The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 54 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.M. Herbert.

Saturday Evening
[September 14, 1828]. (The postmark being Derby seems to show that the letter was written from his cousin, W.D. Fox’s house, Osmaston, near Derby.)

My dear old Cherbury,

I am about to fulfil my promise of writing to you, but I am sorry to add there is a very selfish motive at the bottom. I am going to ask you a great favour, and you cannot imagine how much you will oblige me by procuring some more specimens of some insects which I dare say I can describe. In the first place, I must inform you that I have taken some of the rarest of the British Insects, and their being found near Barmouth, is quite unknown to the Entomological world: I think I shall write and inform some of the crack entomologists.

But now for business. several more specimens, if you can procure them without much trouble, of the following insects:–The violet-black coloured beetle, found on Craig Storm (The top of the hill immediately behind Barmouth was called Craig-Storm, a hybrid Cambro-English word.), under stones, also a large smooth black one very like it; a bluish metallic-coloured dung-beetle, which is very common on the hill-sides; also, if you would be so very kind as to cross the ferry, and you will find a great number under the stones on the waste land of a long, smooth, jet-black beetle (a great many of these); also, in the same situation, a very small pinkish insect, with black spots, with a curved thorax projecting beyond the head; also, upon the marshy land over the ferry, near the sea, under old sea-weed, stones, etc., you will find a small yellowish transparent beetle, with two or four blackish marks on the back. Under these stones there are two sorts, one much darker than the other; the lighter-coloured is that which I want. These last two insects are excessively rare, and you will really extremely oblige me by taking all this trouble pretty soon. remember me most kindly to Butler, tell him of my success, and I dare say both of you will easily recognise these insects. I hope his caterpillars go on well. I think many of the Chrysalises are well worth keeping. I really am quite ashamed [of] so long a letter all about my own concerns; but do return good for evil, and send me a long account of all your proceedings.

In the first week I killed seventy-five head of game–a very contemptible number–but there are very few birds. I killed, however, a brace of black game. Since then I have been staying at the Fox’s, near Derby; it is a very pleasant house, and the music meeting went off very well. I want to hear how Yates likes his gun, and what use he has made of it.

If the bottle is not large you can buy another for me, and when you pass through Shrewsbury you can leave these treasures, and I hope, if you possibly can, you will stay a day or two with me, as I hope I need not say how glad I shall be to see you again. Fox remarked what deuced good-natured fellows your friends at Barmouth must be; and if I did not know how you and Butler were so, I would not think of giving you so much trouble.

Believe me, my dear Herbert,
Yours, most sincerely,
Charles Darwin.
Remember me to all friends.

[In the following January we find him looking forward with pleasure to the beginning of another year of his Cambridge life: he writes to Fox–

“I waited till to-day for the chance of a letter, but I will wait no longer. I must most sincerely and cordially congratulate you on having finished all your labours. I think your place a very good one considering by how much you have beaten many men who had the start of you in reading. I do so wish I were now in Cambridge (a very selfish wish, however, as I was not with you in all your troubles and misery), to join in all the glory and happiness, which dangers gone by can give. How we would talk, walk, and entomologise! Sappho should be the best of bitches, and Dash, of dogs: then should be ‘peace on earth, good will to men,’–which, by the way, I always think the most perfect description of happiness that words can give.”]

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