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The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I

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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

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

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."]


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.


[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

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-

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

"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

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

My dear Jenyns,
Yours most truly,

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

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.]

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,

[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.]

[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

Good-bye, my dear Henslow,


[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.

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,

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

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,

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

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.]

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


[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

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

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

"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.

"But I was very unwilling to give up my belief; I feel sure of this, for I
can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters
between distinguished Romans, and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii
or elsewhere, which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was
written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free
scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to
convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at
last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress.

"Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until
a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague
conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument from design in
Nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive,
fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can
no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell
must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by
man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic
beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which
the wind blows. But I have discussed this subject at the end of my book on
the 'Variations of Domesticated Animals and Plants' (My father asks whether
we are to believe that the forms are preordained of the broken fragments of
rock tumbled from a precipice which are fitted together by man to build his
houses. If not, why should we believe that the variations of domestic
animals or plants are preordained for the sake of the breeder? "But if we
give up the principle in one case,...no shadow of reason can be assigned
for the belief that variations, alike in nature and the result of the same
general laws, which have been the groundwork through natural selection of
the formation of the most perfectly adapted animals in the world, man
included, were intentionally and specially guided."--'The Variation of
Animals and Plants,' 1st Edition volume ii. page 431.--F.D.), and the
argument there given has never, as far as I can see, been answered.

"But passing over the endless beautiful adaptations which we everywhere
meet with, it may be asked how can the generally beneficent arrangement of
the world be accounted for? Some writers indeed are so much impressed with
the amount of suffering in the world, that they doubt, if we look to all
sentient beings, whether there is more of misery or of happiness; whether
the world as a whole is a good or bad one. According to my judgment
happiness decidedly prevails, though this would be very difficult to prove.
If the truth of this conclusion be granted, it harmonises well with the
effects which we might expect from natural selection. If all the
individuals of any species were habitually to suffer to an extreme degree,
they would neglect to propagate their kind; but we have no reason to
believe that this has ever, or at least often occurred. Some other
considerations, moreover, lead to the belief that all sentient beings have
been formed so as to enjoy, as a general rule, happiness.

"Everyone who believes, as I do, that all the corporeal and mental organs
(excepting those which are neither advantageous nor disadvantageous to the
possessor) of all beings have been developed through natural selection, or
the survival of the fittest, together with use or habit, will admit that
these organs have been formed so that their possessors may compete
successfully with other beings, and thus increase in number. Now an animal
may be led to pursue that course of action which is most beneficial to the
species by suffering, such as pain, hunger, thirst, and fear; or by
pleasure, as in eating and drinking, and in the propagation of the species,
etc.; or by both means combined, as in the search for food. But pain or
suffering of any kind, if long continued, causes depression and lessens the
power of action, yet is well adapted to make a creature guard itself
against any great or sudden evil. Pleasurable sensations, on the other
hand, may be long continued without any depressing effect; on the contrary,
they stimulate the whole system to increased action. Hence it has come to
pass that most or all sentient beings have been developed in such a manner,
through natural selection, that pleasurable sensations serve as their
habitual guides. We see this in the pleasure from exertion, even
occasionally from great exertion of the body or mind,--in the pleasure of
our daily meals, and especially in the pleasure derived from sociability,
and from loving our families. The sum of such pleasures as these, which
are habitual or frequently recurrent, give, as I can hardly doubt, to most
sentient beings an excess of happiness over misery, although many
occasionally suffer much. Such suffering is quite compatible with the
belief in Natural Selection, which is not perfect in its action, but tends
only to render each species as successful as possible in the battle for
life with other species, in wonderfully complex and changing circumstances.

"That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes. Some have
attempted to explain this with reference to man by imagining that it serves
for his moral improvement. But the number of men in the world is as
nothing compared with that of all other sentient beings, and they often
suffer greatly without any moral improvement. This very old argument from
the existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent First
Cause seems to me a strong one; whereas, as just remarked, the presence of
much suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been
developed through variation and natural selection.

"At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an
intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which
are experienced by most persons.

"Formerly I was led by feelings such as those just referred to (although I
do not think that the religious sentiment was ever strongly developed in
me), to the firm conviction of the existence of God, and of the immortality
of the soul. In my Journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of
the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, "it is not possible to give an adequate
idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion, which fill
and elevate the mind." I well remember my conviction that there is more in
man than the mere breath of his body. But now the grandest scenes would
not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be
truly said that I am like a man who has become colour-blind, and the
universal belief by men of the existence of redness makes my present loss
of perception of not the least value as evidence. This argument would be a
valid one if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the
existence of one God; but we know that this is very far from being the
case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are
of any weight as evidence of what really exists. The state of mind which
grand scenes formerly excited in me, and which was intimately connected
with a belief in God, did not essentially differ from that which is often
called the sense of sublimity; and however difficult it may be to explain
the genesis of this sense, it can hardly be advanced as an argument for the
existence of God, any more than the powerful though vague and similar
feelings excited by music.

