The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 85 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.S. Henslow.

St. Helena, July 9, 1836.

My dear Henslow,

I am going to ask you to do me a favour. I am very anxious to belong to the Geological Society. I do not know, but I suppose it is necessary to be proposed some time before being ballotted for; if such is the case, would you be good enough to take the proper preparatory steps? Professor Sedgwick very kindly offered to propose me before leaving England, if he should happen to be in London. I dare say he would yet do so.

I have very little to write about. We have neither seen, done, or heard of anything particular for a long time past; and indeed if at present the wonders of another planet could be displayed before us, I believe we should unanimously exclaim, what a consummate plague. No schoolboys ever sung the half sentimental and half jovial strain of ‘dulce domum’ with more fervour, than we all feel inclined to do. But the whole subject of ‘dulce domum,’ and the delight of seeing one’s friends, is most dangerous, it must infallibly make one very prosy or very boisterous. Oh, the degree to which I long to be once again living quietly with not one single novel object near me! No one can imagine it till he has been whirled round the world during five long years in a ten-gun-brig. I am at present living in a small house (amongst the clouds) in the centre of the island, and within stone’s throw of Napoleon’s tomb. It is blowing a gale of wind with heavy rain and wretchedly cold; if Napoleon’s ghost haunts his dreary place of confinement, this would be a most excellent night for such wandering spirits. If the weather chooses to permit me, I hope to see a little of the Geology (so often partially described) of the island. I suspect that differently from most volcanic islands its structure is rather complicated. It seems strange that this little centre of a distinct creation should, as is asserted, bear marks of recent elevation.

The Beagle proceeds from this place to Ascension, then to 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 middle 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.

Goodnight, my dear Henslow,
Yours most truly obliged and affectionately,
Chas. Darwin.

Charles 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 before 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.


  1. TurtleReader Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    TurtleReader wrote:

    dulce domum
    Sweet home

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