I returned a week ago from my excursion across the Andes to Mendoza. Since leaving England I have never made so successful a journey; it has, however, been very expensive. I am sure my father would not regret it, if he could know how deeply I have enjoyed it: it was something more than enjoyment; I cannot express the delight which I felt at such a famous winding-up of all my geology in South America. I literally could hardly sleep at nights for thinking over my day's work. The scenery was so new, and so majestic; everything at an elevation of 12,000 feet bears so different an aspect from that in a lower country. I have seen many views more beautiful, but none with so strongly marked a character. To a geologist, also, there are such manifest proofs of excessive violence; the strata of the highest pinnacles are tossed about like the crust of a broken pie.

I crossed by the Portillo Pass, which at this time of the year is apt to be dangerous, so could not afford to delay there. After staying a day in the stupid town of Mendoza, I began my return by Uspallate, which I did very leisurely. My whole trip only took up twenty-two days. I travelled with, for me, uncommon comfort, as I carried a BED! My party consisted of two Peons and ten mules, two of which were with baggage, or rather food, in case of being snowed up. Everything, however, favoured me; not even a speck of this year's snow had fallen on the road. I do not suppose any of you can be much interested in geological details, but I will just mention my principal results:—Besides understanding to a certain extent the description and manner of the force which has elevated this great line of mountains, I can clearly demonstrate that one part of the double line is of an age long posterior to the other. In the more ancient line, which is the true chain of the Andes, I can describe the sort and order of the rocks which compose it. These are chiefly remarkable by containing a bed of gypsum nearly 2000 feet thick—a quantity of this substance I should think unparalleled in the world. What is of much greater consequence, I have procured fossil shells (from an elevation of 12,000 feet). I think an examination of these will give an approximate age to these mountains, as compared to the strata of Europe. In the other line of the Cordilleras there is a strong presumption (in my own mind, conviction) that the enormous mass of mountains, the peaks of which rise to 13,000 and 14,000 feet, are so very modern as to be contemporaneous with the plains of Patagonia (or about with the UPPER strata of the Isle of Wight). If this result shall be considered as proved (The importance of these results has been fully recognised by geologists.), it is a very important fact in the theory of the formation of the world; because, if such wonderful changes have taken place so recently in the crust of the globe, there can be no reason for supposing former epochs of excessive violence. These modern strata are very remarkable by being threaded with metallic veins of silver, gold, copper, etc.; hitherto these have been considered as appertaining to older formations. In these same beds, and close to a goldmine, I found a clump of petrified trees, standing up right, with layers of fine sandstone deposited round them, bearing the impression of their bark. These trees are covered by other sandstones and streams of lava to the thickness of several thousand feet. These rocks have been deposited beneath water; yet it is clear the spot where the trees grew must once have been above the level of the sea, so that it is certain the land must have been depressed by at least as many thousand feet as the superincumbent subaqueous deposits are thick. But I am afraid you will tell me I am prosy with my geological descriptions and theories...

Your account of Erasmus' visit to Cambridge has made me long to be back there. I cannot fancy anything more delightful than his Sunday round of King's, Trinity, and those talking giants, Whewell and Sedgwick; I hope your musical tastes continue in due force. I shall be ravenous for the pianoforte...

I have not quite determined whether I will sleep at the 'Lion' the first night when I arrive per 'Wonder,' or disturb you all in the dead of night; everything short of that is absolutely planned. Everything about Shrewsbury is growing in my mind bigger and more beautiful; I am certain the acacia and copper beech are two superb trees; I shall know every bush, and I will trouble you young ladies, when each of you cut down your tree, to spare a few. As for the view behind the house, I have seen nothing like it. It is the same with North Wales; Snowdon, to my mind, looks much higher and much more beautiful than any peak in the Cordilleras. So you will say, with my benighted faculties, it is time to return, and so it is, and I long to be with you. Whatever the trees are, I know what I shall find all you. I am writing nonsense, so farewell. My most affectionate love to all, and I pray forgiveness from my father.

Yours most affectionately, CHARLES DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Lima, July, 1835.

My dear Fox,

I have lately received two of your letters, one dated June and the other November, 1834 (they reached me, however, in an inverted order). I was very glad to receive a history of this most important year in your life. Previously I had only heard the plain fact that you were married. You are a true Christian and return good for evil, to send two such letters to so bad a correspondent as I have been. God bless you for writing so kindly and affectionately; if it is a pleasure to have friends in England, it is doubly so to think and know that one is not forgotten because absent. This voyage is terribly long. I do so earnestly desire to return, yet I dare hardly look forward to the future, for I do not know what will become of me. Your situation is above envy: I do not venture even to frame such happy visions. To a person fit to take the office, the life of a clergyman is a type of all that is respectable and happy. You tempt me by talking of your fireside, whereas it is a sort of scene I never ought to think about. I saw the other day a vessel sail for England; it was quite dangerous to know how easily I might turn deserter. As for an English lady, I have almost forgotten what she is—something very angelic and good. As for the women in these countries, they wear caps and petticoats, and a very few have pretty faces, and then all is said. But if we are not wrecked on some unlucky reef, I will sit by that same fireside in Vale Cottage and tell some of the wonderful stories, which you seem to anticipate and, I presume, are not very ready to believe. Gracias a dios, the prospect of such times is rather shorter than formerly.

>From this most wretched 'City of the Kings' we sail in a fortnight, from thence to Guayaquil, Galapagos, Marquesas, Society Islands, etc., etc. I look forward to the Galapagos with more interest than any other part of the voyage. They abound with active volcanoes, and, I should hope, contain Tertiary strata. I am glad to hear you have some thoughts of beginning Geology. I hope you will; there is so much larger a field for thought than in the other branches of Natural History. I am become a zealous disciple of Mr. Lyell's views, as known in his admirable book. Geologising in South America, I am tempted to carry parts to a greater extent even than he does. Geology is a capital science to begin, as it requires nothing but a little reading, thinking, and hammering. I have a considerable body of notes together; but it is a constant subject of perplexity to me, whether they are of sufficient value for all the time I have spent about them, or whether animals would not have been of more certain value.

I shall indeed be glad once again to see you and tell you how grateful I feel for your steady friendship. God bless you, my very dear Fox.

Believe me, Yours affectionately, CHAS. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. Sydney, January, 1836.

My dear Henslow,

This is the last opportunity of communicating with you before that joyful day when I shall reach Cambridge. I have very little to say: but I must write if it is only to express my joy that the last year is concluded, and that the present one, in which the "Beagle" will return, is gliding onwards. We have all been disappointed here in not finding even a single letter; we are, indeed, rather before our expected time, otherwise, I dare say, I should have seen your handwriting. I must feed upon the future, and it is beyond bounds delightful to feel the certainty that within eight months I shall be residing once again most quietly in Cambridge. Certainly, I never was intended for a traveller; my thoughts are always rambling over past or future scenes; I cannot enjoy the present happiness for anticipating the future, which is about as foolish as the dog who dropped the real bone for its shadow.


In our passage across the Pacific we only touched at Tahiti and New Zealand; at neither of these places or at sea had I much opportunity of working. Tahiti is a most charming spot. Everything which former navigators have written is true. 'A new Cytheraea has risen from the ocean.' Delicious scenery, climate, manners of the people are all in harmony. It is, moreover, admirable to behold what the missionaries both here and at New Zealand have effected. I firmly believe they are good men working for the sake of a good cause. I much suspect that those who have abused or sneered at the missionaries have generally been such as were not very anxious to find the natives moral and intelligent beings. During the remainder of our voyage we shall only visit places generally acknowledged as civilised, and nearly all under the British flag. These will be a poor field for Natural History, and without it I have lately discovered that the pleasure of seeing new places is as nothing. I must return to my old resource and think of the future, but that I may not become more prosy, I will say farewell till the day arrives, when I shall see my Master in Natural History, and can tell him how grateful I feel for his kindness and friendship.

Believe me, dear Henslow, Ever yours, most faithfully, CHAS. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO MISS S. DARWIN. Bahia, Brazil, August 4 [1836].

