Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume I - 10/99 -

habitation could ever have existed owing to absence of water. Amongst the Chonos dried plants, you will see a fine specimen of the wild potato, growing under a most opposite climate, and unquestionably a true wild potato. It must be a distinct species from that of the Lower Cordilleras one. Perhaps as with the banana, distinct species are now not to be distinguished in their varieties produced by cultivation. I cannot copy out the few remarks about the Chonos potato. With the specimens there is a bundle of old papers and notebooks. Will you take care of them; in case I should lose my notes, these might be useful. I do not send home any insects because they must be troublesome to you, and now so little more of the voyage remains unfinished I can well take charge of them. In two or three days I set out for Coquimbo by land; the "Beagle" calls for me in the beginning of June. So that I have six weeks more to enjoy geologising over these curious mountains of Chili. There is at present a bloody revolution in Peru. The Commodore has gone there, and in the hurry has carried our letters with him; perhaps amongst them there will be one from you. I wish I had the old Commodore here, I would shake some consideration for others into his old body. From Coquimbo you will again hear from me.

LETTER 7. TO J.S. HENSLOW. Lima, July 12th, 1835.

This is the last letter which I shall ever write to you from the shores of America, and for this reason I send it. In a few days time the "Beagle" will sail for the Galapagos Islands. I look forward with joy and interest to this, both as being somewhat nearer to England and for the sake of having a good look at an active volcano. Although we have seen lava in abundance, I have never yet beheld the crater. I sent by H.M.S. "Conway" two large boxes of specimens. The "Conway" sailed the latter end of June. With them were letters for you, since that time I have travelled by land from Valparaiso to Copiapo and seen something more of the Cordilleras. Some of my geological views have been, subsequently to the last letter, altered. I believe the upper mass of strata is not so very modern as I supposed. This last journey has explained to me much of the ancient history of the Cordilleras. I feel sure they formerly consisted of a chain of volcanoes from which enormous streams of lava were poured forth at the bottom of the sea. These alternate with sedimentary beds to a vast thickness; at a subsequent period these volcanoes must have formed islands, from which have been produced strata of several thousand feet thick of coarse conglomerate. (7/1. See "Geological Observations on South America" (London, 1846), Chapter VII.: "Central Chile; Structure of the Cordillera.") These islands were covered with fine trees; in the conglomerate, I found one 15 feet in circumference perfectly silicified to the very centre. The alternations of compact crystalline rocks (I cannot doubt subaqueous lavas), and sedimentary beds, now upheaved fractured and indurated, form the main range of the Andes. The formation was produced at the time when ammonites, gryphites, oysters, Pecten, Mytilus, etc., etc., lived. In the central parts of Chili the structure of the lower beds is rendered very obscure by the metamorphic action which has rendered even the coarsest conglomerates porphyritic. The Cordilleras of the Andes so worthy of admiration from the grandeur of their dimensions, rise in dignity when it is considered that since the period of ammonites, they have formed a marked feature in the geography of the globe. The geology of these mountains pleased me in one respect; when reading Lyell, it had always struck me that if the crust of the world goes on changing in a circle, there ought to be somewhere found formations which, having the age of the great European Secondary beds, should possess the structure of Tertiary rocks or those formed amidst islands and in limited basins. Now the alternations of lava and coarse sediment which form the upper parts of the Andes, correspond exactly to what would accumulate under such circumstances. In consequence of this, I can only very roughly separate into three divisions the varying strata (perhaps 8,000 feet thick) which compose these mountains. I am afraid you will tell me to learn my ABC to know quartz from feldspar before I indulge in such speculations. I lately got hold of a report on M. Dessalines D'Orbigny's labours in S. America (7/2. "Voyage dans l'Amerique Meridionale, etc." (A. Dessalines D'Orbigny).); I experienced rather a debasing degree of vexation to find he has described the Geology of the Pampas, and that I have had some hard riding for nothing, it was however gratifying that my conclusions are the same, as far as I can collect, with his results. It is also capital that the whole of Bolivia will be described. I hope to be able to connect his geology of that country with mine of Chili. After leaving Copiapo, we touched at Iquique. I visited but do not quite understand the position of the nitrate of soda beds. Here in Peru, from the state of anarchy, I can make no expedition.

I hear from home, that my brother is going to send me a box with books, and a letter from you. It is very unfortunate that I cannot receive this before we reach Sydney, even if it ever gets safely so far. I shall not have another opportunity for many months of again writing to you. Will you have the charity to send me one more letter (as soon as this reaches you) directed to the C. of Good Hope. Your letters besides affording me the greatest delight always give me a fresh stimulus for exertion. Excuse this geological prosy letter, and farewell till you hear from me at Sydney, and see me in the autumn of 1836.

LETTER 8. TO JOSIAH WEDGWOOD. [Shrewsbury, October 5th, 1836.]

