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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. M. Herbert   [1–6] June 1832

Botofogo Bay, Rio de Janeiro

June, 1832

My dear old Herbert

Your letter arrived here, when I had given up all hopes of receiving another; it gave me therefore an additional degree of pleasure.— At such an interval of time & space one does learn how to feel truly obliged to those who do not forget one.— The memory, when recalling scenes past bye affords to us exiles one of the greatest pleasures.— often & often whilst wandering amongst these hills do I think of Barmouth, & I may add as often wish for such a companion.— What a contrast does a walk in these two places afford; here abrupt & stony peaks are to the very summit enclosed by luxuriant woods: the whole surface of the country, excepting where cleared by man, is one impenetrable forest.— How different from Wales, with its sloping hills covered with turf, & its open vallies.— I was not previously aware, how intimately, what may be called the moral part, is connected with the enjoyment of scenery.— I mean such ideas, as the history of the country, the utility of the produce, & more especially the happiness of the people, bring with them.— Change the English labourer into a poor slave, working for another, & you will hardly recognise the same view.—

I am sure you will be glad to hear, how very well every part (Heaven forefend except sea sickness) of the expedition has answered.— We have already seen Teneriffe & the great Canary; St Jago where I spent three most delightful weeks, revelling in the delights of first naturalizing a Tropical Volcanic island, & besides other islands the two celebrated ports in the Brazils, viz Bahia & Rio.— I was in my hammock till we arrived at the Canaries, & I shall never forget the sublime impression, the first view of Teneriffe made on my mind.— The first arriving into warm weather was most luxuriously pleasant; the clear blue skies of the Tropics was no common change after those accursed SW gales at Plymouth.— About the line it became sweltering hot.— we spent one day on St Pauls, a little group of rocks about 14 of mile in circumference peeping up in the midst of the Atlantic.—there was such a scene here. Wickham (1st. Lieut) & I were the only two who landed with guns & geological hammers, &c.— The birds by myriads were too close to shoot, we then tried stones, but at last, proh pudor!, my geological hammer was the instrument of death.—

We soon loaded the boat with birds & eggs.— Whilst we were so engaged, the men in the boat were fairly fighting with the Sharks for such magnificent fish, as you could not see in the London market.— Our boat would have made a fine subject for Sneyders;1 such a medley of game it contained.— Tell Whitley, that I find my life on blue water not only very pleasant, but that it is an excellent time for reading; so quiet & comfortable, that you are not tempted to be idle.— We have been here 10 weeks, & shall now start for Monte Video.— where I look forward to many a gallop over the Pampas.—

I am ashamed of sending such a scrambling letter; but if you were to see the heap of letters on my table you w〈ould〉 understand the reason.— A short letter or a stupid one may be a hint for a cut amongst some people; but old gentleman, you might as well try to cut your tailor as me; so short or long do write to me again; a letter from you brings with it a thousand pleasant thoughts.— I fancy I can see you now in the two extreme cases, of the dead march to Dolgelley,2 & the bogtrotting match with Selwyn.—3 I am glad to hear music flourishes so well in Cambridge; but it as barbarous to talk to me of “Celestial concerts” as to a person in Arabia of cold water.— In a voyage of this sort if one gains many new & great pleasures, on the other side the loss is not inconsiderable.— How should you like to be suddenly debarred from seeing every person & place, which you have ever known & loved for five years? I do assure you I am occasionally “taken aback” by this reflection.— And then for man or ship it is not so easy to right again:— Remember me most sincerely to the remnant of most excellent fellows, whom I have the good luck to know in Cambridge. I mean Whitley & Watkins.— Tell Lowe I am even beneath his contempt I can eat Salt Beef & musty biscuits for dinner.— see what a fall man may come to.—

My direction for the next year & 12 will be Monte Video.—

God bless you—my very dear old Herbert— May you always be happy & prosperous is my most cordial wish | Yours affectionately | Chas. Darwin.—

I have directed to you in a curious manner for fear of mistakes.4


Frans Snyders.
Town in Gwynedd, Wales, a few miles inland from Barmouth.
William Selwyn, or his younger brother George Augustus Selwyn. Both studied at St John’s College with Herbert.
The cover is addressed ‘J. M. Herbert Esqr. | Fellow of St. Johns Coll: | Cambridge | To be forwarded immediately.’


Summarises experiences since leaving England. "How intimately what may be called the ""moral part"" is connected with the enjoyment of scenery." The loneliness of the voyage.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Maurice Herbert
Sent from
Botofogo Bay, Rio de Janeiro
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.4)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 172,” accessed on 7 August 2020,

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