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Letter 302

Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, E. C.

3 June 1836

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    Will call on Sir J. Herschel, then take short trip in the African desert.

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    Horrified at the publication of "the little book of extracts" from his letters to Henslow ["Letters to Professor Henslow" (1835), Collected papers 1: 3–16].


Cape of Good Hope.

June 3d. 1836

My dear Catherine,

We arrived here the day before yesterday; the first part of our passage from Mauritius was very favourable, and the latter as execrably bad. We encountered a heavy gale of wind, which strongly reminded us of the old days, near Cape Horn; It is a lucky thing for me, that the voyage is drawing to its close, for I positively suffer more from sea sickness, now, than three years ago.— All hands, having been disappointed in letters at Sydney & Mauritius made up their minds for a grand pile at this place.— The mountain of letters, alas, has dwindled into <a> small packet of about a dozen: amongs<t> them I had the good fortune of receiving yours of Jan. 1836!.— Nine months' letters are wandering over the wide ocean, which we shall not receive till some time after reaching England; But if you knew the glowing unspeakable delight, which I felt at being certain that my Father & all of you were well, only four months ago, you would not grudge, the labor lost in keeping up the regular series of letters.—& it has only happened by such order that I have received this last letter.—

When I wrote from Mauritius, I begged, that the Plymouth letter might contain a short abstract of the last 18 months; now it need only go back as far as January. Pray do not disappoint me this; for otherwise I shall be uncomfortable in my journey instead of enjoying, the sight of the most glorious & the most beautiful of countries. I believe I have at home, a leathern Portmanteau, great coat, & cloth leggings: if so, will you have them sent, by the 1st of September directed to ``Lieut. Sulivan, to the care of Mr Elliot Royal Hotel, Devonport.—(to be kept till H.M.S. Beagle arrives)''.— We go from hence to St Helena; between which place & England, our stages are not yet determined.—

The Beagle is now lying at Simons Bay, more than 20 miles from Cape town, where I now am— This <is> a pretty & singular town; it lies at the foot of an enormous wall, (the Table mountain), which reaches to the clouds, & makes a most imposing barrier.— Cape town is a great inn, on the great highway to the east; an extraordinary number of houses are occupied as boarding houses, in one of which I am now settled: the first day I got amongst a set of Nabobs, who certainly, poor fellows, all together could not have produced a Liver as good as the hero in Beppo. They were heavy prosers. I was quite bewildered with Cawnpoor & so many ``poors,'' & with rushing from Calcutta to Bombay, backwards & forwards.— in despair—I effected a most precipitate retreat; & deliver me in future from the Nabobs.—

Tomorrow morning I am going to call with Capt. F.R. on the Sir J. Herschel. I have already seen the house which he has purchased; it is six miles from the town & in a most retired charming situation. I have heard so much about his eccentric but very aimiable manners, that I have a high curiosity to see the great Man.—

The day after tomorrow, I hope to set out on a short ride of 3 or 4 days, to get a few glimpses of African landscape, or rather I should say, African deserts.— Having seen so much of that sort of country in Patagonia Chili & Peru, I feel myself to a certain degree a connoiseur in a desert, & am very anxious to see these. Every country has its peculiar character; & every country is well worth seeing. But oh the country of countries; the nice undulating green fields & shady lanes. Oh if you young ladies have been cutting down many of the trees (& I shall recollect every one), I never will forgive you.—

I am quite delighted at hearing Erasmus is turned house holder; I hope I shall be able to get lodgings at no great distance, & then London will be a very pleasant place. I often however think Cambridge would be better, I can not make myself cockney enough to give up thoughts of a quiet walks on an Autumnal morning, in the real country.—

I have been a good deal horrified by a sentence in your letter where you talk of ``the little books with the extracts from your letters''. I can only suppose they refer to a few geological details. But I have always written to Henslow in the same careless manner as to you; & to print what has been written without care & accuracy, is indeed playing with edge tools. But as the Spaniard says, ``No hay remedio''.—

Farewell for the present & God bless you all.— I have a strong suspicion that my Father will hear of me again before the time of sailing, which will happen in 10 days time.— Give my love to the young Miss Parker; for I hope I have a little niece, instead of a fifth nephew. My dear Catherine | Your affectionate Brother. C. D.

N.B. I find I am forced, after all to draw a Bill of 30£ at once.—it is not that I am at all sure I shall want the money here, but if on my return from the country my funds fail, I shall not at the moment not know what to do.—

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 302.f1
    Nabob was a term applied to persons who returned from overseas, usually India, having acquired great wealth. CD refers to Beppo, the eponymous hero of Lord Byron's satirical poem (1818).
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    f2 302.f2
    Henslow had entered the following caveat in his prefatory remarks to the Cambridge Philosophical Society pamphlet of extracts: `The opinions here expressed must be viewed in no other light than as the first thoughts which occur to a traveller respecting what he sees, before he has had time to collate his Notes, and examine his Collections, with the attention necessary for scientific accuracy.'
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