"With respect to immortality, nothing shows me [so clearly] how strong and
almost instinctive a belief it is, as the consideration of the view now
held by most physicists, namely, that the sun with all the planets will in
time grow too cold for life, unless indeed some great body dashes into the
sun, and thus gives it fresh life. Believing as I do that man in the
distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it is an
intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to
complete annihilation after such long-continued slow progress. To those
who fully admit the immortality of the human soul, the destruction of our
world will not appear so dreadful.

"Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the
reason, and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight.
This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of
conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his
capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of
blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look
to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to
that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was
strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote
the 'Origin of Species;' and it is since that time that it has very
gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the
doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed
from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when
it draws such grand conclusions?

"I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The
mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one
must be content to remain an Agnostic."

The following letters repeat to some extent what has been given from the
Autobiography. The first one refers to 'The Boundaries of Science, a
Dialogue,' published in 'Macmillan's Magazine,' for July 1861.]

July 11 [1861].

Some one has sent us 'Macmillan'; and I must tell you how much I admire
your Article; though at the same time I must confess that I could not
clearly follow you in some parts, which probably is in main part due to my
not being at all accustomed to metaphysical trains of thought. I think
that you understand my book (The 'Origin of Species.') perfectly, and that
I find a very rare event with my critics. The ideas in the last page have
several times vaguely crossed my mind. Owing to several correspondents I
have been led lately to think, or rather to try to think over some of the
chief points discussed by you. But the result has been with me a maze--
something like thinking on the origin of evil, to which you allude. The
mind refuses to look at this universe, being what it is, without having
been designed; yet, where one would most expect design, viz. in the
structure of a sentient being, the more I think on the subject, the less I
can see proof of design. Asa Gray and some others look at each variation,
or at least at each beneficial variation (which A. Gray would compare with
the rain drops (Dr. Gray's rain-drop metaphor occurs in the Essay 'Darwin
and his Reviewers' ('Darwiniana,' page 157): "The whole animate life of a
country depends absolutely upon the vegetation, the vegetation upon the
rain. The moisture is furnished by the ocean, is raised by the sun's heat
from the ocean's surface, and is wafted inland by the winds. But what
multitudes of rain-drops fall back into the ocean--are as much without a
final cause as the incipient varieties which come to nothing! Does it
therefore follow that the rains which are bestowed upon the soil with such
rule and average regularity were not designed to support vegetable and
animal life?") which do not fall on the sea, but on to the land to
fertilize it) as having been providentially designed. Yet when I ask him
whether he looks at each variation in the rock-pigeon, by which man has
made by accumulation a pouter or fantail pigeon, as providentially designed
for man's amusement, he does not know what to answer; and if he, or any
one, admits [that] these variations are accidental, as far as purpose is
concerned (of course not accidental as to their cause or origin); then I
can see no reason why he should rank the accumulated variations by which
the beautifully adapted woodpecker has been formed, as providentially
designed. For it would be easy to imagine the enlarged crop of the pouter,
or tail of the fantail, as of some use to birds, in a state of nature,
having peculiar habits of life. These are the considerations which perplex
me about design; but whether you will care to hear them, I know not.


[On the subject of design, he wrote (July 1860) to Dr. Gray:

"One word more on 'designed laws' and 'undesigned results.' I see a bird
which I want for food, take my gun and kill it, I do this DESIGNEDLY. An
innocent and good man stands under a tree and is killed by a flash of
lightning. Do you believe (and I really should like to hear) that God
DESIGNEDLY killed this man? Many or most persons do believe this; I can't
and don't. If you believe so, do you believe that when a swallow snaps up
a gnat that God designed that that particular swallow should snap up that
particular gnat at that particular instant? I believe that the man and the
gnat are in the same predicament. If the death of neither man nor gnat are
designed, I see no good reason to believe that their FIRST birth or
production should be necessarily designed."]

Down, July 3rd, 1881.

