From John Coldstream1 28 February 1829
My dear Darwin
I confess I was rather illpleased to receive your letter in place of yourself, as I had been looking for your arrival in Edinburgh every day for some weeks before; Mr Barker having apprised me of your intention to visit us about Christmas. However, as you may guess, even the letter received a hearty welcome. I hope this will find you restored to health, and engaged in planning a descent upon Scotland in the summer holidays. You ask me what I have been doing since I left Paris. I remained in France till June, when I set out for Prussia with the hope of ascending the Rhine, and travelling thro‘ Switzerland & the North of Italy. But I took ill in Westphalia and was obliged to hurry home thro’ Holland. I returned to Leith about the end of July, in a state of health which prevented me from deriving pleasure even from Natural History. I recovered very slowly, but now am quite well.
During the winter, I have been almost entirely engaged in practice, and have persevered in my abjuration of Zoology, with a few reservations in favor of walks along the Seashore & occasional visits to the Black rocks.2 I found these localities, abounding in so many interesting associations, and offering an ever varying succession of animals, to be more powerfully alluring even than the Jardin des Plantes. Perhaps there is no real occasion for the greif which you express, in imagining that I have entirely forsworn Natural History: I am still ready to agree with you in the sentiment ‘that no pursuit is more becoming for a physician than Nat: Hist:’ and I feel myself as much, if not more, inclined than ever, to look into the World of Nature around me, but I feel, that as I must soon enter upon the public & the responsible discharge of the duties of my profession, I owe it as a duty of the highest importance, both to others & to myself, to make up as perfectly as possible, the deficiencies in useful knowledge which, I have too good reason to fear, my devotion to science (unprofitable as it has been) has occasioned. You may depend upon this, at least, that “the good old Cause of Zoology” is not slighted by me; and of course, still less so, the friends in whose company I formerly prosecuted it.—
Glasspoole3 left Paris in May with the intention of going through Switzerland & Germany: I heard of his being in London in September; when I believe Dr Grant4 saw him: and I have since heard that he has settled in Brighton: or, at least, that he is living there. I was happy to receive intelligence regarding Mr Hope: I am greatly indebted to him for a valuable collection of types of the British genera of Coleoptera, which he sent me, probably with the view of stimulating me in the study of Entomology; but I have done very little in it. I am not unmindful of Mr Hope’s kindness, and although my long silence may appear to him a mark of ingratitude, and unpardonable carelessness, I am not without some expectation of being able at some future time to redeem my lost character in his eyes. You will probably have seen Dr Grant by the time you receive this. If you should be in London, be so good as present my kindest regards to him, and say, that I received his letter, and intend answering it shortly. You ask me for Edinburgh news, but truly I know of none worth giving you; excepting, indeed, that the Plinian 5 is flourishing most vigorously.— There are several very industrious young naturalists in it at present; and Brown6 continues to lend his matured experience in the presidency. David Ritchie has succeeded his father as minister of the Parish of Tarbolton in Ayr.7 Your request about the Carabidae I cannot answer. The only entomological information I can give you, is, that I had an excellent opportunity in Westphalia of examining the singular habits of the Bombyx processionaria (larva) described by Reamur.8 I verified most fully all his interesting description. The caterpillars were particularly abundant in the woods of Westphalia last year, and destroyed the leaves of almost all the oaks. You are, of course, aware of the publication of Dr. Fleming’s “British Animals”,9 and Mr Stark’s “elements of Natural History.”10 Dr. F’s is a very valuable work but Mr Stark’s, being more general and more complete, will probably enjoy the larger share of popularity. Dr Grant is engaged in the publication of “Outlines of Zoology & Comparative Anatomy.”—11
Be so good as write me again soon, and tell me something of the present state of Natural History in Cambridge. Have you had any opportunity of studying marine Zoology since you left this?—
With every affectionate wish I remain, | My Dear Darwin, | Yours most truly | John Coldstream *S 2
28th. Feb. 1829.
News of his activities in recent months, of mutual Edinburgh acquaintances, and the Plinian Society.
JC has given up natural history for a time to prepare himself better for medical practice.