My dear Susan,

I will just write a few lines to explain the cause of this letter being dated on the coast of South America. Some singular disagreements in the longitudes made Captain Fitz-Roy anxious to complete the circle in the southern hemisphere, and then retrace our steps by our first line to England. This zigzag manner of proceeding is very grievous; it has put the finishing stroke to my feelings. I loathe, I abhor the sea and all ships which sail on it. But I yet believe we shall reach England in the latter half of October. At Ascension I received Catherine's letter of October, and yours of November; the letter at the Cape was of a later date, but letters of all sorts are inestimable treasures, and I thank you both for them. The desert, volcanic rocks, and wild sea of Ascension, as soon as I knew there was news from home, suddenly wore a pleasing aspect, and I set to work with a good-will at my old work of Geology. You would be surprised to know how entirely the pleasure in arriving at a new place depends on letters. We only stayed four days at Ascension, and then made a very good passage to Bahia.

I little thought to have put my foot on South American coast again. It has been almost painful to find how much good enthusiasm has been evaporated during the last four years. I can now walk soberly through a Brazilian forest; not but what it is exquisitely beautiful, but now, instead of seeking for splendid contrasts, I compare the stately mango trees with the horse-chestnuts of England. Although this zigzag has lost us at least a fortnight, in some respects I am glad of it. I think I shall be able to carry away one vivid picture of inter-tropical scenery. We go from hence to the Cape de Verds; that is, if the winds or the Equatorial calms will allow us. I have some faint hopes that a steady foul wind might induce the Captain to proceed direct to the Azores. For which most untoward event I heartily pray.

Both your letters were full of good news; especially the expressions which you tell me Professor Sedgwick used about my collections. I confess they are deeply gratifying—I trust one part at least will turn out true, and that I shall act as I now think—as a man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life. Professor Sedgwick mentioning my name at all gives me hopes that he will assist me with his advice, of which, in my geological questions, I stand much in need. It is useless to tell you from the shameful state of this scribble that I am writing against time, having been out all morning, and now there are some strangers on board to whom I must go down and talk civility. Moreover, as this letter goes by a foreign ship, it is doubtful whether it will ever arrive. Farewell, my very dear Susan and all of you. Good-bye.


CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. St. Helena, July 9, 1836.

My dear Henslow,

I am going to ask you to do me a favour. I am very anxious to belong to the Geological Society. I do not know, but I suppose it is necessary to be proposed some time before being ballotted for; if such is the case, would you be good enough to take the proper preparatory steps? Professor Sedgwick very kindly offered to propose me before leaving England, if he should happen to be in London. I dare say he would yet do so.

I have very little to write about. We have neither seen, done, or heard of anything particular for a long time past; and indeed if at present the wonders of another planet could be displayed before us, I believe we should unanimously exclaim, what a consummate plague. No schoolboys ever sung the half sentimental and half jovial strain of 'dulce domum' with more fervour, than we all feel inclined to do. But the whole subject of 'dulce domum,' and the delight of seeing one's friends, is most dangerous, it must infallibly make one very prosy or very boisterous. Oh, the degree to which I long to be once again living quietly with not one single novel object near me! No one can imagine it till he has been whirled round the world during five long years in a ten-gun-brig. I am at present living in a small house (amongst the clouds) in the centre of the island, and within stone's throw of Napoleon's tomb. It is blowing a gale of wind with heavy rain and wretchedly cold; if Napoleon's ghost haunts his dreary place of confinement, this would be a most excellent night for such wandering spirits. If the weather chooses to permit me, I hope to see a little of the Geology (so often partially described) of the island. I suspect that differently from most volcanic islands its structure is rather complicated. It seems strange that this little centre of a distinct creation should, as is asserted, bear marks of recent elevation.

The "Beagle" proceeds from this place to Ascension, then to the Cape de Verds (what miserable places!) to the Azores to Plymouth, and then to home. That most glorious of all days in my life will not, however, arrive till the middle of October. Some time in that month you will see me at Cambridge, where I must directly come to report myself to you, as my first Lord of the Admiralty. At the Cape of Good Hope we all on board suffered a bitter disappointment in missing nine months' letters, which are chasing us from one side of the globe to the other. I dare say amongst them there was a letter from you; it is long since I have seen your handwriting, but I shall soon see you yourself, which is far better. As I am your pupil, you are bound to undertake the task of criticising and scolding me for all the things ill done and not done at all, which I fear I shall need much; but I hope for the best, and I am sure I have a good if not too easy taskmaster.

At the Cape Captain Fitz-Roy and myself enjoyed a memorable piece of good fortune in meeting Sir J. Herschel. We dined at his house and saw him a few times besides. He was exceedingly good natured, but his manners at first appeared to me rather awful. He is living in a very comfortable country house, surrounded by fir and oak trees, which alone in so open a country, give a most charming air of seclusion and comfort. He appears to find time for everything; he showed us a pretty garden full of Cape bulbs of his own collecting, and I afterwards understood that everything was the work of his own hands...I am very stupid, and I have nothing more to say; the wind is whistling so mournfully over the bleak hills, that I shall go to bed and dream of England.

Goodnight, my dear Henslow, Yours most truly obliged and affectionately, CHAS. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. Shrewsbury, Thursday, October 6, [1836].

My dear Henslow,

I am sure you will congratulate me on the delight of once again being home. The "Beagle" arrived at Falmouth on Sunday evening, and I reached Shrewsbury yesterday morning. I am exceedingly anxious to see you, and as it will be necessary in four or five days to return to London to get my goods and chattels out of the "Beagle", it appears to me my best plan to pass through Cambridge. I want your advice on many points; indeed I am in the clouds, and neither know what to do or where to go. My chief puzzle is about the geological specimens—who will have the charity to help me in describing their mineralogical nature? Will you be kind enough to write to me one line by RETURN OF POST, saying whether you are now at Cambridge? I am doubtful till I hear from Captain Fitz-Roy whether I shall not be obliged to start before the answer can arrive, but pray try the chance. My dear Henslow, I do long to see you; you have been the kindest friend to me that ever man possessed. I can write no more, for I am giddy with joy and confusion.

Farewell for the present, Yours most truly obliged, CHARLES DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO R. FITZ-ROY. Shrewsbury, Thursday morning, October 6, [1836].

My dear Fitz-Roy,

I arrived here yesterday morning at breakfast time, and, thank God, found all my dear good sisters and father quite well. My father appears more cheerful and very little older than when I left. My sisters assure me I do not look the least different, and I am able to return the compliment. Indeed, all England appears changed excepting the good old town of Shrewsbury and its inhabitants, which, for all I can see to the contrary, may go on as they now are to Doomsday. I wish with all my heart I was writing to you amongst your friends instead of at that horrid Plymouth. But the day will soon come, and you will be as happy as I now am. I do assure you I am a very great man at home; the five years' voyage has certainly raised me a hundred per cent. I fear such greatness must experience a fall.

I am thoroughly ashamed of myself in what a dead-and-half-alive state I spent the few last days on board; my only excuse is that certainly I was not quite well. The first day in the mail tired me, but as I drew nearer to Shrewsbury everything looked more beautiful and cheerful. In passing Gloucestershire and Worcestershire I wished much for you to admire the fields, woods, and orchards. The stupid people on the coach did not seem to think the fields one bit greener than usual; but I am sure we should have thoroughly agreed that the wide world does not contain so happy a prospect as the rich cultivated land of England.

I hope you will not forget to send me a note telling me how you go on. I do indeed hope all your vexations and trouble with respect to our voyage, which we now know HAS an end, have come to a close. If you do not receive much satisfaction for all the mental and bodily energy you have expended in His Majesty's service, you will be most hardly treated. I put my radical sisters into an uproar at some of the prudent (if they were not honest Whigs, I would say shabby) proceedings of our Government. By the way, I must tell you for the honour and glory of the family that my father has a large engraving of King George IV. put up in his sitting-room. But I am no renegade, and by the time we meet my politics will be as firmly fixed and as wisely founded as ever they were.

I thought when I began this letter I would convince you what a steady and sober frame of mind I was in. But I find I am writing most precious nonsense. Two or three of our labourers yesterday immediately set to work and got most excessively drunk in honour of the arrival of Master Charles. Who then shall gainsay if Master Charles himself chooses to make himself a fool. Good-bye. God bless you! I hope you are as happy, but much wiser, than your most sincere but unworthy philosopher,





[The period illustrated by the following letters includes the years between my father's return from the voyage of the "Beagle" and his settling at Down. It is marked by the gradual appearance of that weakness of health which ultimately forced him to leave London and take up his abode for the rest of his life in a quiet country house. In June, 1841, he writes to Lyell: "My father scarcely seems to expect that I shall become strong for some years; it has been a bitter mortification for me to digest the conclusion that the 'race is for the strong,' and that I shall probably do little more but be content to admire the strides others make in science."