Dear Sir,

I hope that you will not think it intrusive on my part to thank you
heartily for the pleasure which I have derived from reading your admirably
written 'Creed of Science,' though I have not yet quite finished it, as now
that I am old I read very slowly. It is a very long time since any other
book has interested me so much. The work must have cost you several years
and much hard labour with full leisure for work. You would not probably
expect any one fully to agree with you on so many abstruse subjects; and
there are some points in your book which I cannot digest. The chief one is
that the existence of so-called natural laws implies purpose. I cannot see
this. Not to mention that many expect that the several great laws will
some day be found to follow inevitably from some one single law, yet taking
the laws as we now know them, and look at the moon, where the law of
gravitation--and no doubt of the conservation of energy--of the atomic
theory, etc. etc., hold good, and I cannot see that there is then
necessarily any purpose. Would there be purpose if the lowest organisms
alone, destitute of consciousness existed in the moon? But I have had no
practice in abstract reasoning, and I may be all astray. Nevertheless you
have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly
than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance.
(The Duke of Argyll ('Good Words,' Ap. 1885, page 244) has recorded a few
words on this subject, spoken by my father in the last year of his life.
"...in the course of that conversation I said to Mr. Darwin, with reference
to some of his own remarkable works on the 'Fertilization of Orchids,' and
upon 'The Earthworms,' and various other observations he made of the
wonderful contrivances for certain purposes in nature--I said it was
impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect and
the expression of mind. I shall never forget Mr. Darwin's answer. He
looked at me very hard and said, 'Well, that often comes over me with
overwhelming force; but at other times,' and he shook his head vaguely,
adding, 'it seems to go away.'") But then with me the horrid doubt always
arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from
the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.
Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any
convictions in such a mind? Secondly, I think that I could make somewhat
of a case against the enormous importance which you attribute to our
greatest men; I have been accustomed to think, second, third, and fourth
rate men of very high importance, at least in the case of Science. Lastly,
I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the
progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what
risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being
overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more
civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the
struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what
an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the
higher civilized races throughout the world. But I will write no more, and
not even mention the many points in your work which have much interested
me. I have indeed cause to apologise for troubling you with my
impressions, and my sole excuse is the excitement in my mind which your
book has aroused.

I beg leave to remain,
Dear Sir,
Yours faithfully and obliged,

[My father spoke little on these subjects, and I can contribute nothing
from my own recollection of his conversation which can add to the
impression here given of his attitude towards Religion. Some further idea
of his views may, however, be gathered from occasional remarks in his
letters.] (Dr. Aveling has published an account of a conversation with my
father. I think that the readers of this pamphlet ('The Religious Views of
Charles Darwin,' Free Thought Publishing Company, 1883) may be misled into
seeing more resemblance than really existed between the positions of my
father and Dr. Aveling: and I say this in spite of my conviction that Dr.
Aveling gives quite fairly his impressions of my father's views. Dr.
Aveling tried to show that the terms "Agnostic" and "Atheist" were
practically equivalent--that an atheist is one who, without denying the
existence of God, is without God, inasmuch as he is unconvinced of the
existence of a Deity. My father's replies implied his preference for the
unaggressive attitude of an Agnostic. Dr. Aveling seems (page 5) to regard
the absence of aggressiveness in my father's views as distinguishing them
in an unessential manner from his own. But, in my judgment, it is
precisely differences of this kind which distinguish him so completely from
the class of thinkers to which Dr. Aveling belongs.)




"My life goes on like clockwork, and I am fixed on the spot where I shall
end it."

Letter to Captain Fitz-Roy, October, 1846.

[With the view of giving in the following chapters a connected account of
the growth of the 'Origin of Species,' I have taken the more important
letters bearing on that subject out of their proper chronological position
here, and placed them with the rest of the correspondence bearing on the
same subject; so that in the present group of letters we only get
occasional hints of the growth of my father's views, and we may suppose
ourselves to be looking at his life, as it might have been looked at by
those who had no knowledge of the quiet development of his theory of
evolution during this period.

On September 14, 1842, my father left London with his family and settled at
Down. (I must not omit to mention a member of the household who
accompanied him. This was his butler, Joseph Parslow, who remained in the
family, a valued friend and servant, for forty years, and became as Sir
Joseph Hooker once remarked to me, "an integral part of the family, and
felt to be such by all visitors at the house.") In the Autobiographical
chapter, his motives for taking this step in the country are briefly given.
He speaks of the attendance at scientific societies, and ordinary social
duties, as suiting his health so "badly that we resolved to live in the
country, which we both preferred and have never repented of." His
intention of keeping up with scientific life in London is expressed in a
letter to Fox (December, 1842):--

"I hope by going up to town for a night every fortnight or three weeks, to
keep up my communication with scientific men and my own zeal, and so not to
turn into a complete Kentish hog."

