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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Leonard Jenyns  10 April [1837]

36 Grt. Marlborough Street

April 10th

Dear Jenyns

During the last week several of the zoologists of this place have been urging me to consider the possibility of publishing the Zoology of the Beagle’s voyage on some uniform plan. Mr Maclay1 has taken a great deal of interest in the subject, and maintains, that such a publication is very desirable, because it keeps together a series of obsevations made respecting animals inhabiting the same part of the world, and allows any future traveller taking them with him. How far this facility of reference is of any consequence, I am very doubtful; but if such is the case, it would be more satisfactory to myself to see the gleanings of my hands, after having passed through the brains of abler naturalists collected together in one work.—

But such considerations ought not to have much weight.— The whole scheme is at present, merely floating in the air; but I was determined to let you know, as I should much like to know what you think about it, & whether you would object to supply descriptions of the fish to such a work, instead of to transactions.

I apprehend the whole will be impracticable, without government will aid in engraving the plates, and this I fear is a mere chance, only I think I can put in a strong claim, & get myself well backed by the naturalists of this place, who nearly all take a good deal of interest in my collections.— I mean tomorrow to see Mr Yarrell; if he approves, I shall begin and take more active steps; for I hear he is most prudent and most wise.— It is scarcely any use speculating about any plan, but I thought of getting subscriber & publishing the work in parts (as long as funds would last, for I myself will not lose money by it). In such case, whoever had his own part ready on any order, might publish it separately, (and ultimately the parts might be sold separately), so that no one should be delayed by the other;— The plan would resemble on a humbler scale Ruppel Atlas2 or ‘Humboldt Zoologie’,3 where Latreille, Cuvier &c &c wrote different parts.— I myself should have little to do with it; excepting in some orders adding habits & ranges &c. & geographical sketches, and perhaps afterward some descriptions of invertebrate animals.—4

I never should have thought of this plan, if M’Clay had not been so kindly urgent on my taking it into consideration, and now I daresay the egg from the want of a little government hatching will be addled. Bell, Waterhouse, Owen Gould Hope, are also in favour of the scheme.—and will I believe all assist, if it turns out practicable.—5 If you should happen to see Henslow in the course of a few day talk with him on the subject, & tell me what he says.— I would have written to him, only I sent a letter not long since, & do not wish to trouble him with another. Will you be kind enough to write to me pretty soon? as I am very anxious to know what you think.—

I am working at my journal; it gets on slowly, though I am not idle.— I thought Cambridge a bad place from good dinners & other interruptions, but I find London no better, & I fear it may grow worse.— I have a capital friend in Lyell, and see a great deal of him, which is very advantageous to me, in discussing much S. American geology.— I miss a walk in the country very much; this London is a vile smoky place, where a man loses a great part of the best enjoyments of life. But I see no chance of escaping even for a week from this prison, for a long time to come.

I fear it will be some time before we shall meet; for I suppose you will not come up here during the Spring, and I do not think I shall be able to go down to Cambridge. How I should like to have a good walk along the Newmarket road tomorrow, but Oxford Street must do instead. I do hate the streets of London—

Will you tell Henslow to be careful with the edible fungi from T. del Fuego, for I shall want some specimens for Mr Brown, who seems particularly interested about them. Tell Henslow, I think my silicified wood, has unflintified Mr Brown’s heart, for he was very gracious to me, and talked about the Galapagos plants; but before he never would say a word.6 It is just striking twelve oclock, so I will wish you a very good night.—

My dear Jenyns, Yours most truly, C. Darwin.—


William Sharp MacLeay.
Rüppell 1826–8.
Humboldt and Bonpland 1811–33.
According to a prospectus issued in the autumn of 1837 a description of ‘some of the invertebrate animals’ and ‘a general sketch of the Zoology of the southern parts of South America’ were planned, but neither of these was included in the final published volumes (see Freeman 1977, p. 26).
All except Frederick William Hope contributed to the Zoology. It was apparently decided not to include an entomological section. On 1 May 1837 Hope read a paper describing some of CD’s beetle specimens to the Entomological Society (Hope 1837–40). Between 1837 and 1845 Waterhouse published nine articles on CD’s entomological specimens (see Waterhouse 1837–40a, 1837–40b, and Collected papers 2: 295–9).
When Jenyns supplied Francis Darwin with copies of CD’s letters, he appended the following note to this letter: ‘Robert Brown, the facile princeps, as he was called, in all that related to Botany, was rather cold and reserved towards strangers, sparing in his words, and very cautious in giving an opinion; though free and most agreeable in conversation with old friends. I happened to be present on one occasion on which he called on Darwin, when he spoke in favourable terms of the voyage he had undertaken, and of the valuable results that would accrue thereby to Nat. Histy Darwin, in his modest way, shrunk from taking to himself any words of commendation, and on Brown’s leaving the room, said directly afterwards—“I shall have to pray to be delivered from my friends”.—’ (DAR 145, Jenyns letters).


Discusses possibility of publishing the zoology of the voyage of the Beagle. Will need help from more able naturalists. Would LJ object to describing the fishes for such a work rather than for scientific journals? Is working on his Beagle journal.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Jenyns, Leonard
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 354,” accessed on 21 January 2017,