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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   2 July [1848]

Down Farnborough Kent

July 2d.

My dear Henslow

I am uncommonly sorry to hear so poor an account of several members of your family; but I do hope that the sea will do all good. Nothing comes up to the misery of having illness amongst one’s children, of which we have lately had a touch, now happily quite over.— We expect a sixth (d) in beginning of August.1

Thanks for your Syllabus,2 which I shall be curious to look over. I never enjoyed any other lectures in my life, except your’s, for Edinburgh completely sickened me of that method of learning. What a grand step it would be to break down the system of eternal classics, & nothing but classics.— I am perfectly certain, that the only thing at Cambridge which did my mind any good, were your lectures & still more your conversation; I believe I must except, also, getting up Paley’s Evidences.3 It would, indeed, be a grand step to get a little more diversity in study for men of different minds. Talking of classics reminds me to ask you to do me a very essential favour: I find I have utterly forgotten my whole immense stock of classical knowledge which put me in the eminent position of 5th or 6th in the oi polloi.4 Now I have to invent many names of families & genera for my work on Cirripedia, & I have not the smallest idea whether my names are correct. Wd. you let me send them to you, for your opinion from time to time? My paper cd be returned with your fiat, so that you wd have but little writing, or indeed hardly any.—

When you are walking on the shore, wd you take the trouble to scrape me off (taking care to get the base) a few Barnacles, of as many different forms as you can see, & send them me in little strong box, damp with sea-weed. I am anxious to make out the distribution of the British species— And new species may turn up, for the group has been made out most superficially,—for instance under Balanus punctatus (which must be made a distinct genus)5 three or four varieties have been called distinct species; whereas one form, which has not been called even a variety, is not only a distinct genus, but a distinct sub-family.—6 Yesterday I found four or 5 named genera are all the closest species of one genus: this will give you a specimen of the utter confusion my poor dear Barnacles are in.—

I am in a very cock-a-hoop state about my anatomy of the Cirripedia, & think I have made out some very curious points:7 my Book will be published in two years by the Ray Soc. & will I trust do no discredit (see how vain I am!) to your old pupil & most attached friend

C. Darwin


Francis Darwin was born on 16 August 1848.
Henslow 1848b, in which a syllabus for a course of botany lectures at Cambridge University was put forward. Henslow wrote this in anticipation of university reforms that would give more recognition to the natural sciences in the curriculum (Jenyns 1862, pp. 170–1). CD’s copy is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
Paley 1794 was one of the books set for CD’s B.A. examination at Cambridge University in 1831. See Correspondence vol. 1, letter to W. D. Fox, [23 January 1831], n. 3.
The ‘hoi polloi’ or ‘Poll’ was the undergraduate term for those who read for a ‘pass degree’. CD actually came tenth out of 178 who passed.
CD eventually amended this conclusion. In Living Cirripedia (1854): 493, he said Balanus punctatus was the name ‘often applied by British authors to varieties of B. balanoides’.
CD considered the Balanus punctatus of George Montagu to be Chthamalus stellatus, in the sub-family Chthamalinæ (Living Cirripedia (1854): 455, 493).
CD probably refers to his discovery that all that is externally visible in adult barnacles is homologous to the first three segments of the head of other Crustacea. See letter to J. D. Hooker, 6 October 1848, n.12, and Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix II.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Jenyns, Leonard. 1862. Memoir of the Rev. John Stevens Henslow, late rector of Hitcham, and professor of botany in the University of Cambridge. London: John Van Voorst.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

Paley, William. 1794. A view of the evidences of Christianity. London: R. Faulder.


Criticises lecturing system in education and emphasis on classics. Has forgotten all his classical knowledge.

Asks JSH’s help in naming cirripedes, on which he is working. Believes he has made "some very curious points".

Expects a sixth child [Francis] in August.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A18–A20
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1189,” accessed on 5 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4