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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. M. Herbert   1[–4] December 1832


1 Decr. 1832.

My dear Darwin,

I am indeed obliged to you for so soon meeting my demands, especially as the run on your bank of information must be so alarming. You will be surprised at seeing whence this letter of mine is dated I have now taken up a permanent abode at Chester, (at least for a year,) and as the distance from thence to Manchester is not very considerable, and my ball-room gazelle-like propensities so well known, I was very glad to gratify them at so little cost both of trouble & cash— I attended last night a meeting of the Philosophical Society1 of this place, more for the sake of seeing old Dalton,2 than of indulging any passion (can the word be used with propriety in relation to such a prude?) for science. Dr. Henry read a very interesting paper on the variation of temperature in fresh water lakes & the Ocean;3 he gave us one fact which startled me very much; Lord Mulgrave found on his northern expedition4 that at the depth of (I think) 4000 feet the sea had a temperature of only 26o Fahrenheit— How cd. it retain its fluidity? You have I suppose become a good practical mathematician long ere this; you only threatened Trigonometry, but I expect that the zeal which you always had & which you once gave me credit for, will have carried you into the regions of the “Mecanique Celeste”, or that you will be at no assignable distance from it. As for myself I have long since put all my Mathematics, & for ever, on the shelf. I have now, only a mysterious recollection of Differential Coefficients, Polarisation &c &c. I hope however that I shall retain so much as will enable me to understand the (the κατ’ ἑζοχὴ̀ν)5 book whenever it may make its appearance— I have already begun to picture myself its appearance & the nature of its contents—one of Murray’s 4tos in Davidson’s type?6 How will it be entitled? “Observations physical, political & moral, made during a voyage rd the world in the years 1831–1835 by C. Darwin F.R.S., F.L.S, &c &c”. You will of course stay its publication, till these hieroglyphical characters be affixed to your name— I shall indeed revel in its fresh-cut pages. On your return you will find me a thin sallow hollow-cheeked lawyer, a wretched tenant of one of those uninhabitable abodes, (nick-named chambers) in or about Lincoln’s Inn, with numberless bans settlements &c: heaped up around me; am I not sanguine enough to succeed? Things have taken a very strange turn since you left England in the political world— Denman has been appointed Chief Justice; who wd. ever have dreamed that the late Queens Attorney & solicitor General could be at the head of their profession?7 yet such is the case. The Election is now very fast approaching, & every body is looking to it with anxiety; the Tories (poor souls!) are gone past recovery, the only question now is which of the Whigs or Radicals shall gain the ascendancy: Hobhouse is not thought sufficiently liberal for Westminster,8 so they have started Col: Evans;9 & he, it is said, is with Gordon to be nominated for our University!10 Henslow I see has just had a living, but whence, or of what value, I have not yet learned. His case has often convinced me of the necessity of reform in the Church; it was indeed a very humiliating consideration that one of her brightest ornaments shd. be so long neglected— The House of Lords is not worth twenty years purchase—“Down with the Bishops” is I fear growing too general a cry. It is interesting to reflect on the very rapid march of liberal opinions— I was in company last night with a man whose father was in 1792 prosecuted for High Treason, merely because he advocated the repeal of the Test & Corporation Acts11 & Reform in Parliament, and had his house nearly pulled about his ears by an infuriated Church & King mob. When shall we see the like again? In the literary world we have lost poor Macintosh, Scott, & Leslie,12 three of Scotland’s, nay of Britain’s, most illustrious sons.—

I am extremely indebted to you for a most severe cut about my Tailor, yet tho’ I cannot but congratulate you on the intention, I must condole with you on the effect produced, as (mirabile dictu) I am now absolved in that quarter— Of Whitley’s schemes I know almost 〈as〉 little as you〈rs〉elf, as I have seen nothing of him for a very lon〈g〉 time, & he does not deign to answer my letters; you will conclude with me that he is carrying his lordship mightily in the 2d. court of St: John’s, d——g the Whigs & lauding the Tories— I fear the Durham University has been deferred sine die; they speak of four years— The widow is married. Poor Heaviside! I shd. like to hear him telling you his case, & exciting your commiseration— Of Watkins & Lowe I know nothing. I shall in future pay your judgment & opinions greater deference than I used to do; I have been for the last six months visited with those feelings which you & Henslow predicted, tho’ I cannot think that the want of exercise contributed so much to them, as the irregularity of my college life. At one time I feared debility in its worst form, Lawrence has however relieved me by telling me that there is no cause for alarm. A journey, or rather a voyage, to the Pampas wd. be the best way of carrying his prescription into effect, as he has ordered me to take an unlimited quantity of exercise— I see by a late number of the Times that H.M.S. Beagle’s services have been called for at Mont Video, & that she landed fifty men for the assistance of the place; you of course took some share in this brilliant affair. I have just recd. a letter from Whitley; Durham he says will be decided this winter; Watkins & Cameron!! are both in Cambridge mad in their respective lines. I will now leave off sinning against Science & the public by trespassing on your valuable time, and permit you to return to your search for scolopendra & “ante-natal tombs” of moths &c. Write to me as soon as you conveniently can, & believe me ever, my dearest Darwin, | Yrs. most sincerely & faithfully, | J M Herbert