Visits to London of this kind were kept up for some years at the cost of
much exertion on his part. I have often heard him speak of the wearisome
drives of ten miles to or from Croydon or Sydenham--the nearest stations--
with an old gardener acting as coachman, who drove with great caution and
slowness up and down the many hills. In later years, all regular
scientific intercourse with London became, as before mentioned, an

The choice of Down was rather the result of despair than of actual
preference; my father and mother were weary of house-hunting, and the
attractive points about the place thus seemed to them to counterbalance its
somewhat more obvious faults. It had at least one desideratum, namely
quietness. Indeed it would have been difficult to find a more retired
place so near to London. In 1842 a coach drive of some twenty miles was
the only means of access to Down; and even now that railways have crept
closer to it, it is singularly out of the world, with nothing to suggest
the neighbourhood of London, unless it be the dull haze of smoke that
sometimes clouds the sky. The village stands in an angle between two of
the larger high-roads of the country, one leading to Tunbridge and the
other to Westerham and Edenbridge. It is cut off from the Weald by a line
of steep chalk hills on the south, and an abrupt hill, now smoothed down by
a cutting and embankment, must formerly have been something of a barrier
against encroachments from the side of London. In such a situation, a
village, communicating with the main lines of traffic, only by stony
tortuous lanes, may well have been enabled to preserve its retired
character. Nor is it hard to believe in the smugglers and their strings of
pack-horses making their way up from the lawless old villages of the Weald,
of which the memory still existed when my father settled in Down. The
village stands on solitary upland country, 500 to 600 feet above the sea,--
a country with little natural beauty, but possessing a certain charm in the
shaws, or straggling strips of wood, capping the chalky banks and looking
down upon the quiet ploughed lands of the valleys. The village, of three
or four hundred inhabitants, consists of three small streets of cottages
meeting in front of the little flint-built church. It is a place where
new-comers are seldom seen, and the names occurring far back in the old
church registers are still well-known in the village. The smock-frock is
not yet quite extinct, though chiefly used as a ceremonial dress by the
"bearers" at funerals: but as a boy I remember the purple or green smocks
of the men at church.

The house stands a quarter of a mile from the village, and is built, like
so many houses of the last century, as near as possible to the road--a
narrow lane winding away to the Westerham high-road. In 1842, it was dull
and unattractive enough: a square brick building of three storeys, covered
with shabby whitewash and hanging tiles. The garden had none of the
shrubberies or walls that now give shelter; it was overlooked from the
lane, and was open, bleak, and desolate. One of my father's first
undertakings was to lower the lane by about two feet, and to build a flint
wall along that part of it which bordered the garden. The earth thus
excavated was used in making banks and mounds round the lawn: these were
planted with evergreens, which now give to the garden its retired and
sheltered character.

The house was made to look neater by being covered with stucco, but the
chief improvement effected was the building of a large bow extending up
through three storeys. This bow became covered with a tangle of creepers,
and pleasantly varied the south side of the house. The drawing-room, with
its verandah opening into the garden, as well as the study in which my
father worked during the later years of his life, were added at subsequent

Eighteen acres of land were sold with the house, of which twelve acres on
the south side of the house formed a pleasant field, scattered with fair-
sized oaks and ashes. From this field a strip was cut off and converted
into a kitchen garden, in which the experimental plot of ground was
situated, and where the greenhouses were ultimately put up.

The following letter to Mr. Fox (March 28th, 1843) gives among other things
my father's early impressions of Down:--

"I will tell you all the trifling particulars about myself that I can think
of. We are now exceedingly busy with the first brick laid down yesterday
to an addition to our house; with this, with almost making a new kitchen
garden and sundry other projected schemes, my days are very full. I find
all this very bad for geology, but I am very slowly progressing with a
volume, or rather pamphlet, on the volcanic islands which we visited: I
manage only a couple of hours per day and that not very regularly. It is
uphill work writing books, which cost money in publishing, and which are
not read even by geologists. I forget whether I ever described this place:
it is a good, very ugly house with 18 acres, situated on a chalk flat, 560
feet above sea. There are peeps of far distant country and the scenery is
moderately pretty: its chief merit is its extreme rurality. I think I was
never in a more perfectly quiet country. Three miles south of us the great
chalk escarpment quite cuts us off from the low country of Kent, and
between us and the escarpment there is not a village or gentleman's house,
but only great woods and arable fields (the latter in sadly preponderant
numbers) so that we are absolutely at the extreme verge of the world. The
whole country is intersected by foot-paths; but the surface over the chalk
is clayey and sticky, which is the worst feature in our purchase. The
dingles and banks often remind me of Cambridgeshire and walks with you to
Cherry Hinton, and other places, though the general aspect of the country
is very different. I was looking over my arranged cabinet (the only
remnant I have preserved of all my English insects), and was admiring
Panagaeus Crux-major: it is curious the vivid manner in which this insect
calls up in my mind your appearance, with little Fan trotting after, when I
was first introduced to you. Those entomological days were very pleasant
ones. I am VERY much stronger corporeally, but am little better in being
able to stand mental fatigue, or rather excitement, so that I cannot dine
out or receive visitors, except relations with whom I can pass some time
after dinner in silence."

