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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   [26 September 1849]1

Down Farnborough | Kent


My dear Henslow

It was a great disappointment to us, not finding you at Birmingham. I looked many times in vain to the letter H. in the alphabetical list during the first two days, & then gave you up; fearing that Sunday was to blame. Both my wife & self had looked forward to meeting you, as one of our greatest pleasures. Fox,2 also, disappointed us. It was a good meeting, but partly from not being very well & partly from the place being so large & nasty, the meeting was not very brilliant to me,—not to be put into same class with the Oxford meeting, which, however, was too pleasant to be hoped to be rivalled. What days were Blenheim, Nuneham & especially Dropmore! We started for Warwick & Kenilworth, but I broke down & became so unwell, I had to stop at Leamington.3 I go on with the Water Cure very steadily & keep on deriving considerable benefit from it, as long as I live the regular life of a hermit, but I think I stand any change, even worse than formerly & my stomach has not got over the excitement of Birmingham as yet.—

Your Allotment scheme seems an excellent one:4 how active you always seem to be with your many plans of doing good to your Parish.—

Pray remember me very kindly to Mrs Henslow & to Miss Henslow; ask her, when she next writes to Hooker to send him my kindest remembrances & say I do not write, having nothing to communicate—ex nihilo nihil fit, & as I see nobody & hear nothing I have nothing to write about. I heartily wish he was home again.— I travelled down to Birmingham with Col. Sabine his wife & her mother5 & I found them as ardent admirers of Hooker as I cd. desire. Mrs. Sabine & I agreed too perfectly over the capital powers of description shown in Hooker’s letters from the Erebus;6 if he will but write as well from India, what a capital book he will make.—

Talking about books, what praise you give me; but do you not know that it is very conceited in you to praise me, for as assuredly you more than half formed my mind, you in fact are giving yourself half of a very pleasant dish of praise.—

I have heard nothing of Leonard Jenyns for an age; I hope he is well; I had expected also to meet him at Birmingham & was disappointed.

Yours most truly | C. Darwin


The Wednesday following CD’s return from the British Association meeting (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I).
CD’s cousin, William Darwin Fox, who, like CD, had been taught by Henslow at Cambridge.
According to Emma Darwin’s diary, CD visited Malvern on Sunday, 16 September, following the abortive trip to Warwick on 15 September, and returned to Birmingham on 17 September. CD and Emma left Birmingham to return home on 20 September.
Henslow, in his indefatigable efforts to improve the lot of the labouring class of his parish, had published a pamphlet advocating that landlords provide small allotments to farm labourers (Henslow 1845). Despite opposition from local landlords, he was able in 1849 to secure sixteen acres to be apportioned in quarter-acre allotments. See Russell-Gebbett 1977, p. 76, and Jenyns 1862, p. 74.
Edward Sabine, secretary of the British Association, 1839–59; Elizabeth Juliana Sabine, who translated Alexander von Humboldt’s Kosmos and Ansichten der Natur into English (A. von Humboldt 1846–8 and 1849); and Mrs Leeves, Elizabeth Juliana Sabine’s mother.
Extracts from J. D. Hooker’s letters to his father, written during the Antarctic voyage, were published in the London Journal of Botany (W. J. Hooker 1843) and also as a separate pamphlet.


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

Hooker, William Jackson. 1843. Notes on the botany of HM Discovery Ships, Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic voyage; with some account of the Tussac grass of the Falkland Islands. London Journal of Botany 2: 247–329.

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.

Russell-Gebbett, Jean. 1977. Henslow of Hitcham: botanist, educationalist and clergyman. Lavenham, Suffolk: Terence Dalton.


Describes the Birmingham meeting [1849] of BAAS.

His health is poor. Continues with water-cure with considerable benefit.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 93: A92–A95
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1254,” accessed on 19 June 2024,

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