There is no evidence of any intention of entering a profession after his return from the voyage, and early in 1840 he wrote to Fitz-Roy: "I have nothing to wish for, excepting stronger health to go on with the subjects to which I have joyfully determined to devote my life."

These two conditions—permanent ill-health and a passionate love of scientific work for its own sake—determined thus early in his career, the character of his whole future life. They impelled him to lead a retired life of constant labour, carried on to the utmost limits of his physical power, a life which signally falsified his melancholy prophecy.

The end of the last chapter saw my father safely arrived at Shrewsbury on October 4, 1836, "after an absence of five years and two days." He wrote to Fox: "You cannot imagine how gloriously delightful my first visit was at home; it was worth the banishment." But it was a pleasure that he could not long enjoy, for in the last days of October he was at Greenwich unpacking specimens from the "Beagle". As to the destination of the collections he writes, somewhat despondingly, to Henslow:—

"I have not made much progress with the great men. I find, as you told me, that they are all overwhelmed with their own business. Mr. Lyell has entered, in the MOST good-natured manner, and almost without being asked, into all my plans. He tells me, however, the same story, that I must do all myself. Mr. Owen seems anxious to dissect some of the animals in spirits, and, besides these two, I have scarcely met any one who seems to wish to possess any of my specimens. I must except Dr. Grant, who is willing to examine some of the corallines. I see it is quite unreasonable to hope for a minute that any man will undertake the examination of a whole order. It is clear the collectors so much outnumber the real naturalists that the latter have no time to spare.

"I do not even find that the Collections care for receiving the unnamed specimens. The Zoological Museum (The Museum of the Zoological Society, then at 33 Bruton Street. The collection was some years later broken up and dispersed.) is nearly full, and upwards of a thousand specimens remain unmounted. I dare say the British Museum would receive them, but I cannot feel, from all I hear, any great respect even for the present state of that establishment. Your plan will be not only the best, but the only one, namely, to come down to Cambridge, arrange and group together the different families, and then wait till people, who are already working in different branches, may want specimens. But it appears to me [that] to do this it will be almost necessary to reside in London. As far as I can yet see my best plan will be to spend several months in Cambridge, and then when, by your assistance, I know on what ground I stand, to emigrate to London, where I can complete my Geology and try to push on the Zoology. I assure you I grieve to find how many things make me see the necessity of living for some time in this dirty, odious London. For even in Geology I suspect much assistance and communication will be necessary in this quarter, for instance, in fossil bones, of which none excepting the fragments of Megatherium have been looked at, and I clearly see that without my presence they never would be...

"I only wish I had known the Botanists cared so much for specimens (A passage in a subsequent letter shows that his plants also gave him some anxiety. "I met Mr. Brown a few days after you had called on him; he asked me in rather an ominous manner what I meant to do with my plants. In the course of conversation Mr. Broderip, who was present, remarked to him, 'You forget how long it is since Captain King's expedition.' He answered, 'Indeed, I have something in the shape of Captain King's undescribed plants to make me recollect it.' Could a better reason be given, if I had been asked, by me, for not giving the plants to the British Museum?") and the Zoologists so little; the proportional number of specimens in the two branches should have had a very different appearance. I am out of patience with the Zoologists, not because they are overworked, but for their mean, quarrelsome spirit. I went the other evening to the Zoological Society, where the speakers were snarling at each other in a manner anything but like that of gentlemen. Thank Heavens! as long as I remain in Cambridge there will not be any danger of falling into any such contemptible quarrels, whilst in London I do not see how it is to be avoided. Of the Naturalists, F. Hope is out of London; Westwood I have not seen, so about my insects I know nothing. I have seen Mr. Yarrell twice, but he is so evidently oppressed with business that it is too selfish to plague him with my concerns. He has asked me to dine with the Linnean on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I dine with the Geological, so that I shall see all the great men. Mr. Bell, I hear, is so much occupied that there is no chance of his wishing for specimens of reptiles. I have forgotten to mention Mr. Lonsdale (William Lonsdale, 1794-1871, was originally in the army, and served at the battles of Salamanca and Waterloo. After the war he left the service and gave himself up to science. He acted as assistant secretary to the Geological Society from 1829-42, when he resigned, owing to ill health.), who gave me a most cordial reception, and with whom I had much most interesting conversation. If I was not much more inclined for geology than the other branches of Natural History, I am sure Mr. Lyell's and Lonsdale's kindness ought to fix me. You cannot conceive anything more thoroughly good-natured than the heart-and-soul manner in which he put himself in my place and thought what would be best to do. At first he was all for London versus Cambridge, but at last I made him confess that, for some time at least, the latter would be for me much the best. There is not another soul whom I could ask, excepting yourself, to wade through and criticise some of those papers which I have left with you. Mr. Lyell owned that, second to London, there was no place in England so good for a Naturalist as Cambridge. Upon my word I am ashamed of writing so many foolish details, no young lady ever described her first ball with more particularity."

A few days later he writes more cheerfully: "I became acquainted with Mr. Bell (T. Bell, F.R.S., formerly Prof. of Zoology in King's College, London, and some time secretary to the Royal Society. He afterwards described the reptiles for the zoology of the voyage of the "Beagle".) who to my surprise expressed a good deal of interest about my crustacea and reptiles, and seems willing to work at them. I also heard that Mr. Broderip would be glad to look over the South American shells, so that things flourish well with me."

About his plants he writes with characteristic openness as to his own ignorance: "You have made me known amongst the botanists, but I felt very foolish when Mr. Don remarked on the beautiful appearance of some plant with an astounding long name, and asked me about its habitation. Some one else seemed quite surprised that I knew nothing about a Carex from I do not know where. I was at last forced to plead most entire innocence, and that I knew no more about the plants which I had collected than the man in the moon."

As to part of his Geological Collection he was soon able to write: "I [have] disposed of the most important part [of] my collections, by giving all the fossil bones to the College of Surgeons, casts of them will be distributed, and descriptions published. They are very curious and valuable; one head belonged to some gnawing animal, but of the size of a Hippopotamus! Another to an ant-eater of the size of a horse!"

It is worth noting that at this time the only extinct mammalia from South America, which had been described, were Mastodon (three species) and Megatherium. The remains of the other extinct Edentata from Sir Woodbine Parish's collection had not been described. My father's specimens included (besides the above-mentioned Toxodon and Scelidotherium) the remains of Mylodon, Glossotherium, another gigantic animal allied to the ant-eater, and Macrauchenia. His discovery of these remains is a matter of interest in itself, but it has a special importance as a point in his own life, since it was the vivid impression produced by excavating them with his own hands (I have often heard him speak of the despair with which he had to break off the projecting extremity of a huge, partly excavated bone, when the boat waiting for him would wait no longer.) that formed one of the chief starting-points of his speculation on the origin of species. This is shown in the following extract from his Pocket Book for this year (1837): "In July opened first note-book on Transmutation of Species. Had been greatly struck from about the month of previous March on character of South American fossils, and species on Galapagos Archipelago. These facts (especially latter), origin of all my views."]


CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. 43 Great Marlborough Street, November 6th [1836].

My dear Fox,

I have taken a shamefully long time in answering your letter. But the busiest time of the whole voyage has been tranquillity itself to this last month. After paying Henslow a short but very pleasant visit, I came up to town to wait for the "Beagle's" arrival. At last I have removed all my property from on board, and sent the specimens of Natural History to Cambridge, so that I am now a free man. My London visit has been quite idle as far as Natural History goes, but has been passed in most exciting dissipation amongst the Dons in science. All my affairs, indeed, are most prosperous; I find there are plenty who will undertake the description of whole tribes of animals, of which I know nothing. So that about this day month I hope to set to work tooth and nail at the Geology, which I shall publish by itself.

It is quite ridiculous what an immensely long period it appears to me since landing at Falmouth. The fact is I have talked and laughed enough for years instead of weeks, so [that] my memory is quite confounded with the noise. I am delighted to hear you are turned geologist: when I pay the Isle of Wight a visit, which I am determined shall somehow come to pass, you will be a capital cicerone to the famous line of dislocation. I really suppose there are few parts of the world more interesting to a geologist than your island. Amongst the great scientific men, no one has been nearly so friendly and kind as Lyell. I have seen him several times, and feel inclined to like him much. You cannot imagine how good-naturedly he entered into all my plans. I speak now only of the London men, for Henslow was just like his former self, and therefore a most cordial and affectionate friend. When you pay London a visit I shall be very proud to take you to the Geological Society, for be it known, I was proposed to be a F.G.S. last Tuesday. It is, however, a great pity that these and the other letters, especially F.R.S., are so very expensive.

