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Letter 305

Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, C. S.

18 July 1836

    Summary Add

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    In five days of geologising on St Helena, he found that the shells on high land had been mistakenly identified as seashells. They are land shells, but of species no longer living.

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    Can think of nothing but the return to England and his family.

Transcription

[On board Beagle, bound for Ascencion]

July 18th.— 1836.—

My dear Caroline

We are at this present moment driving onwards with a most glorious tradewind towards Ascencion. I am determined to pay the debt of your most excellent correspondence; by at least writing to you all, as often as I can. I will leave this letter at Ascencion to take its chance of being forwarded. Before attempting to say anything else, I must disburthen my mind, of the bad news that our expected arrival in England, recedes, as we travel onwards. The best judges in the Ship entertain little hopes of it, till the end of October. The next three months appear infinitely tedious, & long, & I daresay the last three weeks, will be worse, as for the three closing days, they, by the same rule, ought to be intolerable. I feel inclined to write about nothing else, but to tell you over & over again, how I long to be quietly seated amongst you.— How beautiful Shropshire will look, if we can but cross the wide Atlantic before the end of October. You cannot imagine how curious I am to behold some of the old views, & to compare former with new impressions. I am determined & feel sure, that the scenery of England is ten times more beautiful than any we have seen.— What reasonable person can wish for great ill proportioned mountains, two & three miles high? No, no; give me the Brythen or some such compact little hill.— And then as for your boundless plains & impenetrable forests, who would compare them with the green fields & oak woods of England?— People are pleased to talk of the ever smiling sky of the Tropics: must not this be precious nonsense? Who admires a lady's face who is always smiling? England is not one of your insipid beauties; she can cry, & frown, & smile, all by turns.— In short I am convinced it is a most ridiculous thing to go round the world, when by staying quietly, the world will go round with you.—

But I will turn back to the past, for if I look forward, I lose my wits, & talk nonsense. The Beagle staid at St Helena five days, during which time I lived in the clouds in the centre of the Isd.— It is a curious little world within itself; the habitable part is surrounded by a broad band of black desolate rocks, as if the wide barrier of the ocean was not sufficient to guard the precious spot. From my central position, I wandered on foot nearly over the whole Island; I enjoyed these rambles, more than I have done any thing for a long time past. The structure of the Isd is complicated & its geological history rather curious.— I have discovered a monstrous mistake, which has been handed from one book to the other, without examination. It has been said, that Sea shells are found on the surface of the land, at an elevation little short of 2000 ft. & hence that, this Isd. though possessing an entirely unique Flora, must have been raised, within a late period, from beneath the Ocean.— These shells turn out land shells! But what is very singular, they have ceased to exist, in a living state on the Isd.—

I heard much of old General Dallas & his daughters.— People speak very well of him—(as a well intentioned old goose).— He took much pains in improving the road & other public works, was most hospitable, magnificent, & popular.— The young ladies were the gayest of the gay.— Finally he was the last of the E. Indian Company's Governors, with an income more than quadruple the present.— Hence perhaps the lamentations at his departure.—

From St Helena, I wrote to Erasmus a long & a heavy letter all about myself, it was directed to the Wyndham Club.— I most earnestly hope Erasmus will not be wandering on the continent about the time of the Beagle's return; I am delighted he has taken a house, as he will more probably now be a fixture.— I shall really have so much to say, that I fear I shall annihilate some of my friends.— I s<hall> put myself under your hands; & you must undertake the task of scolding, as in years long gone past, & of civilizing me.— Oh for the time when we shall take a ride together on the Oswestry road.—

My dear Caroline I do long to see you, & all the rest of you, & my dear Father.— God bless you all— Your most affectionate | brother. Chas. Darwin.

P.S. I have kept this flap open in case of receiving any letters tomorrow when we reach Ascencion.— *S 2

[Written in pencil on outer flap of cover:] There is a Ship in the offing & this must go.— There are letters, but the bundle has not been opened.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 305.f1
    See Journal of researches, p. 582.
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    f2 305.f2
    General Charles Dallas. His daughter Davidona married Captain Francis Harding, a friend of the Darwin family (see letters from Caroline Darwin, 1--4 May 1833 and from Susan Darwin, 16 February 1835).
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    f3 305.f3
    This letter has not been found.
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