I could have wished to give here some idea of the position which, at this
period of his life, my father occupied among scientific men and the reading
public generally. But contemporary notices are few and of no particular
value for my purpose,--which therefore must, in spite of a good deal of
pains, remain unfulfilled.

His 'Journal of Researches' was then the only one of his books which had
any chance of being commonly known. But the fact that it was published
with the 'Voyages' of Captains King and Fitz-Roy probably interfered with
its general popularity. Thus Lyell wrote to him in 1838 ('Lyell's Life,'
ii. page 43), "I assure you my father is quite enthusiastic about your
journal...and he agrees with me that it would have a large sale if
published separately. He was disappointed at hearing that it was to be
fettered by the other volumes, for, although he should equally buy it, he
feared so many of the public would be checked from doing so." In a notice
of the three voyages in the 'Edinburgh Review' (July, 1839), there is
nothing leading a reader to believe that he would find it more attractive
than its fellow-volumes. And, as a fact, it did not become widely known
until it was separately published in 1845. It may be noted, however, that
the 'Quarterly Review' (December, 1839) called the attention of its readers
to the merits of the 'Journal' as a book of travels. The reviewer speaks
of the "charm arising from the freshness of heart which is thrown over
these virgin pages of a strong intellectual man and an acute and deep

The German translation (1844) of the 'Journal' received a favourable notice
in No. 12 of the 'Heidelberger Jahrbucher der Literatur,' 1847--where the
Reviewer speaks of the author's "varied canvas, on which he sketches in
lively colours the strange customs of those distant regions with their
remarkable fauna, flora and geological peculiarities." Alluding to the
translation, my father writes--"Dr. Dieffenbach...has translated my
'Journal' into German, and I must, with unpardonable vanity, boast that it
was at the instigation of Liebig and Humboldt."

The geological work of which he speaks in the above letter to Mr. Fox
occupied him for the whole of 1843, and was published in the spring of the
following year. It was entitled 'Geological Observations on the Volcanic
Islands, visited during the voyage of H.M.S. "Beagle", together with some
brief notices on the geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope': it
formed the second part of the 'Geology of the Voyage of the "Beagle",'
published "with the Approval of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's
Treasury." The volume on 'Coral Reefs' forms Part I. of the series, and
was published, as we have seen, in 1842. For the sake of the non-
geological reader, I may here quote Professor Geikie's words (Charles
Darwin, 'Nature' Series, 1882.) on these two volumes--which were up to this
time my father's chief geological works. Speaking of the 'Coral Reefs,' he
says:--page 17, "This well-known treatise, the most original of all its
author's geological memoirs, has become one of the classics of geological
literature. The origin of those remarkable rings of coral-rock in mid-
ocean has given rise to much speculation, but no satisfactory solution of
the problem has been proposed. After visiting many of them, and examining
also coral reefs that fringe islands and continents, he offered a theory
which for simplicity and grandeur strikes every reader with astonishment.
It is pleasant, after the lapse of many years, to recall the delight with
which one first read the 'Coral Reefs'; how one watched the facts being
marshalled into their places, nothing being ignored or passed lightly over;
and how, step by step, one was led to the grand conclusion of wide oceanic
subsidence. No more admirable example of scientific method was ever given
to the world, and even if he had written nothing else, the treatise alone
would have placed Darwin in the very front of investigators of nature."

It is interesting to see in the following extract from one of Lyell's
letters (To Sir John Herschel, May 24, 1837. 'Life of Sir Charles Lyell,'
vol. ii. page 12.) how warmly and readily he embraced the theory. The
extract also gives incidentally some idea of the theory itself.

