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Letter 816

Smith, C. H. (a) to Darwin, C. R.

22 Jan 1845

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    Reports on an ancient town on Ascension, which is now at sea-level and approachable only by boat.

Transcription

Plymouth

22 Jany 1845.

My dear Sir

In reply to yours, received this morning, I beg to say that on referring to my vast collection of notes I find the following entry.

“Ascensio an Island of the Caroline group in 11 North Lat in the S. Seas, lately discovered by H.M. Sloop Raven. A gentleman who went to reside on this spot, found a place called Tainen covered with extensive ruins of an Antique town; but settled so low that it is only accessible in boats; the water coming to the steps of the houses. the stones are laid artificially, but without cement; some being 20 feet long.”— “the walls have doors & windows. the present inhabitants are different in habits & manners from the other natives < > South Sea Islands: the social system is < > [more] advanced; < > on a par with the men & their customs approximate < > Europeans < >. Lotzky who communicated < > to society March 2d 1839 had < > letter from < > stating that the < > had since visited < > & a survey. he stat<ed> < > since < > monuments < > I have not noted whence I extracted the above but < > may have been from the < > intelligence very similar to the above has likewise reached me from New Holland, where I < > & other correspondents. As a mere fabrication I could not accept it, although < > what I have expressed on the nature of < > of the materials brought forward in the consideration of the population of America, you will perceive that I had left the absolute authenticity open as regards perhaps several of < >

I shall now be exceedingly glad to receive from you a few lines in order to have your opinion whether the above Tainen & your Pouynipète or Seneavine are the same. If I understand it rightly, they must be distinct for Ascension cannot well be the same; it has been long [known]. I may remark that the [Capped] parallelitha of Tinian seem to belong to the same people; and it is a question whether the pillar Idols of Easter Island & the stone sculptures of Pitcairns may not likewise be referred to them.

Now let me add a few words respecting yourself: It gave me very sincere pleasure to hear from you, as in some measure it was an evidence of your health < > in that condition at least which I call “working order” for that is my [opinion] of my own, when I can get to my table to write or draw as if I were strong. Sometimes I have wished you were resident in this place. the usual mildness of the climate being favourable < > upper part of the town is in a sufficient < > I own it would be a sacrifice for you < > kindred [minds]. < > three persons of extensive information to be < > there is no public library richly stored. I find that the classes of books that I want in my several pursuits are all, or with rare exceptions missing < > I have to purchase them myself unless the private library of a very kind hearted friend help me on.

My eldest daughter who had the pleasure of seeing you in town about a twelve month ago, desires to be kindly remembered.

I am | My dear Sir | Most sincerely yours | Charles Hamn Smith Charles Darwin Esq | &c &c &c

P.S. would you have the goodness to favour me with the title of the little work wherein you have spoken of the coral formations of the Caroline Islands?

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 816.f1
    Johann Lhotsky presumably communicated information from a third party, but no record of any publication has been found. It appears that Smith's information on subsiding ancient ruins in the Caroline Archipelago was derived from the same source as CD's, that is, information from a Mr Cameron in Sydney, transmitted through Lhotsky. See Coral reefs, p. 127 n., and letter to C. H. Smith, 26 January [1845].
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    f2 816.f2
    Parallelith is an arrangement of parallel ranks of stones in the form of a lane or avenue (Funk and Wagnall's New ‘Standard’ Dictionary of the English Language, New York 1952).
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    f3 816.f3
    Probably Emma Smith, who was her father's companion and assistant until his death.
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