My dear Uncle

The "Beagle" arrived at Falmouth on Sunday evening, and I reached home late last night. My head is quite confused with so much delight, but I cannot allow my sisters to tell you first how happy I am to see all my dear friends again. I am obliged to return in three or four days to London, where the "Beagle" will be paid off, and then I shall pay Shrewsbury a longer visit. I am most anxious once again to see Maer, and all its inhabitants, so that in the course of two or three weeks, I hope in person to thank you, as being my first Lord of the Admiralty. (8/1. Readers of the "Life and Letters" will remember that it was to Josiah Wedgwood that Darwin owed the great opportunity of his life ("Life and Letters," Volume I., page 59), and it was fitting that he should report himself to his "first Lord of the Admiralty." The present letter clears up a small obscurity to which Mr. Poulton has called attention ("Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection," "Century" Series, 1896, page 25). Writing to Fitz-Roy from Shrewsbury on October 6th, Darwin says, "I arrived here yesterday morning at breakfast time." This refers to his arrival at his father's house, after having slept at the inn. The date of his arrival in Shrewsbury was, therefore, October 4th, as given in the "Life and Letters," I., page 272.) The entries in his Diary are:-- October 2, 1831. Took leave of my home. October 4, 1836. Reached Shrewsbury after absence of 5 years and 2 days.) I am so very happy I hardly know what I am writing. Believe me your most affectionate nephew,


LETTER 9. TO C. LYELL. Shrewsbury, Monday [November 12th, 1838].

My dear Lyell

I suppose you will be in Hart St. (9/1. Sir Charles Lyell lived at 16, Hart Street, Bloomsbury.) to-morrow [or] the 14th. I write because I cannot avoid wishing to be the first person to tell Mrs. Lyell and yourself, that I have the very good, and shortly since [i.e. until lately] very unexpected fortune of going to be married! The lady is my cousin Miss Emma Wedgwood, the sister of Hensleigh Wedgwood, and of the elder brother who married my sister, so we are connected by manifold ties, besides on my part, by the most sincere love and hearty gratitude to her for accepting such a one as myself.

I determined when last at Maer to try my chance, but I hardly expected such good fortune would turn up for me. I shall be in town in the middle or latter end of the ensuing week. (9/2. Mr. Darwin was married on January 29th, 1839 (see "Life and Letters," I., page 299). The present letter was written the day after he had become engaged.) I fear you will say I might very well have left my story untold till we met. But I deeply feel your kindness and friendship towards me, which in truth I may say, has been one chief source of happiness to me, ever since my return to England: so you must excuse me. I am well sure that Mrs. Lyell, who has sympathy for every one near her, will give me her hearty congratulations.

Believe me my dear Lyell Yours most truly obliged CHAS. DARWIN.

(PLATE: MRS. DARWIN. Walker and Cockerell, ph. sc.)

LETTER 10. TO EMMA WEDGWOOD. Sunday Night. Athenaeum. [January 20th, 1839.]

...I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed my Maer visit,--I felt in anticipation my future tranquil life: how I do hope you may be as happy as I know I shall be: but it frightens me, as often as I think of what a family you have been one of. I was thinking this morning how it came, that I, who am fond of talking and am scarcely ever out of spirits, should so entirely rest my notions of happiness on quietness, and a good deal of solitude: but I believe the explanation is very simple and I mention it because it will give you hopes, that I shall gradually grow less of a brute, it is that during the five years of my voyage (and indeed I may add these two last) which from the active manner in which they have been passed, may be said to be the commencement of my real life, the whole of my pleasure was derived from what passed in my mind, while admiring views by myself, travelling across the wild deserts or glorious forests or pacing the deck of the poor little "Beagle" at night. Excuse this much egotism,-- I give it you because I think you will humanize me, and soon teach me there is greater happiness than building theories and accumulating facts in silence and solitude. My own dearest Emma, I earnestly pray, you may never regret the great, and I will add very good, deed, you are to perform on the Tuesday: my own dear future wife, God bless you...The Lyells called on me to-day after church; as Lyell was so full of geology he was obliged to disgorge,--and I dine there on Tuesday for an especial confidence. I was quite ashamed of myself to-day, for we talked for half an hour, unsophisticated geology, with poor Mrs. Lyell sitting by, a monument of patience. I want practice in ill-treatment the female sex,--I did not observe Lyell had any compunction; I hope to harden my conscience in time: few husbands seem to find it difficult to effect this. Since my return I have taken several looks, as you will readily believe, into the drawing- room; I suppose my taste [for] harmonious colours is already deteriorated, for I declare the room begins to look less ugly. I take so much pleasure in the house (10/1. No. 12, Upper Gower Street, is now No. 110, Gower Street, and forms part of a block inhabited by Messrs. Shoolbred's employes. We are indebted, for this information, to Mr. Wheatley, of the Society of Arts.), I declare I am just like a great overgrown child with a new toy; but then, not like a real child, I long to have a co-partner and possessor.

(10/2. The following passage is taken from the MS. copy of the "Autobiography;" it was not published in the "Life and Letters" which appeared in Mrs. Darwin's lifetime:--)

You all know your mother, and what a good mother she has ever been to all of you. She has been my greatest blessing, and I can declare that in my

More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume I - 10/99

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    5    6    7    8    9   10   11   12   13   14   15   20   30   40   50   60   70   80   90   99 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything