The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 108 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down [October, 1846].

My dear Hooker,

I have not heard from Sulivan (Admiral Sir B.J. Sulivan, formerly an officer of the Beagle.) lately; when he last wrote he named from 8th to 10th as the most likely time. Immediately that I hear, I will fly you a line, for the chance of your being able to come. I forget whether you know him, but I suppose so; he is a real good fellow. Anyhow, if you do not come then, I am very glad that you propose coming soon after…

I am going to begin some papers on the lower marine animals, which will last me some months, perhaps a year, and then I shall begin looking over my ten-year-long accumulation of notes on species and varieties, which, with writing, I dare say will take me five years, and then, when published, I dare say I shall stand infinitely low in the opinion of all sound Naturalists–so this is my prospect for the future.

Are you a good hand at inventing names. I have a quite new and curious genus of Barnacle, which I want to name, and how to invent a name completely puzzles me.

By the way, I have told you nothing about Southampton. We enjoyed (wife and myself) our week beyond measure: the papers were all dull, but I met so many friends and made so many new acquaintances (especially some of the Irish Naturalists), and took so many pleasant excursions. I wish you had been there. On Sunday we had so pleasant an excursion to Winchester with Falconer (Hugh Falconer, 1809-1865. Chiefly known as a palaeontologist, although employed as a botanist during his whole career in India, where he was also a medical officer in the H.E.I.C. Service; he was superintendent of the Company’s garden, first at Saharunpore, and then at Calcutta. He was one of the first botanical explorers of Kashmir. Falconer’s discoveries of Miocene mammalian remains in the Sewalik Hills, were, at the time, perhaps the greatest “finds” which had been made. His book on the subject, ‘Fauna Antiqua Sivalensis,’ remained unfinished at the time of his death.), Colonel Sabine (The late Sir Edward Sabine, formerly President of the Royal Society, and author of a long series of memoirs on Terrestrial Magnetism.), and Dr. Robinson (The late Dr. Thomas Romney Robinson, of the Armagh Observatory.), and others. I never enjoyed a day more in my life. I missed having a look at H. Watson. (The late Hewett Cottrell Watson, author of the ‘Cybele Britannica,’ one of a most valuable series of works on the topography and geographical distribution of the plants of the British Islands.) I suppose you heard that he met Forbes and told him he had a severe article in the Press. I understood that Forbes explained to him that he had no cause to complain, but as the article was printed, he would not withdraw it, but offered it to Forbes for him to append notes to it, which Forbes naturally declined…

Charles Darwin to J.D. Hooker.

Down, April 7th [1847?}.

My dear Hooker,

I should have written before now, had I not been almost continually unwell, and at present I am suffering from four boils and swellings, one of which hardly allows me the use of my right arm, and has stopped all my work, and damped all my spirits. I was much disappointed at missing my trip to Kew, and the more so, as I had forgotten you would be away all this month; but I had no choice, and was in bed nearly all Friday and Saturday. I congratulate you over your improved prospects about India (Sir J. Hooker left England on November 11, 1847, for his Himalayan and Tibetan journey. The expedition was supported by a small grant from the Treasury, and thus assumed the character of a Government mission.), but at the same time must sincerely groan over it. I shall feel quite lost without you to discuss many points with, and to point out (ill-luck to you) difficulties and objections to my species hypotheses. It will be a horrid shame if money stops your expedition; but Government will surely help you to some extent…Your present trip, with your new views, amongst the coal-plants, will be very interesting. If you have spare time, but not without, I should enjoy having some news of your progress. Your present trip will work well in, if you go to any of the coal districts in India. Would this not be a good object to parade before Government; the utilitarian souls would comprehend this. By the way, I will get some work out of you, about the domestic races of animals in India…

Charles Darwin to L. Jenyns (Blomefield).

Down [1847].

Dear Jenyns,

(“This letter relates to a small Almanack first published in 1843, under the name of ‘The Naturalists’ Pocket Almanack,’ by Mr. Van Voorst, and which I edited for him. It was intended especially for those who interest themselves in the periodic phenomena of animals and plants, of which a select list was given under each month of the year.

“The Pocket Almanack contained, moreover, miscellaneous information relating to Zoology and Botany; to Natural History and other scientific societies; to public Museums and Gardens, in addition to the ordinary celestial phenomena found in most other Almanacks. It continued to be issued till 1847, after which year the publication was abandoned.”–From a letter from Rev. L. Blomefield to F. Darwin.)

I am very much obliged for the capital little Almanack; it so happened that I was wishing for one to keep in my portfolio. I had never seen this kind before, and shall certainly get one for the future. I think it is very amusing to have a list before one’s eyes of the order of appearance of the plants and animals around one; it gives a fresh interest to each fine day. There is one point I should like to see a little improved, viz., the correction for the clock at shorter intervals. Most people, I suspect, who like myself have dials, will wish to be more precise than with a margin of three minutes. I always buy a shilling almanack for this sole end. By the way, yours, i.e., Van Voorst’s Almanack, is very dear; it ought, at least, to be advertised post-free for the shilling. Do you not think a table (not rules) of conversion of French into English measures, and perhaps weights, would be exceedingly useful; also centigrade into Fahrenheit,–magnifying powers according to focal distances?–in fact you might make it the more useful publication of the age. I know what I should like best of all, namely, current meteorological remarks for each month, with statement of average course of winds and prediction of weather, in accordance with movements of barometer. People, I think, are always amused at knowing the extremes and means of temperature for corresponding times in other years.

I hope you will go on with it another year. With many thanks, my dear Jenyns,

Yours very truly,
Charles Darwin.

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