I do not scruple to ask you to write to me in a week's time in Shrewsbury, for you are a good letter writer, and if people will have such good characters they must pay the penalty. Good-bye, dear Fox.

Yours, C.D.

[His affairs being thus so far prosperously managed he was able to put into execution his plan of living at Cambridge, where he settled on December 10th, 1836. He was at first a guest in the comfortable home of the Henslows, but afterwards, for the sake of undisturbed work, he moved into lodgings. He thus writes to Fox, March 13th, 1837, from London:—

"My residence at Cambridge was rather longer than I expected, owing to a job which I determined to finish there, namely, looking over all my geological specimens. Cambridge yet continues a very pleasant, but not half so merry a place as before. To walk through the courts of Christ's College, and not know an inhabitant of a single room, gave one a feeling half melancholy. The only evil I found in Cambridge was its being too pleasant: there was some agreeable party or another every evening, and one cannot say one is engaged with so much impunity there as in this great city."

A trifling record of my father's presence in Cambridge occurs in the book kept in Christ's College combination-room, where fines and bets were recorded, the earlier entries giving a curious impression of the after- dinner frame of mind of the fellows. The bets were not allowed to be made in money, but were, like the fines, paid in wine. The bet which my father made and lost is thus recorded:—

"FEBRUARY 23, 1837.

Mr. Darwin v. Mr. Baines, that the combination-room measures from the ceiling to the floor more than (x) feet. 1 Bottle paid same day.

"N.B. Mr. Darwin may measure at any part of the room he pleases."

Besides arranging the geological and mineralogical specimens, he had his 'Journal of Researches' to work at, which occupied his evenings at Cambridge. He also read a short paper at the Zoological Society ("Notes upon Rhea Americana," 'Zool. Soc. Proc.' v. 1837, pages 35, 36.), and another at the Geological Society ('Geol. Soc. Proc.' ii. 1838, pages 446- 449.), on the recent elevation of the coast of Chile.

Early in the spring of 1837 (March 6th) he left Cambridge for London, and a week later he was settled in lodgings at 36 Great Marlborough Street; and except for a "short visit to Shrewsbury" in June, he worked on till September, being almost entirely employed on his 'Journal.' He found time, however, for two papers at the Geological Society. ("A sketch of the deposits containing extinct mammalia in the neighbourhood of the Plata," 'Geol. Soc. Proc.' ii. 1838, pages 542-544; and 'On certain areas of elevation and subsidence in the Pacific and Indian oceans, as deduced from the study of coral formations." 'Geol. Soc. Proc' ii. 1838, pages 552- 554.)

He writes of his work to Fox (March, 1837):—

"In your last letter you urge me to get ready THE book. I am now hard at work and give up everything else for it. Our plan is as follows: Captain Fitz-Roy writes two volumes out of the materials collected during the last voyage under Capt. King to Tierra del Fuego, and during our circumnavigation. I am to have the third volume, in which I intend giving a kind of journal of a naturalist, not following, however, always the order of time, but rather the order of position. The habits of animals will occupy a large portion, sketches of the geology, the appearance of the country, and personal details will make the hodge-podge complete. Afterwards I shall write an account of the geology in detail, and draw up some zoological papers. So that I have plenty of work for the next year or two, and till that is finished I will have no holidays."

Another letter to Fox (July) gives an account of the progress of his work:—

"I gave myself a holiday and a visit to Shrewsbury [in June], as I had finished my Journal. I shall now be very busy in filling up gaps and getting it quite ready for the press by the first of August. I shall always feel respect for every one who has written a book, let it be what it may, for I had no idea of the trouble which trying to write common English could cost one. And, alas, there yet remains the worst part of all, correcting the press. As soon as ever that is done I must put my shoulder to the wheel and commence at the Geology. I have read some short papers to the Geological Society, and they were favourably received by the great guns, and this gives me much confidence, and I hope not a very great deal of vanity, though I confess I feel too often like a peacock admiring his tail. I never expected that my Geology would ever have been worth the consideration of such men as Lyell, who has been to me, since my return, a most active friend. My life is a very busy one at present, and I hope may ever remain so; though Heaven knows there are many serious drawbacks to such a life, and chief amongst them is the little time it allows one for seeing one's natural friends. For the last three years, I have been longing and longing to be living at Shrewsbury, and after all now in the course of several months, I see my dear good people at Shrewsbury for a week. Susan and Catherine have, however, been staying with my brother here for some weeks, but they had returned home before my visit."

Besides the work already mentioned he had much to busy him in making arrangements for the publication of the 'Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle".' The following letters illustrate this subject.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO L. JENYNS. (Now Rev L. Blomefield.) 36 Great Marlborough Street, April 10th, 1837.

Dear Jenyns,

During the last week several of the zoologists of this place have been urging me to consider the possibility of publishing the 'Zoology of the "Beagle's" Voyage' on some uniform plan. Mr. Macleay (William Sharp Macleay was the son of Alexander Macleay, formerly Colonial Secretary of New South Wales, and for many years Secretary of the Linnean Society. The son, who was a most zealous Naturalist, and had inherited from his father a very large general collection of insects, made Entomology his chief study, and gained great notoriety by his now forgotten "Quinary System", set forth in the Second Part of his 'Horae Entomologicae,' published in 1821.—[I am indebted to Rev. L. Blomefield for the foregoing note.] has taken a great deal of interest in the subject, and maintains that such a publication is very desirable, because it keeps together a series of observations made respecting animals inhabiting the same part of the world, and allows any future traveller taking them with him. How far this facility of reference is of any consequence I am very doubtful; but if such is the case, it would be more satisfactory to myself to see the gleanings of my hands, after having passed through the brains of other naturalists, collected together in one work. But such considerations ought not to have much weight. The whole scheme is at present merely floating in the air; but I was determined to let you know, as I should much like to know what you think about it, and whether you would object to supply descriptions of the fish to such a work instead of to 'Transactions.' I apprehend the whole will be impracticable, without Government will aid in engraving the plates, and this I fear is a mere chance, only I think I can put in a strong claim, and get myself well backed by the naturalists of this place, who nearly all take a good deal of interest in my collections. I mean to-morrow to see Mr. Yarrell; if he approves, I shall begin and take more active steps; for I hear he is most prudent and most wise. It is scarcely any use speculating about any plan, but I thought of getting subscribers and publishing the work in parts (as long as funds would last, for I myself will not lose money by it). In such case, whoever had his own part ready on any order might publish it separately (and ultimately the parts might be sold separately), so that no one should be delayed by the other. The plan would resemble, on a humble scale, Ruppel's 'Atlas,' or Humboldt's 'Zoologie,' where Latreille, Cuvier, etc., wrote different parts. I myself should have little to do with it; excepting in some orders adding habits and ranges, etc., and geographical sketches, and perhaps afterwards some descriptions of invertebrate animals...

I am working at my Journal; it gets on slowly, though I am not idle. I thought Cambridge a bad place from good dinners and other temptations, but I find London no better, and I fear it may grow worse. I have a capital friend in Lyell, and see a great deal of him, which is very advantageous to me in discussing much South American geology. I miss a walk in the country very much; this London is a vile smoky place, where a man loses a great part of the best enjoyments in life. But I see no chance of escaping, even for a week, from this prison for a long time to come. I fear it will be some time before we shall meet; for I suppose you will not come up here during the spring, and I do not think I shall be able to go down to Cambridge. How I should like to have a good walk along the Newmarket road to-morrow, but Oxford Street must do instead. I do hate the streets of London. Will you tell Henslow to be careful with the EDIBLE fungi from Tierra del Fuego, for I shall want some specimens for Mr. Brown, who seems PARTICULARLY interested about them. Tell Henslow, I think my silicified wood has unflintified Mr. Brown's heart, for he was very gracious to me, and talked about the Galapagos plants; but before he never would say a word. It is just striking twelve o'clock; so I will wish you a very good night.

My dear Jenyns, Yours most truly, CHARLES DARWIN.

[A few weeks later the plan seems to have been matured, and the idea of seeking Government aid to have been adopted.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. 36 Great Marlborough Street, [18th May, 1837].

My dear Henslow,

I was very glad to receive your letter. I wanted much to hear how you were getting on with your manifold labours. Indeed I do not wonder your head began to ache; it is almost a wonder you have any head left. Your account of the Gamlingay expedition was cruelly tempting, but I cannot anyhow leave London. I wanted to pay my good, dear people at Shrewsbury a visit of a few days, but I found I could not manage it; at present I am waiting for the signatures of the Duke of Somerset, as President of the Linnean, and of Lord Derby and Whewell, to a statement of the value of my collection; the instant I get this I shall apply to Government for assistance in engraving, and so publish the 'Zoology' on some uniform plan. It is quite ridiculous the time any operation requires which depends on many people.

