skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. S. Henslow    6 February 1832


6 Feby 1832

My dear Darwin,

As tomorrow is the first Tuesday in Feby. I select today (my Birthday) for keeping my promise, virtually made by your asking me to write to you on that day. I heard of your adventurous departure thro’ Mr Yarrel who was told of it by Capt. King—1 You had a stout heart to resist the inclination which must necessarily have come over you not to go on whilst you were in such a wretched state of sickness as you are described to have suffered I trust however that it left you soon afterwards & that you are now an experienced sailor— As you cannot yet have quite lost all zest for Cambridge information I shall tell you a little about the late examination, which seems to have been rather a merciless one, for besides that some thirty men were frightened after the first day & cut & run, there [were] 29 plucked, & among them Lord Sandwich2 & a nephew of Ld Grey’s3 at Trinity—& an Hon. DeGrey at St Johns— You see we are becoming quite radical.— You will see by the papers which I suppose you get somehow or other that Trin. had the Sr. Wrangler (quite unexpectedly)— I was absent from Cambridge myself on a visit to my Father’s4—spent two nights in London very pleasantly with attending at the Geologl. & Linnean—where I heard of you from difft quarters among some of the members. Pray are you yet a Whig? for I heard from Wood that your Brother told you it was impossible to touch pitch & not be defiled.5 Whatever you become I know it will be from honest conviction, & therefore tho’ I shan’t change my principles myself I shall be quite content to allow you to change yours without thinking the worse of you for so doing—not that I suppose you will care if I should— Only as we used to agree in these matters we will now agree not to let our disagreement (if it sd. turn out so) trouble us— We have determined on erecting a mural Tablet to Ramsay’s memory in the Chapel of Jesus, It will be plain—with a medallion by Chantrey6 who has undertaken to assist us— I have a most admirable miniature likeness, which impr⁠⟨⁠ess⁠⟩⁠es every one who sees it painted by Miss Jenyns7 from memory, having merely the outline to guide her from an old miniature taken by an instrument— I intend (at the request of his friends) to get it engraved for them, & as you may possibly like a print will select one which you may take or not as you like— If it is to be done by a first rate artist—will cost the subscribers about 10/6.—any surplus to be distributed to the poor— Worsley8 has resigned the Tutorship of Downing— He was absent all this term & I acted for him as Chaplain & dinner-eater on Sundays & other days when Dawes was absent—9 He thoroughly disliked the duties of a College life & has taken a wise step. Sedgwick is having his picture taken!! by Phillips10 —to match a portrait of his of Buckland.11 He makes the artist laugh so much that he can hardly get on with it— The two will be engraved as a pair— Whewell12 has resigned his Professorship from want of time & I believe Miller13 will succeed him— Whitley is a candidate for a Professorship of Mathematics in the new College about to be established in Durham— I can’t recollect any other Cambridge news worth recording— My own household is flourishing— Mrs. H. much improved in health & the Children blessed as usual— We had so amply discussed your prospects at T. del Fuego that I do not know what to say more till I shall have heard from you— I sometimes blame myself for having hinted to you rather plainly little pieces of advice, lest you should have thought me troublesome— but I am sure your good heart will ascribe my suggestions to the right motive of my being anxious for your happiness—which cannot be enjoyed in this troublesome world without daily restraint & submission to mortifications sometimes trifling sometimes grievous—always when patiently taken refreshing to the spirit— I feel the more anxious for you as I have been so mainly instrumental in your adopting the plans you have—& should your time pass unhappily shall never cease to regret my having recommended you to take the step you have of devoting yourself to the cause of science— Much therefore as [I] should like to see you return laden with the spoils of the Worl⁠⟨⁠d⁠⟩⁠ yet if you do not find yourself content I should much rather see you sooner than I hope to do— You must by the time you get this have had ample experience how far you are qualified to cope with difficulties & whether you can rise superior to them—whether you can enjoy yourself amidst them, & rejoice over them— If you have met with success hitherto be assured that you may go on safely & securely ⁠⟨⁠to⁠⟩⁠ the end—but if you have failed, then don’t try any more—but come away— You will only be heaping up greater troubles— I shall endeavor to keep up our correspondence as you may be pleased to direct me how I am to succeed in getting my letters to you, & shall always write to you as freely as I can on the subject of your enterprize, judging from what I can learn from your letters may be the state of your wishes—

Believe me yrs ever affectionately & sincerely J S. Henslow


John William Montagu, seventh earl of Sandwich.
Charles Grey, second Earl Grey.
William Wood and Erasmus Alvey Darwin. ‘Yet a Whig’: i.e. still a Whig. A reference to Robert FitzRoy’s staunch Toryism.
Francis Leggatt Chantrey. The medallion of Marmaduke Ramsay was, however, executed by Joseph Theakston, who, besides producing work of his own, was employed by Chantrey.
Thomas Worsley. He was elected master of Downing in 1836 and served until his death (Alum. Cantab.).
Adam Sedgwick; Thomas Phillips. The portrait is reproduced facing p. 499.
William Whewell had been appointed Professor of Mineralogy in 1828 following John Stevens Henslow’s resignation of the Chair in 1827 (see Winstanley 1940, pp. 40–1).
William Hallowes Miller succeeded Whewell as Professor of Mineralogy and held the Chair until 1880.


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Winstanley, Denys Arthur. 1940. Early Victorian Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


News of Cambridge: the recent examinations; memorial tablet for Marmaduke Ramsay.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Stevens Henslow
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 110
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 157,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1