To Caroline Darwin [19 May – 16 June 1837]
36. Great Marlborough St.
My dearest Caroline,
Many thanks for your letter, which you will say I am answering in a great hurry, but I want to ask my Father some questions, and a very odd string they are— But in the first place you have my direction wrong, it 36 & not 46.— I had no idea that Marianne1 had the Globe, else I would never have thought of asking about it. You must send and let her know my true direction, but if it is not gone really I think, it had better not— if it is gone, I will call, at 46 & leave my card.— Catherine tells me to say that the Rhododendrons went by Jelby’s Van for Shrewsbury— Now for the odds & ends— Will you ask my Father whether he did not say that floods of the Severn from Snow were less muddy & less destructive to the soil than those from heavy rains, or was it vice versa or what was it? Is it in the Zoonomia or notes to Botanic Garden where there is a passage about acquired instincts, such as crows learning Guns are dangerous—2 I have been much interested at finding so many cases where ships with all their crew in good health have yet caused strange contagious disorders at Station Islands in the Pacific— Mr Williams, a missionary, boldly asserts that the first mingling, where both are healthy of the European race with the natives of distant climes always produces disease.3 I am very much inclined to suspect that there is some such mysterious law connected with the destruction of the Aborigines in both Americas—Cape of Good Hope—Australia & Polynesia.— I recollect years ago my Father mentioning (from Macculloch) some little Island where the people had influenza whenever a ship arrived—& such was thought to be explained by Vessels always arriving with certain wind.4 Will you ask my Father what my memory is alluding to.— Again, are there not cases where people packed together have produced most deleterious contagion without themselves being affected.— Was not the “black Assize of Oxford” such a case?5 What year was it? Have I not heard my Father mention some other parallel instance.— Now will you be a good lady & look at Ellis’ Polynesian Researches, & see if he does not at Tahiti make some remarks about the belief that Capt Cook’s visits produced some kinds of illness— There is some ridiculous story about humpbacks, but perhaps some truth in other cases after all.—6 Ellis is so well divided into Chapters, that you will easily find a probable chapter to read, if not don’t trouble yourself— Will you ask my Father whether he has ever heard of any experiment to try, as the puncture from instruments in dissecting a man is so fatal to another man whether a dead dog for instance, would so act to living dog.—7 Was there ever such an odd string of questions? The Governor will think I am gone mad; I cannot in letter show connection of questions—8
On Thursday I am going to spend the day at Chatham. I am going to visit Dr Richardson (the Arctic man)9 he being a person of experience is going to tell me the best means of extracting funds from Government. I have got through Rt Browne’s10 assistance the Duke of S——11 signature—so all that is settled, but whether Government will help me is another question. If they do I shall thank Providence, & if they don’t I shall thank Providence for having rid me of a heavy job, so I am determined to be pleased.
I most devoutly long to be with you, my very dear Caroline. Give my most affectionate love to my Father & say I hope the questions wont plague him. Good bye. C. Darwin—
You, who can write, and do always write such nice letters, have no business to say Shrewsbury is dull, or any other place dull, & that there is no news—
Miss Darwin. | Shrewsbury.
Sends a number of questions (to put to his father), mainly concerned with transmission of diseases, between Europeans and natives, "people packed together", etc.
Is investigating how to get Government support [for Zoology].
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 360,” accessed on 27 September 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-360