I have just seen a requisition to Lubbock,13 signed by Sedgwick, Henslow, & all the tribe of worthy liberals that one really has a regard for, inviting him to stand for the University, with which he has complied. Whitley says it will have a good effect, as a few of the old Johnian incumbents will be brought from the nethermost parts of the land to support the first investigator of the Lunar Eccentric & the President of the Cockpit,14 a summons which in this season of frost & fog must cause a few vacancies. Gordon has declined. Hobhouse I suppose will not be invited. You have I recollect a very singular way of reading letters, viz: a habit of devouring only one period at a time, & then putting by the remainder for luncheon the next day. In order to gratify this strange propensity of yours, & to cater for you for some length of time (tho’ Heaven knows ’twill form but a sorry repast,) I have endeavoured to fill this sheet by crossing it till it flows over; if however you derive any either of pleasure or consequence from this strange Postscript, you are indebted to a young lady for the same, who suggested to me the impropriety (the shame I think she said) of sending so short a letter as I had written across the Atlantic. I contended that I knew your taste somewhat better than she could, and that you were an admirer of the brief & pithy, but my argument availed not, she pleaded so eloquently in your cause, that she could not fail of success. Yet do not attribute the stupidity of these latter lines to other than myself; I shd. be sorry that she should bear the onus. You will think it flattering to be supposed capable of contributing to the amusement of another by encroaching on his time; she can of course judge only from my conversational powers must they not be improved? When I was last in town I was lionized over a new Museum, called the N〈a〉val & Military, which I consider any thing but promising: it consists solely of donations, and appears to me utterly destitute of all arrangement. Herschel is to have it is said the Chair of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh— They are now getting up a subscription to relieve Scott’s family of the embarrassment in which he was involved by Constable’s failure,15 & to perpetuate the family estate of Abbotsford. Airy16 has sent forth a manifesto declaratory of Lubbock’s claims on the lovers of science, which I cannot think will contribute to his success;17 he says that Lubbock’s papers were the first that put us on a level with the rest of Europe as to investigations in the highest branches of mathematical philosophy.

God bless you. Addios, J. M. H.


The Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, founded in 1781. For a discussion of the cultural context of its founding see Thackray 1974.
John Dalton was President of the Manchester Society, 1817–44.
William Charles Henry. His paper was not printed in the Memoirs of the Society.
Constantine John Phipps, 2d Baron Mulgrave, commanded a polar expedition in 1773.
‘par excellence’; ‘preeminent’.
John Murray did become CD’s publisher, beginning with the second edition of the Journal of researches (1845).
Thomas Denman was Solicitor-General to Queen Caroline. Her Attorney-General, Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux (1830), was Lord Chancellor, 1830–4.
John Cam Hobhouse did, however, stand, and was elected for Westminster in December 1832.
George De Lacy Evans unsuccessfully contested Westminster in 1832.
Henry Percy Gordon. He was approached by the Whigs at Cambridge but when he did not pledge himself to vote for the ministers, ‘it was agreed that Lubbock [see below] should be brought forward’. See Romilly 1967, p. 23.
The Corporation Act (1661) extended by the Test Act (1673) made ineligible for public office Catholics and Protestant non-conformists.
John Leslie.
John William Lubbock. During 1830–2 he published a series of papers on ‘Researches on physical astronomy’ (Lubbock 1830–2).
The office buildings containing the Treasury and Privy Council chambers in Westminster, so named because they were the former site of the cock-pit erected by Henry VIII.
Archibald Constable, Sir Walter Scott’s publisher.
George Biddell Airy.
Lubbock withdrew just before the elections. Romilly commented in his diary: ‘very wise of him—the Speaker [Charles Manners-Sutton] & Goulburn being sure’ (Romilly 1967, p. 24).


Sends news of himself and CD’s friends. Discusses changes in England, the coming elections, Cambridge politics.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Maurice Herbert
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204.6.2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 193,” accessed on 27 June 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1