"I am very full of Darwin's new theory of Coral Islands, and have urged
Whewell to make him read it at our next meeting. I must give up my
volcanic crater theory for ever, though it cost me a pang at first, for it
accounted for so much, the annular form, the central lagoon, the sudden
rising of an isolated mountain in a deep sea; all went so well with the
notion of submerged, crateriform, and conical volcanoes,...and then the
fact that in the South Pacific we had scarcely any rocks in the regions of
coral islands, save two kinds, coral limestone and volcanic! Yet spite of
all this, the whole theory is knocked on the head, and the annular shape
and central lagoon have nothing to do with volcanoes, nor even with a
crateriform bottom. Perhaps Darwin told you when at the Cape what he
considers the true cause? Let any mountain be submerged gradually, and
coral grow in the sea in which it is sinking, and there will be a ring of
coral, and finally only a lagoon in the centre. Why? For the same reason
that a barrier reef of coral grows along certain coasts: Australia, etc.
Coral islands are the last efforts of drowning continents to lift their
heads above water. Regions of elevation and subsidence in the ocean may be
traced by the state of the coral reefs." There is little to be said as to
published contemporary criticism. The book was not reviewed in the
'Quarterly Review' till 1847, when a favourable notice was given. The
reviewer speaks of the "bold and startling" character of the work, but
seems to recognize the fact that the views are generally accepted by
geologists. By that time the minds of men were becoming more ready to
receive geology of this type. Even ten years before, in 1837, Lyell ('Life
of Sir Charles Lyell,' vol. ii. page 6.) says, "people are now much better
prepared to believe Darwin when he advances proofs of the slow rise of the
Andes, than they were in 1830, when I first startled them with that
doctrine." This sentence refers to the theory elaborated in my father's
geological observations on South America (1846), but the gradual change in
receptivity of the geological mind must have been favourable to all his
geological work. Nevertheless, Lyell seems at first not to have expected
any ready acceptance of the Coral theory; thus he wrote to my father in
1837:--"I could think of nothing for days after your lesson on coral reefs,
but of the tops of submerged continents. It is all true, but do not
flatter yourself that you will be believed till you are growing bald like
me, with hard work and vexation at the incredulity of the world."

The second part of the 'Geology of the Voyage of the "Beagle",' i.e. the
volume on Volcanic Islands, which specially concerns us now, cannot be
better described than by again quoting from Professor Geikie (page 18):--

"Full of detailed observations, this work still remains the best authority
on the general geological structure of most of the regions it describes.
At the time it was written the 'crater of elevation theory,' though opposed
by Constant Prevost, Scrope, and Lyell, was generally accepted, at least on
the Continent. Darwin, however, could not receive it as a valid
explanation of the facts; and though he did not share the view of its chief
opponents, but ventured to propose a hypothesis of his own, the
observations impartially made and described by him in this volume must be
regarded as having contributed towards the final solution of the
difficulty." Professor Geikie continues (page 21): "He is one of the
earliest writers to recognize the magnitude of the denudation to which even
recent geological accumulations have been subjected. One of the most
impressive lessons to be learnt from his account of 'Volcanic Islands' is
the prodigious extent to which they have been denuded...He was disposed to
attribute more of this work to the sea than most geologists would now
admit; but he lived himself to modify his original views, and on this
subject his latest utterances are quite abreast of the time."

An extract from a letter of my father's to Lyell shows his estimate of his
own work. "You have pleased me much by saying that you intend looking
through my 'Volcanic Islands': it cost me eighteen months!!! and I have
heard of very few who have read it. Now I shall feel, whatever little (and
little it is) there is confirmatory of old work, or new, will work its
effect and not be lost."

The third of his geological books, 'Geological Observations on South
America,' may be mentioned here, although it was not published until 1846.
"In this work the author embodied all the materials collected by him for
the illustration of South American Geology, save some which have been
published elsewhere. One of the most important features of the book was
the evidence which it brought forward to prove the slow interrupted
elevation of the South American Continent during a recent geological
period." (Geikie, loc. cit.)

Of this book my father wrote to Lyell:--"My volume will be about 240 pages,
dreadfully dull, yet much condensed. I think whenever you have time to
look through it, you will think the collection of facts on the elevation of
the land and on the formation of terraces pretty good."

Of his special geological work as a whole, Professor Geikie, while pointing
out that it was not "of the same epoch-making kind as his biological
researches," remarks that he "gave a powerful impulse to" the general
reception of Lyell's teaching "by the way in which he gathered from all
parts of the world facts in its support."


The work of these years may be roughly divided into a period of geology
from 1842 to 1846, and one of zoology from 1846 onwards.

I extract from his diary notices of the time spent on his geological books
and on his 'Journal.'

'Volcanic Islands.' Summer of 1842 to January, 1844.

'Geology of South America.' July, 1844, to April, 1845.

