Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

1836.]

SIR J. HERSCHEL.

239

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

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

CHAS. DARWIN,

C. Darwin to J. S. Henslow.

Shrewsbury, Thursday, October 6, (1836). MY DEAR HENSLOW,

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

Farewell for the present,
Yours most truly obliged,

CHARLES DARWIN.

C. Darwin to R. Fitz-Roy.

Shrewsbury, Thursday morning, October 6, [1836]. My near Fitz-Roy,

I arrived here yesterday morning at breakfast-time, and, thank God, found all my dear good sisters and father quite well. My father appears more cheerful and very little older than when I left. My sisters assure me I do not look the least different, and I am able to return the compliment. Indeed, all England appears changed excepting the good old

1836.)

HOME.

241

town of Shrewsbury and its inhabitants, which, for all I can see to the contrary, may go on as they now are to Doomsday. I wish with all my heart I was writing to you amongst your friends instead of at that horrid Plymouth. But the day will soon come, and you will be as happy as I now am. I do assure you I am a very great man at home; the five years' voyage has certainly raised me a hundred per cent. I fear such greatness must experience a fall.

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

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

I thought when I began this letter I would convince you what a steady and sober frame of mind I was in. But I find I am writing most precious nonsense. Two or three of our labourers yesterday immediately set to work and got most 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; is 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 Henslów :

“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 goodnatured 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 * 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

* The Museum of the Zoological Society, then at 33 Bruton Street. The collection was some years later broken up and dispersed.

ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY.

245 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 * 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 rep

* 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 expedia tion.' He answered, 'Indeed, I have something in the shape of Captain Kings'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 Brit. ish Museum ?"

« VorigeDoorgaan »