I have been working very steadily, but have only got two-thirds through the Journal part alone. I find, though I remain daily many hours at work, the progress is very slow: it is an awful thing to say to oneself, every fool and every clever man in England, if he chooses, may make as many ill- natured remarks as he likes on this unfortunate sentence.


[In August he writes to Henslow to announce the success of the scheme for the publication of the 'Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle",' through the promise of a grant of 1000 pounds from the Treasury: "I have delayed writing to you, to thank you most sincerely for having so effectually managed my affair. I waited till I had an interview with the Chancellor of the Exchequer (T. Spring Rice.). He appointed to see me this morning, and I had a long conversation with him, Mr. Peacock being present. Nothing could be more thoroughly obliging and kind than his whole manner. He made no sort of restriction, but only told me to make the most of [the] money, which of course I am right willing to do.

"I expected rather an awful interview, but I never found anything less so in my life. It will be my fault if I do not make a good work; but I sometimes take an awful fright that I have not materials enough. It will be excessively satisfactory at the end of some two years to find all materials made the most they were capable of."

Later in the autumn he wrote to Henslow: "I have not been very well of late, with an uncomfortable palpitation of the heart, and my doctors urge me STRONGLY to knock off all work, and go and live in the country for a few weeks." He accordingly took a holiday of about a month at Shrewsbury and Maer, and paid a visit in the Isle of Wight. It was, I believe, during this visit, at Mr. Wedgwood's house at Maer, that he made his first observations on the work done by earthworms, and late in the autumn he read a paper on the subject at the Geological Society. ("On the formation of mould," 'Geol. Soc. Proc.' ii. 1838, pages 574-576.) During these two months he was also busy preparing the scheme of the 'Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle",' and in beginning to put together the Geological results of his travels.

The following letter refers to the proposal that he should take the Secretaryship of the Geological Society.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. October 14th, [1837].

My dear Henslow,

...I am much obliged to you for your message about the Secretaryship. I am exceedingly anxious for you to hear my side of the question, and will you be so kind as afterwards to give me your fair judgment. The subject has haunted me all summer. I am unwilling to undertake the office for the following reasons: First, my entire ignorance of English Geology, a knowledge of which would be almost necessary in order to shorten many of the papers before reading them before the Society, or rather to know what parts to skip. Again, my ignorance of all languages, and not knowing how to pronounce a SINGLE word of French—a language so perpetually quoted. It would be disgraceful to the Society to have a Secretary who could not read French. Secondly, the loss of time; pray consider that I should have to look after the artists, superintend and furnish materials for the Government work, which will come out in parts, and which must appear regularly. All my Geological notes are in a very rough state; none of my fossil shells worked up; and I have much to read. I have had hopes, by giving up society and not wasting an hour, that I should finish my Geology in a year and a half, by which time the description of the higher animals by others would be completed, and my whole time would then necessarily be required to complete myself the description of the invertebrate ones. If this plan fails, as the Government work must go on, the Geology would necessarily be deferred till probably at least three years from this time. In the present state of the science, a great part of the utility of the little I have done would be lost, and all freshness and pleasure quite taken from me.

I know from experience the time required to make abstracts EVEN of my own papers for the 'Proceedings.' If I was Secretary, and had to make double abstracts of each paper, studying them before reading, and attendance would AT LEAST cost me three days (and often more) in the fortnight. There are likewise other accidental and contingent losses of time; I know Dr. Royle found the office consumed much of his time. If by merely giving up any amusement, or by working harder than I have done, I could save time, I would undertake the Secretaryship; but I appeal to you whether, with my slow manner of writing, with two works in hand, and with the certainty, if I cannot complete the Geological part within a fixed period, that its publication must be retarded for a very long time,—whether any Society whatever has any claim on me for three days' disagreeable work every fortnight. I cannot agree that it is a duty on my part, as a follower of science, as long as I devote myself to the completion of the work I have in hand, to delay that, by undertaking what may be done by any person who happens to have more spare time than I have at present. Moreover, so early in my scientific life, with so very much as I have to learn, the office, though no doubt a great honour, etc., for me, would be the more burdensome. Mr. Whewell (I know very well), judging from himself, will think I exaggerate the time the Secretaryship would require; but I absolutely know the time which with me the simplest writing consumes. I do not at all like appearing so selfish as to refuse Mr. Whewell, more especially as he has always shown, in the kindest manner, an interest in my affairs. But I cannot look forward with even tolerable comfort to undertaking an office without entering on it heart and soul, and that would be impossible with the Government work and the Geology in hand.

My last objection is, that I doubt how far my health will stand the confinement of what I have to do, without any additional work. I merely repeat, that you may know I am not speaking idly, that when I consulted Dr. Clark in town, he at first urged me to give up entirely all writing and even correcting press for some weeks. Of late anything which flurries me completely knocks me up afterwards, and brings on a violent palpitation of the heart. Now the Secretaryship would be a periodical source of more annoying trouble to me than all the rest of the fortnight put together. In fact, till I return to town, and see how I get on, if I wished the office ever so much, I COULD not say I would positively undertake it. I beg of you to excuse this very long prose all about myself, but the point is one of great interest. I can neither bear to think myself very selfish and sulky, nor can I see the possibility of my taking the Secretaryship without making a sacrifice of all my plans and a good deal of comfort.

If you see Whewell, would you tell him the substance of this letter; or, if he will take the trouble, he may read it. My dear Henslow, I appeal to you in loco parentis. Pray tell me what you think? But do not judge me by the activity of mind which you and a few others possess, for in that case the more difficult things in hand the pleasanter the work; but, though I hope I never shall be idle, such is not the case with me.

Ever, dear Henslow, Yours most truly, C. DARWIN.

[He ultimately accepted the post, and held it for three years—from February 16, 1838, to February 19, 1841.

After being assured of the Grant for the publication of the 'Zoology of the Voyage of the "Beagle",' there was much to be done in arranging the scheme of publication, and this occupied him during part of October and November.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. [4th November, 1837.]

My dear Henslow,

...Pray tell Leonard (Rev. L. Jenyns.) that my Government work is going on smoothly, and I hope will be prosperous. He will see in the Prospectus his name attached to the fish; I set my shoulders to the work with a good heart. I am very much better than I was during the last month before my Shrewsbury visit. I fear the Geology will take me a great deal of time; I was looking over one set of notes, and the quantity I found I had to read, for that one place was frightful. If I live till I am eighty years old I shall not cease to marvel at finding myself an author; in the summer before I started, if any one had told me that I should have been an angel by this time, I should have thought it an equal impossibility. This marvellous transformation is all owing to you.

I am sorry to find that a good many errata are left in the part of my volume, which is printed. During my absence Mr. Colburn employed some goose to revise, and he has multiplied, instead of diminishing my oversights; but for all that, the smooth paper and clear type has a charming appearance, and I sat the other evening gazing in silent admiration at the first page of my own volume, when I received it from the printers!

Good-bye, my dear Henslow, C. DARWIN.


[From the beginning of this year to nearly the end of June, he was busily employed on the zoological and geological results of his voyage. This spell of work was interrupted only by a visit of three days to Cambridge, in May; and even this short holiday was taken in consequence of failing health, as we may assume from the entry in his diary: "May 1st, unwell," and from a letter to his sister (May 16, 1838), when he wrote:—

"My trip of three days to Cambridge has done me such wonderful good, and filled my limbs with such elasticity, that I must get a little work out of my body before another holiday." This holiday seems to have been thoroughly enjoyed; he wrote to his sister:—

"Now for Cambridge: I stayed at Henslow's house and enjoyed my visit extremely. My friends gave me a most cordial welcome. Indeed, I was quite a lion there. Mrs. Henslow unfortunately was obliged to go on Friday for a visit in the country. That evening we had at Henslow's a brilliant party of all the geniuses in Cambridge, and a most remarkable set of men they most assuredly are. On Saturday I rode over to L. Jenyns', and spent the morning with him. I found him very cheerful, but bitterly complaining of his solitude. On Saturday evening dined at one of the Colleges, played at bowls on the College Green after dinner, and was deafened with nightingales singing. Sunday, dined in Trinity; capital dinner, and was very glad to sit by Professor Lee (Samuel Lee, of Queens', was Professor of Arabic from 1819 to 1831, and Regius Professor of Hebrew from 1831 to 1848.)...; I find him a very pleasant chatting man, and in high spirits like a boy, at having lately returned from a living or a curacy, for seven years in Somersetshire, to civilised society and oriental manuscripts. He had exchanged his living to one within fourteen miles of Cambridge, and seemed perfectly happy. In the evening attended Trinity Chapel, and heard 'The Heavens are telling the Glory of God,' in magnificent style; the last chorus seemed to shake the very walls of the College. After chapel a large party in Sedgwick's rooms. So much for my Annals."

He started, towards the end of June, on his expedition to Glen Roy, of which he writes to Fox: "I have not been very well of late, which has suddenly determined me to leave London earlier than I had anticipated. I go by the steam-packet to Edinburgh,—take a solitary walk on Salisbury Craigs, and call up old thoughts of former times, then go on to Glasgow and the great valley of Inverness, near which I intend stopping a week to geologise the parallel roads of Glen Roy, thence to Shrewsbury, Maer for one day, and London for smoke, ill-health and hard work."

He spent "eight good days" over the Parallel Roads. His Essay on this subject was written out during the same summer, and published by the Royal Society. ('Phil. Trans.' 1839, pages 39-82.) He wrote in his Pocket Book: "September 6 [1838]. Finished the paper on 'Glen Roy,' one of the most difficult and instructive tasks I was ever engaged on." It will be remembered that in his 'Recollections' he speaks of this paper as a failure, of which he was ashamed.

At the time at which he wrote, the latest theory of the formation of the Parallel Roads was that of Sir Lauder Dick and Dr. Macculloch, who believed that lakes had anciently existed in Glen Roy, caused by dams of rock or alluvium. In arguing against this theory he conceived that he had disproved the admissibility of any lake theory, but in this point he was mistaken. He wrote (Glen Roy paper, page 49) "the conclusion is inevitable, that no hypothesis founded on the supposed existence of a sheet of water confined by BARRIERS, that is a lake, can be admitted as solving the problematical origin of the parallel roads of Lochaber."

Mr. Archibald Geikie has been so good as to allow me to quote a passage from a letter addressed to me (November 19, 1884) in compliance with my request for his opinion on the character of my father's Glen Roy work:—

"Mr. Darwin's 'Glen Roy' paper, I need not say, is marked by all his characteristic acuteness of observation and determination to consider all possible objections. It is a curious example, however, of the danger of reasoning by a method of exclusion in Natural Science. Finding that the waters which formed the terraces in the Glen Roy region could not possibly have been dammed back by barriers of rock or of detritus, he saw no alternative but to regard them as the work of the sea. Had the idea of transient barriers of glacier-ice occurred to him, he would have found the difficulties vanish from the lake-theory which he opposed, and he would not have been unconsciously led to minimise the altogether overwhelming objections to the supposition that the terraces are of marine origin."

It may be added that the idea of the barriers being formed by glaciers could hardly have occurred to him, considering what was the state of knowledge at the time, and bearing in mind his want of opportunities of observing glacial action on a large scale.

The latter half of July was passed at Shrewsbury and Maer. The only entry of any interest is one of being "very idle" at Shrewsbury, and of opening "a note-book connected with metaphysical inquiries." In August he records that he read "a good deal of various amusing books, and paid some attention to metaphysical subjects."

The work done during the remainder of the year comprises the book on coral reefs (begun in October), and some work on the phenomena of elevation in S. America.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. 36 Great Marlborough Street, August 9th [1838].

My dear Lyell,

I do not write to you at Norwich, for I thought I should have more to say, if I waited a few more days. Very many thanks for the present of your 'Elements,' which I received (and I believe the VERY FIRST copy distributed) together with your note. I have read it through every word, and am full of admiration of it, and, as I now see no geologist, I must talk to you about it. There is no pleasure in reading a book if one cannot have a good talk over it; I repeat, I am full of admiration of it, it is as clear as daylight, in fact I felt in many parts some mortification at thinking how geologists have laboured and struggled at proving what seems, as you have put it, so evidently probable. I read with much interest your sketch of the secondary deposits; you have contrived to make it quite "juicy," as we used to say as children of a good story. There was also much new to me, and I have to copy out some fifty notes and references. It must do good, the heretics against common sense must yield...By the way, do you recollect my telling you how much I disliked the manner — referred to his other works, as much as to say, "You must, ought, and shall buy everything I have written." To my mind, you have somehow quite avoided this; your references only seem to say, "I can't tell you all in this work, else I would, so you must go to the 'Principles'"; and many a one, I trust, you will send there, and make them, like me, adorers of the good science of rock-breaking. You will see I am in a fit of enthusiasm, and good cause I have to be, when I find you have made such infinitely more use of my Journal than I could have anticipated. I will say no more about the book, for it is all praise. I must, however, admire the elaborate honesty with which you quote the words of all living and dead geologists.

My Scotch expedition answered brilliantly; my trip in the steam-packet was absolutely pleasant, and I enjoyed the spectacle, wretch that I am, of two ladies, and some small children quite sea-sick, I being well. Moreover, on my return from Glasgow to Liverpool, I triumphed in a similar manner over some full-grown men. I stayed one whole day in Edinburgh, or more truly on Salisbury Craigs; I want to hear some day what you think about that classical ground,—the structure was to me new and rather curious,—that is, if I understand it right. I crossed from Edinburgh in gigs and carts (and carts without springs, as I never shall forget) to Loch Leven. I was disappointed in the scenery, and reached Glen Roy on Saturday evening, one week after leaving Marlborough Street. Here I enjoyed five [?] days of the most beautiful weather with gorgeous sunsets, and all nature looking as happy as I felt. I wandered over the mountains in all directions, and examined that most extraordinary district. I think, without any exceptions, not even the first volcanic island, the first elevated beach, or the passage of the Cordillera, was so interesting to me as this week. It is far the most remarkable area I ever examined. I have fully convinced myself (after some doubting at first) that the shelves are sea-beaches, although I could not find a trace of a shell; and I think I can explain away most, if not all, the difficulties. I found a piece of a road in another valley, not hitherto observed, which is important; and I have some curious facts about erratic blocks, one of which was perched up on a peak 2200 feet above the sea. I am now employed in writing a paper on the subject, which I find very amusing work, excepting that I cannot anyhow condense it into reasonable limits. At some future day I hope to talk over some of the conclusions with you, which the examination of Glen Roy has led me to. Now I have had my talk out, I am much easier, for I can assure you Glen Roy has astonished me.

I am living very quietly, and therefore pleasantly, and am crawling on slowly but steadily with my work. I have come to one conclusion, which you will think proves me to be a very sensible man, namely, that whatever you say proves right; and as a proof of this, I am coming into your way of only working about two hours at a spell; I then go out and do my business in the streets, return and set to work again, and thus make two separate days out of one. The new plan answers capitally; after the second half day is finished I go and dine at the Athenaeum like a gentleman, or rather like a lord, for I am sure the first evening I sat in that great drawing-room, all on a sofa by myself, I felt just like a duke. I am full of admiration at the Athenaeum, one meets so many people there that one likes to see. The very first time I dined there (i.e. last week) I met Dr. Fitton (W.H. Fitton (1780-1861) was a physician and geologist, and sometime president of the Geological Society. He established the 'Proceedings,' a mode of publication afterwards adopted by other societies.) at the door, and he got together quite a party—Robert Brown, who is gone to Paris and Auvergne, Macleay [?] and Dr. Boott. (Francis Boott (1792-1863) is chiefly known as a botanist through his work on the genus Carex. He was also well-known in connection with the Linnean Society of which he was for many years an office-bearer. He is described (in a biographical sketch published in the "Gardener's Chronicle", 1864) as having been one of the first physicians in London who gave up the customary black coat, knee-breeches and silk stockings, and adopted the ordinary dress of the period, a blue coat with brass buttons, and a buff waiscoat, a costume which he continued to wear to the last. After giving up practice, which he did early in life, he spent much of his time in acts of unpretending philanthropy.) Your helping me into the Athenaeum has not been thrown away, and I enjoy it the more because I fully expected to detest it.

I am writing you a most unmerciful letter, but I shall get Owen to take it to Newcastle. If you have a mind to be a very generous man you will write to me from Kinnordy (The house of Lyell's father.), and tell me some Newcastle news, as well as about the Craig, and about yourself and Mrs. Lyell, and everything else in the world. I will send by Hall the 'Entomological Transactions,' which I have borrowed for you; you will be disappointed in —'s papers, that is if you suppose my dear friend has a single clear idea upon any one subject. He has so involved recent insects and true fossil insects in one table that I fear you will not make much out of it, though it is a subject which ought I should think to come into the 'Principles.' You will be amused at some of the ridiculo-sublime passages in the papers, and no doubt will feel acutely a sneer there is at yourself. I have heard from more than one quarter that quarrelling is expected at Newcastle (At the meeting of the British Association.); I am sorry to hear it. I met old — this evening at the Athenaeum, and he muttered something about writing to you or some one on the subject; I am however all in the dark. I suppose, however, I shall be illuminated, for I am going to dine with him in a few days, as my inventive powers failed in making any excuse. A friend of mine dined with him the other day, a party of four, and they finished ten bottles of wine—a pleasant prospect for me; but I am determined not even to taste his wine, partly for the fun of seeing his infinite disgust and surprise...

I pity you the infliction of this most unmerciful letter. Pray remember me most kindly to Mrs. Lyell when you arrive at Kinnordy. I saw her name in the landlord's book of Inverorum. Tell Mrs. Lyell to read the second series of 'Mr. Slick of Slickville's Sayings.'...He almost beats "Samivel," that prince of heroes. Goodnight, my dear Lyell; you will think I have been drinking some strong drink to write so much nonsense, but I did not even taste Minerva's small beer to-day.

Yours most sincerely, CHAS. DARWIN.

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. Friday night, September 13th [1838].

My dear Lyell,

I was astonished and delighted at your gloriously long letter, and I am sure I am very much obliged to Mrs. Lyell for having taken the trouble to write so much. (Lyell dictated much of his correspondence.) I mean to have a good hour's enjoyment and scribble away to you, who have so much geological sympathy that I do not care how egotistically I write...

I have got so much to say about all sorts of trifling things that I hardly know what to begin about. I need not say how pleased I am to hear that Mr. Lyell (Father of the geologist.) likes my Journal. To hear such tidings is a kind of resurrection, for I feel towards my first-born child as if it had long since been dead, buried, and forgotten; but the past is nothing and the future everything to us geologists, as you show in your capital motto to the 'Elements.' By the way, have you read the article, in the 'Edinburgh Review,' on M. Comte, 'Cours de la Philosophie' (or some such title)? It is capital; there are some fine sentences about the very essence of science being prediction, which reminded me of "its law being progress."

I will now begin and go through your letter seriatim. I dare say your plan of putting the Elie de Beaumont's chapter separately and early will be very good; anyhow, it is showing a bold front in the first edition which is to be translated into French. It will be a curious point to geologists hereafter to note how long a man's name will support a theory so completely exposed as that of De Beaumont's has been by you; you say you "begin to hope that the great principles there insisted on will stand the test of time." BEGIN TO HOPE: why, the POSSIBILITY of a doubt has never crossed my mind for many a day. This may be very unphilosophical, but my geological salvation is staked on it. After having just come back from Glen Roy, and found how difficulties smooth away under your principles, it makes me quite indignant that you should talk of HOPING. With respect to the question, how far my coral theory bears on De Beaumont's theory, I think it would be prudent to quote me with great caution until my whole account is published, and then you (and others) can judge how far there is foundation for such generalisation. Mind, I do not doubt its truth; but the extension of any view over such large spaces, from comparatively few facts, must be received with much caution. I do not myself the least doubt that within the recent (or as you, much to my annoyment, would call it, "New Pliocene") period, tortuous bands—not all the bands parallel to each other—have been elevated and corresponding ones subsided, though within the same period some parts probably remained for a time stationary, or even subsided. I do not believe a more utterly false view could have been invented than great straight lines being suddenly thrown up.

When my book on Volcanoes and Coral Reefs will be published I hardly know; I fear it will be at least four or five months; though, mind, the greater part is written. I find so much time is lost in correcting details and ascertaining their accuracy. The Government Zoological work is a millstone round my neck, and the Glen Roy paper has lost me six weeks. I will not, however, say lost; for, supposing I can prove to others' satisfaction what I have convinced myself is the case, the inference I think you will allow to be important. I cannot doubt that the molten matter beneath the earth's crust possesses a high degree of fluidity, almost like the sea beneath the block ice. By the way, I hope you will give me some Swedish case to quote, of shells being preserved on the surface, but not in contemporaneous beds of gravel...

Remember what I have often heard you say: the country is very bad for the intellects; the Scotch mists will put out some volcanic speculations. You see I am affecting to become very Cockneyfied, and to despise the poor country-folk, who breath fresh air instead of smoke, and see the goodly fields instead of the brick houses in Marlborough Street, the very sight of which I confess I abhor. I am glad to hear what a favourable report you give of the British Association. I am the more pleased because I have been fighting its battles with Basil Hall, Stokes, and several others, having made up my mind, from the report in the "Athenaeum", that it must have been an excellent meeting. I have been much amused with an account I have received of the wars of Don Roderick (Murchison.) and Babbage. What a grievous pity it is that the latter should be so implacable...This is a most rigmarole letter, for after each sentence I take breath, and you will have need of it in reading it...

I wish with all my heart that my Geological book was out. I have every motive to work hard, and will, following your steps, work just that degree of hardness to keep well. I should like my volume to be out before your new edition of 'Principles' appears. Besides the Coral theory, the volcanic chapters will, I think, contain some new facts. I have lately been sadly tempted to be idle—that is, as far as pure geology is concerned—by the delightful number of new views which have been coming in thickly and steadily,—on the classification and affinities and instincts of animals—bearing on the question of species. Note-book after note-book has been filled with facts which begin to group themselves CLEARLY under sub-laws.

Good night, my dear Lyell. I have filled my letter and enjoyed my talk to you as much as I can without having you in propria persona. Think of the bad effects of the country—so once more good night.

Ever yours, CHAS. DARWIN.

Pray again give my best thanks to Mrs. Lyell.

[The record of what he wrote during the year does not give a true index of the most important work that was in progress,—the laying of the foundation-stones of what was to be the achievement of his life. This is shown in the foregoing letter to Lyell, where he speaks of being "idle," and the following extract from a letter to Fox, written in June, is of interest in this point of view:

"I am delighted to hear you are such a good man as not to have forgotten my questions about the crossing of animals. It is my prime hobby, and I really think some day I shall be able to do something in that most intricate subject, species and varieties."]


[In the winter of 1839 {January 29) my father was married to his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. (Daughter of Josiah Wedgwood of Maer, and grand-daughter of the founder of the Etruria Pottery Works.) The house in which they lived for the first few years of their married life, No. 12 Upper Gower Street, was a small common-place London house, with a drawing-room in front, and a small room behind, in which they lived for the sake of quietness. In later years my father used to laugh over the surpassing ugliness of the furniture, carpets, etc., of the Gower Street house. The only redeeming feature was a better garden than most London houses have, a strip as wide as the house, and thirty yards long. Even this small space of dingy grass made their London house more tolerable to its two country-bred inhabitants.

Of his life in London he writes to Fox (October 1839): "We are living a life of extreme quietness; Delamere itself, which you describe as so secluded a spot, is, I will answer for it, quite dissipated compared with Gower Street. We have given up all parties, for they agree with neither of us; and if one is quiet in London, there is nothing like its quietness— there is a grandeur about its smoky fogs, and the dull distant sounds of cabs and coaches; in fact you may perceive I am becoming a thorough-paced Cockney, and I glory in thoughts that I shall be here for the next six months."

The entries of ill health in the Diary increase in number during these years, and as a consequence the holidays become longer and more frequent. >From April 26 to May 13, 1839, he was at Maer and Shrewsbury. Again, from August 23 to October 2 he was away from London at Maer, Shrewsbury, and at Birmingham for the meeting of the British Association.

The entry under August 1839 is: "During my visit to Maer, read a little, was much unwell and scandalously idle. I have derived this much good, that NOTHING is so intolerable as idleness."

At the end of 1839 his eldest child was born, and it was then that he began his observations ultimately published in the 'Expression of the Emotions.' His book on this subject, and the short paper published in 'Mind,' (July 1877.) show how closely he observed his child. He seems to have been surprised at his own feelings for a young baby, for he wrote to Fox (July 1840): "He [i.e. the baby] is so charming that I cannot pretend to any modesty. I defy anybody to flatter us on our baby, for I defy any one to say anything in its praise of which we are not fully conscious...I had not the smallest conception there was so much in a five-month baby. You will perceive by this that I have a fine degree of paternal fervour."

During these years he worked intermittently at 'Coral Reefs,' being constantly interrupted by ill health. Thus he speaks of "recommencing" the subject in February 1839, and again in the October of the same year, and once more in July 1841, "after more than thirteen months' interval." His other scientific work consisted of a contribution to the Geological Society ('Geol. Soc. Proc.' iii. 1842, and 'Geol. Soc. Trans.' vi), on the boulders and "till" of South America, as well as a few other minor papers on geological subjects. He also worked busily at the ornithological part of the Zoology of the "Beagle", i.e. the notice of the habits and ranges of the birds which were described by Gould.]

CHARLES DARWIN TO C. LYELL. Wednesday morning [February 1840].

My dear Lyell,

Many thanks for your kind note. I will send for the "Scotsman". Dr. Holland thinks he has found out what is the matter with me, and now hopes he shall be able to set me going again. Is it not mortifying, it is now nine weeks since I have done a whole day's work, and not more than four half days. But I won't grumble any more, though it is hard work to prevent doing so. Since receiving your note I have read over my chapter on Coral, and find I am prepared to stand by almost everything; it is much more cautiously and accurately written than I thought. I had set my heart upon having my volume completed before your new edition, but not, you may believe me, for you to notice anything new in it (for there is very little besides details), but you are the one man in Europe whose opinion of the general truth of a toughish argument I should be always most anxious to hear. My MS. is in such confusion, otherwise I am sure you should most willingly if it had been worth your while, have looked at any part you choose.


[In a letter to Fox (January 1841) he shows that his "Species work" was still occupying his mind:—

"If you attend at all to Natural History I send you this P.S. as a memento, that I continue to collect all kinds of facts about 'Varieties and Species,' for my some-day work to be so entitled; the smallest contributions thankfully accepted; descriptions of offspring of all crosses between all domestic birds and animals, dogs, cats, etc., etc., very valuable. Don't forget, if your half-bred African cat should die that I should be very much obliged for its carcase sent up in a little hamper for the skeleton; it, or any cross-bred pigeons, fowl, duck, etc., etc., will be more acceptable than the finest haunch of venison, or the finest turtle."

Later in the year (September) he writes to Fox about his health, and also with reference to his plan of moving into the country:—

"I have steadily been gaining ground, and really believe now I shall some day be quite strong. I write daily for a couple of hours on my Coral volume, and take a little walk or ride every day. I grow very tired in the evenings, and am not able to go out at that time, or hardly to receive my nearest relations; but my life ceases to be burdensome now that I can do something. We are taking steps to leave London, and live about twenty miles from it on some railway."]


[The record of work includes his volume on 'Coral Reefs' (A notice of the Coral Reef work appeared in the Geograph. Soc. Journal, xii., page 115.), the manuscript of which was at last sent to the printers in January of this year, and the last proof corrected in May. He thus writes of the work in his diary:—

"I commenced this work three years and seven months ago. Out of this period about twenty months (besides work during "Beagle's" voyage) has been spent on it, and besides it, I have only compiled the Bird part of Zoology; Appendix to Journal, paper on Boulders, and corrected papers on Glen Roy and earthquakes, reading on species, and rest all lost by illness."

In May and June he was at Shrewsbury and Maer, whence he went on to make the little tour in Wales, of which he spoke in his 'Recollections,' and of which the results were published as "Notes on the effects produced by the ancient glaciers of Caernarvonshire, and on the Boulders transported by floating Ice." ('Philosophical Magazine,' 1842, page 352.)

Mr. Archibald Geikie speaks of this paper as standing "almost at the top of the long list of English contributions to the history of the Ice Age." Charles Darwin, 'Nature' Series, page 23.)

The latter part of this year belongs to the period including the settlement at Down, and is therefore dealt with in another chapter.]



[The history of this part of my father's life may justly include some mention of his religious views. For although, as he points out, he did not give continuous systematic thought to religious questions, yet we know from his own words that about this time (1836-39) the subject was much before his mind.

In his published works he was reticent on the matter of religion, and what he has left on the subject was not written with a view to publication. (As an exception may be mentioned, a few words of concurrence with Dr. Abbot's 'Truths for the Times,' which my father allowed to be published in the "Index".)

I believe that his reticence arose from several causes. He felt strongly that a man's religion is an essentially private matter, and one concerning himself alone. This is indicated by the following extract from a letter of 1879:—(Addressed to Mr. J. Fordyce, and published by him in his 'Aspects of Scepticism,' 1883.)

"What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates...In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind."

He naturally shrank from wounding the sensibilities of others in religious matters, and he was also influenced by the consciousness that a man ought not to publish on a subject to which he has not given special and continuous thought. That he felt this caution to apply to himself in the matter of religion is shown in a letter to Dr. F.E. Abbot, of Cambridge, U.S. (September 6, 1871). After explaining that the weakness arising from his bad health prevented him from feeling "equal to deep reflection, on the deepest subject which can fill a man's mind," he goes on to say: "With respect to my former notes to you, I quite forget their contents. I have to write many letters, and can reflect but little on what I write; but I fully believe and hope that I have never written a word, which at the time I did not think; but I think you will agree with me, that anything which is to be given to the public ought to be maturely weighed and cautiously put. It never occurred to me that you would wish to print any extract from my notes: if it had, I would have kept a copy. I put 'private' from habit, only as yet partially acquired, from some hasty notes of mine having been printed, which were not in the least degree worth printing, though otherwise unobjectionable. It is simply ridiculous to suppose that my former note to you would be worth sending to me, with any part marked which you desire to print; but if you like to do so, I will at once say whether I should have any objection. I feel in some degree unwilling to express myself publicly on religious subjects, as I do not feel that I have thought deeply enough to justify any publicity."

I may also quote from another letter to Dr. Abbot (November 16, 1871), in which my father gives more fully his reasons for not feeling competent to write on religious and moral subjects:—

"I can say with entire truth that I feel honoured by your request that I should become a contributor to the "Index", and am much obliged for the draft. I fully, also, subscribe to the proposition that it is the duty of every one to spread what he believes to be the truth; and I honour you for doing so, with so much devotion and zeal. But I cannot comply with your request for the following reasons; and excuse me for giving them in some detail, as I should be very sorry to appear in your eyes ungracious. My health is very weak: I NEVER pass 24 hours without many hours of discomfort, when I can do nothing whatever. I have thus, also, lost two whole consecutive months this season. Owing to this weakness, and my head being often giddy, I am unable to master new subjects requiring much thought, and can deal only with old materials. At no time am I a quick thinker or writer: whatever I have done in science has solely been by long pondering, patience and industry.

"Now I have never systematically thought much on religion in relation to science, or on morals in relation to society; and without steadily keeping my mind on such subjects for a LONG period, I am really incapable of writing anything worth sending to the 'Index'."

He was more than once asked to give his views on religion, and he had, as a rule, no objection to doing so in a private letter. Thus in answer to a Dutch student he wrote (April 2, 1873):—

"I am sure you will excuse my writing at length, when I tell you that I have long been much out of health, and am now staying away from my home for rest.

"It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came, and how it arose. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world. I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgment of the many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to me that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man's intellect; but man can do his duty."

Again in 1879 he was applied to by a German student, in a similar manner. The letter was answered by a member of my father's family, who wrote:—

"Mr. Darwin begs me to say that he receives so many letters, that he cannot answer them all.

"He considers that the theory of Evolution is quite compatible with the belief in a God; but that you must remember that different persons have different definitions of what they mean by God."

This, however, did not satisfy the German youth, who again wrote to my father, and received from him the following reply:—

"I am much engaged, an old man, and out of health, and I cannot spare time to answer your questions fully,—nor indeed can they be answered. Science has nothing to do with Christ, except in so far as the habit of scientific research makes a man cautious in admitting evidence. For myself, I do not believe that there ever has been any revelation. As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities."

The passages which here follow are extracts, somewhat abbreviated, from a part of the Autobiography, written in 1876, in which my father gives the history of his religious views:—

"During these two years (October 1836 to January 1839.) I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the 'Beagle' I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come by this time, i.e. 1836 to 1839, to see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos. The question then continually rose before my mind and would not be banished,—is it credible that if God were now to make a revelation to the Hindoos, he would permit it to be connected with the belief in Vishnu, Siva, etc., as Christianity is connected with the Old Testament? This appeared to me utterly incredible.

"By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported,—and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become,—that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us,—that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events,—that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me, to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses;—by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me.

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