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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Marianne North   2 August 1881

Down, Beckingham, Kent.

2d August 1881.

My dear Miss North,—

I am much obliged for the “Australian Sheep,” which is very curious. If I had seen it from a yard’s distance lying on a table, I would have wagered that it was a coral of the genus Porites.1

I am so glad that I have seen your Australian pictures, and it was extremely kind of you to bring them here. To the present time I am often able to call up with considerable vividness scenes in various countries which I have seen, and it is no small pleasure; but my mind in this respect must be a mere barren waste compared with your mind.—2

I remain, dear Miss North, yours, truly obliged, | Charles Darwin.


Raoulia eximia (the vegetable sheep) is a species in the family Asteraceae. It is native to New Zealand and has dense buds that form woolly balls (see Hooker 1864–7, 1: 149, and North 1894, 2: 185, 216). The plant appears in North’s painting, New Zealand flowers and fruit (Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, North gallery, painting 721; see also this volume, frontispiece). Porites is a genus of stony coral.
North had stayed at Down from 16 to 18 July 1881 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)). She described her visit with CD as follows: ‘He sat on the grass under a shady tree, and talked deliciously on every subject to us all for hours together, or turned over and over again the collection of Australian paintings I brought down for him to see, showing in a few words how much more he knew about the subjects than any one of us, myself included, though I had seen them and he had not’ (North 1894, 2: 215). CD had spent several weeks in Australia on the Beagle voyage (see Journal of researches).


Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1864–7. Handbook of the New Zealand flora: a systematic description of the native plants of New Zealand and the Chatham, Kermadec’s, Lord Auckland’s, Campbell’s, and MacQuarrie’s Islands. 2 vols. London: Lovell Reeve & Co.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

North, Marianne. 1894. Recollections of a happy life. Being the autobiography of Marianne North. Edited by Mrs John Addington Symonds. 2 vols. New York and London: Macmillan and Co.


Obliged for the shrub "Australian Sheep" [Raoulia eximia] and pleased to have seen MN’s Australian pictures. Can still recall scenes from various countries with vividness.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Marianne North
Sent from
Source of text
North 1894, 2: 216

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13269A,” accessed on 31 March 2023,