Is sending a cargo of specimens – birds' skins, small quadrupeds, and fossil bones.
Describes his overland trip from Rio Negro to Buenos Aires and his expedition to Santa Fé.
Asks for mineralogical works to help him with the volcanic rocks of the west coast.
My dear Henslow.—
By the same packet, which takes this I send a cargo of specimens.— There are
two boxes & a cask.— One of the former is lined with tin-plate
& contains nearly 200 skins of birds &
animals.—amongst others a fine collection of the mice of S America.—
the other box contains spirit bottles, & will only require just looking at to
see how the Spirit stands.— But the Bird-skins, if you will take the trouble
will be much better for a little airing.— The Cask is divided into
Compartments the upper contains a few skins.—the other a jar of fish,
& I am very anxious to hear how the Spirit withstands
evaporation,—an insect Case, which would require airing, a small box of
stones.—which may be left in statu quo.—a bundle of seeds, which I send as a most humble apology for my idleness in
Botany.— They were collected in Port Alegra & in this country: the
temperature of the former, must be that of a warm greenhouse.—& even
plants of this country would require some protection (the olive & orange bear
fruit here).— Also a bag of the sweepings of a Granary; it will be a Botanical
problem to find out to what country the weeds belong: It might be curious to observe
whether Europæan weeds have undergone any change by their residence in this
country.— If they are like the men, I will answer for it they are not much
improved.— I also send to the care of D
Since my last letter to you (middle of July, when I sent off some specimens) I have
been, as they say here, un grande galopeador.— I left the Beagle at the
R. Negro & crossed by land to B. Ayres. There is now carrying
on a bloody war of extermination against the Indians, by which I was able to make this
passage.— But at the best it is sufficiently dangerous, & till now
very rarely travelled.— It is the most wild, dreary plain imaginable; without
one settled inhabitant or head of cattle. There are military Postas, at wide intervals,
by which means I travelled.— We lived for many days on deer &
ostriches & had to sleep in the open camp.— I am quite charmed with
the Gaucho life: my luggage consisted of a Hammer Pistol & shirt & the
Recado (saddle) makes the bed: Wherever the horses tire, there is your house &
home:— I had the satisfaction of ascending the Sierra de la Ventana, a chain
of mountains between 3 & 4000 feet high;—the very existence
of which is scarcely known beyond the Rio Plata.— After resting a week at
Buenos Ayres, I started for St Fe < > on the road the Geology was
interesting.— I foun<d> two great groups of immense bones; but
so very soft a<s> to render it impossible to remove. I think from a
fragment of one of the teeth they belonged to y
We shall for the future be much amongst Volcanic rocks, & I shall want more
mineralogical knowledge.— Can you send me out any book, which with
instructions from yourself will enable me to use my reflecting Goniometer. If you know
of any, it would doing me a great favour to send it to Capt. Beaufort, who will forward
it.— As I am very anxious to hear from you.—perhaps this will be the
best manner of sending me a letter.— I want much to hear about your
family.— L. Jenyns, your lectures excursions, & parties
&c.—respecting all of which I have so very many pleasant
recollections, that I cannot bear to know nothing.— We shall pass the
There are two Volcanoes within 60 miles of Conception. I will run the risk of being eat up alive to see two real good burning Volcanoes. Oh the blue skys & the Bananas of the Tropics.— Life is not worth having in these miserable climates, after one peep within those magic lines.— Believe me my dear Henslow | Ever yours most truly obliged | Chas. Darwin.—
Would it not be a good plan to send sea-weeds in Spirits, having previously noted
- f1 229.f1The following passages from this letter were extracted by Henslow and published in the Cambridge Philosophical Society pamphlet:
2.1 `I left … camp.' 3.7 2.10 `I had … Beagle.' 3.20
- f2 229.f2In Journal of researches, p. 600 n., in a section devoted to advice to collectors, CD warns that: `Seeds must not be sent home in the same case with skins prepared with poison, camphor, or essential oils; scarcely any of mine germinated, and Professor Henslow thinks they were thus killed.'
- f3 229.f3Later identified by Richard Owen, who named it Mylodon darwinii (Fossil Mammalia, pp. 63--73).
- f4 229.f4Richard Owen later identified it as belonging to Toxodon platensis (see Fossil Mammalia, p. 19, and South America, p. 88).
- f5 229.f5Syme 1821.