Second Edition of 'The Journal,' October, 1845, to October, 1846.

The time between October, 1846, and October, 1854, was practically given up
to working at the Cirripedia (Barnacles); the results were published in two
volumes by the Ray Society in 1851 and 1854. His volumes on the Fossil
Cirripedes were published by the Palaeontographical Society in 1851 and

Some account of these volumes will be given later.

The minor works may be placed together, independently of subject matter.

"Observations on the Structure, etc., of the genus Sagitta," Ann. Nat.
Hist. xiii., 1844, pages 1-6.

"Brief descriptions of several Terrestrial Planariae, etc.," Ann. Nat.
Hist. xiv., 1844, pages 241-251.

"An Account of the Fine Dust (A sentence occurs in this paper of interest,
as showing that the author was alive to the importance of all means of
distribution:--"The fact that particles of this size have been brought at
least 330 miles from the land is interesting as bearing on the distribution
of Cryptogamic plants.") which often Falls on Vessels in the Atlantic
Ocean," Geol. Soc. Journ. ii., 1846, pages 26-30.

"On the Geology of the Falkland Islands," Geol. Soc. Journ. ii., 1846,
pages 267-274.

"On the Transportal of Erratic Boulders, etc.," Geol. Soc. Journ. iv.,
1848, pages 315-323. (An extract from a letter to Lyell, 1847, is of
interest in connection with this essay:--"Would you be so good (if you know
it) as to put Maclaren's address on the enclosed letter and post it. It is
chiefly to enquire in what paper he has described the Boulders on Arthur's
Seat. Mr. D. Milne in the last Edinburgh 'New Phil. Journal' [1847], has a
long paper on it. He says: 'Some glacialists have ventured to explain the
transportation of boulders even in the situation of those now referred to,
by imagining that they were transported on ice floes,' etc. He treats this
view, and the scratching of rocks by icebergs, as almost absurd...he has
finally stirred me up so, that (without you would answer him) I think I
will send a paper in opposition to the same Journal. I can thus introduce
some old remarks of mine, and some new, and will insist on your capital
observations in N. America. It is a bore to stop one's work, but he has
made me quite wroth.")

The article "Geology," in the Admiralty Manual of Scientific Enquiry
(1849), pages 156-195. This was written in the spring of 1848.

"On British Fossil Lepadidae," 'Geol. Soc. Journ.' vi., 1850, pages 439-

"Analogy of the structure of some Volcanic Rocks with that of Glaciers,"
'Edin. Roy. Soc. Proc.' ii., 1851, pages 17-18.

Professor Geikie has been so good as to give me (in a letter dated November
1885) his impressions of my father's article in the 'Admiralty Manual.' He
mentions the following points as characteristic of the work:--

"1. Great breadth of view. No one who had not practically studied and
profoundly reflected on the questions discussed could have written it.

"2. The insight so remarkable in all that Mr. Darwin ever did. The way in
which he points out lines of enquiry that would elucidate geological
problems is eminently typical of him. Some of these lines have never yet
been adequately followed; so with regard to them he was in advance of his

"3. Interesting and sympathetic treatment. The author at once puts his
readers into harmony with him. He gives them enough of information to show
how delightful the field is to which he invites them, and how much they
might accomplish in it. There is a broad sketch of the subject which
everybody can follow, and there is enough of detail to instruct and guide a
beginner and start him on the right track.

"Of course, geology has made great strides since 1849, and the article, if
written now, would need to take notice of other branches of inquiry, and to
modify statements which are not now quite accurate; but most of the advice
Mr. Darwin gives is as needful and valuable now as when it was given. It
is curious to see with what unerring instinct he seems to have fastened on
the principles that would stand the test of time."

In a letter to Lyell (1853) my father wrote, "I went up for a paper by the
Arctic Dr. Sutherland, on ice action, read only in abstract, but I should
think with much good matter. It was very pleasant to hear that it was
written owing to the Admiralty Manual."

To give some idea of the retired life which now began for my father at
Down, I have noted from his diary the short periods during which he was
away from home between the autumn of 1842, when he came to Down, and the
end of 1854.

1843 July.--Week at Maer and Shrewsbury.
October.--Twelve days at Shrewsbury.

1844 April.--Week at Maer and Shrewsbury.
July.--Twelve days at Shrewsbury.

1845 September 15.--Six weeks, "Shrewsbury, Lincolnshire, York,
the Dean of Manchester, Waterton, Chatsworth."

1846 February.--Eleven days at Shrewsbury.
July.--Ten days at Shrewsbury.
September.--Ten days at Southampton, etc., for the British

1847 February.--Twelve days at Shrewsbury.
June.--Ten days at Oxford, etc., for the British Association.
October.--Fortnight at Shrewsbury.

