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Darwin Correspondence Project

From G. H. Darwin   3 March 1879

Hotel d’Orient | Blidah

Mar. 3. 79.

My dear Father,

We received your circular yesterday morning & were surprized at its contents. You are wonderfully good to all of us—and that is more than the money.1 As to myself I don’t know that I shall want to do anything with it except invest it. At any rate the loss of my fellowship will make no difference to me now, tho’ I hardly think it would in any case.2

We came here this morning in a most tedious train which took 212 hours for 30 miles. We went along a fertile plain all the way, which is however I think very malarious— Here we are close under the mountains which have still got snow on them from the late bad weather.3 Yesterday was the most lovely day I ever saw & tho’ the Sun was very hot the air was cool. Today it has been overcast & dead calm, with a sweltering heat like the inside of a hot house. About 5 o’clk this evening it turned quite cold & we are now sitting before as good a fire as can be made out of wood. Tomorrow we are going to drive to a gorge in the mountains about 10 miles away, which is said to be beautiful, and where also are wild monkeys in the woods.4

This town looks commonplace & dirty, with straight streets because it is continually being destroyed by earth-quakes & has been so restored by the French. The hillside is channelled by extraordinarily deep ravines & geology seems to go on so fast that the grass has’nt time to grow much on the sides of them. This & the half-snowed covered hills makes it look rather dismal. The most interesting part of the place is the fact that it is almost entirely Arabic. A good many of the women are dressed from head to foot in scarlet with only one eye visible, which is different from the Algerians who show both eyes.5 From here we are going to Hammom Rira about 30 miles further on thro’ the mountains. It is a hot mineral baths & said to be a pretty place.6 We, or at least Frank, will return to Algiers on Friday (7th.) to sail on Saturday.7

I am much too unwell to feel at all in humour for touring but I was sure that if I did’nt go now I shd’nt go at all

I return to the McL’s to stay 2 or 3 weeks more8

Your affectionate son | G. H. Darwin


See letter to the Darwin children, 21 February 1879. CD had decided to divide the surplus of his income annually among his children.
George had been a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1868 to 1878, when his fellowship expired (G. H. Darwin 1907–16, 5: xvi). He was re-elected a fellow of the college in 1884 (Alum. Cantab.).
Blidah (now Blida) is an Algerian city, situated south-west of Algiers at the foot of the Tell Atlas mountains.
The Chiffa Gorge is about five miles south-west of Blida in the Tell Atlas mountains. A ravine known as the Ruisseau-des-singes (Stream of monkeys) was famous for its large population of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus); it was described by the French writer Guy de Maupassant in 1884 (Maupassant 2008, pp. 33–4).
The garments described were local variants of the traditional haik (on Arab dress, see Stillman 2000).
The geothermal waters of Hammam Rirha were known from Roman times, when they were referred to as ‘Aquae Calidae’ (hot water, or baths); they are in the north-central part of Algeria, in Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) forests (Columbia gazetteer of the world).
John Ferguson McLennan spent winters in Algeria because of poor health; his wife was Eleanora Anne McLennan (ODNB).


Darwin, George Howard. 1907–16. Scientific papers. 5 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Maupassant, Guy de. 2008. To the sun. Translated and edited by James Wilson. London: Duchy of Lambeth.

Stillman, Yedida Kalfon. 2000. Arab dress: a short history from the dawn of Islam to modern times. Edited by Norman A. Stillman. Leiden: Brill.


Thanks CD [for his increased allowance?].

Writes of his tour [in Algeria].

Letter details

Letter no.
George Howard Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 210.2: 73
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11914,” accessed on 30 June 2022,