1848 May.--Fortnight at Shrewsbury.
July.--Week at Swanage.
October.--Fortnight at Shrewsbury.
November.--Eleven days at Shrewsbury.

1849 March to June.--Sixteen weeks at Malvern.
September.--Eleven days at Birmingham for the British Association.

1850 June.--Week at Malvern.
August.--Week at Leith Hill, the house of a relative.
October.--Week at the house of another relative.

1851 March.--Week at Malvern.
April.--Nine days at Malvern.
July.--Twelve days in London.

1852 March.--Week at Rugby and Shrewsbury.
September.--Six days at the house of a relative.

1853 July.--Three weeks at Eastbourne.
August.--Five days at the military Camp at Chobham.

1854 March.--Five days at the house of a relative.
July.--Three days at the house of a relative.
October.--Six days at the house of a relative.

It will be seen that he was absent from home sixty weeks in twelve years.
But it must be remembered that much of the remaining time spent at Down was
lost through ill-health.]


Down [March 31st, 1843].

Dear Fitz-Roy,

I read yesterday with surprise and the greatest interest, your appointment
as Governor of New Zealand. I do not know whether to congratulate you on
it, but I am sure I may the Colony, on possessing your zeal and energy. I
am most anxious to know whether the report is true, for I cannot bear the
thoughts of your leaving the country without seeing you once again; the
past is often in my memory, and I feel that I owe to you much bygone
enjoyment, and the whole destiny of my life, which (had my health been
stronger) would have been one full of satisfaction to me. During the last
three months I have never once gone up to London without intending to call
in the hopes of seeing Mrs. Fitz-Roy and yourself; but I find, most
unfortunately for myself, that the little excitement of breaking out of my
most quiet routine so generally knocks me up, that I am able to do scarcely
anything when in London, and I have not even been able to attend one
evening meeting of the Geological Society. Otherwise, I am very well, as
are, thank God, my wife and two children. The extreme retirement of this
place suits us all very well, and we enjoy our country life much. But I am
writing trifles about myself, when your mind and time must be fully
occupied. My object in writing is to beg of you or Mrs. Fitz-Roy to have
the kindness to send me one line to say whether it is true, and whether you
sail soon. I shall come up next week for one or two days; could you see me
for even five minutes, if I called early on Thursday morning, viz. at nine
or ten o'clock, or at whatever hour (if you keep early ship hours) you
finish your breakfast. Pray remember me very kindly to Mrs. Fitz-Roy, who
I trust is able to look at her long voyage with boldness.

Believe me, dear Fitz-Roy,
Your ever truly obliged,

[A quotation from another letter (1846) to Fitz-Roy may be worth giving, as
showing my father's affectionate remembrance of his old Captain.

"Farewell, dear Fitz-Roy, I often think of your many acts of kindness to
me, and not seldomest on the time, no doubt quite forgotten by you, when,
before making Madeira, you came and arranged my hammock with your own
hands, and which, as I afterwards heard, brought tears into my father's

[Down, September 5, 1843.]
Monday morning.

My dear Fox,

When I sent off the glacier paper, I was just going out and so had no time
to write. I hope your friend will enjoy (and I wish you were going there
with him) his tour as much as I did. It was a kind of geological novel.
But your friend must have patience, for he will not get a good GLACIAL EYE
for a few days. Murchison and Count Keyserling RUSHED through North Wales
the same autumn and could see nothing except the effects of rain trickling
over the rocks! I cross-examined Murchison a little, and evidently saw he
had looked carefully at nothing. I feel CERTAIN about the glacier-effects
in North Wales. Get up your steam, if this weather lasts, and have a
ramble in Wales; its glorious scenery must do every one's heart and body
good. I wish I had energy to come to Delamere and go with you; but as you
observe, you might as well ask St. Paul's. Whenever I give myself a trip,
it shall be, I think, to Scotland, to hunt for more parallel roads. My
marine theory for these roads was for a time knocked on the head by Agassiz
ice-work, but it is now reviving again...

Farewell,--we are getting nearly finished--almost all the workmen gone, and
the gravel laying down on the walks. Ave Maria! how the money does go.
There are twice as many temptations to extravagance in the country compared
with London. Adios.


Down [1844?].

...I have also read the 'Vestiges,' ('The Vestiges of the Natural History
of Creation' was published anonymously in 1844, and is confidently believed
to have been written by the late Robert Chambers. My father's copy gives

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