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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. F. Daniell   14 November 1856

25. Great Russel Street | Bloomsbury.

Nov. 14. 1856.

My dear Sir.

I have just received your letter and regret I did not give you my town address however, my general Agents, Mc.Gregors. 17 Charles St. St James Square, will always give it you when I am either in England or abroad.1 I write this letter, without any delay, as I think I can afford you some information about the mamalia, of St Thomas, & Princes— I have also to state the pleasing news, that I have received a letter from Africa, from H.M.S. Scourge,2 stating that Mr. Gabriel of the mixed commiss. on coast,3 is making an extensive collection of fowls &c for you— I suppose ere this, you will have received information of this collection.4

In looking over some old notes, extracted from a Portuguese history of these islands, I find that numerous monkeys & civit cats (the same probably as those of Fernando Po and the main land)—belong to these localities. The following are the precise words in Portuguese— “A unica especie do genero Mamalia, que se achou nestas Ilhas ao tempo do descobrimento eram macacos de differentes castas, e muitos ratos assas daninhos. Os Portuguezes alli introduziram logo gado, vaccum, lanigero cabrum, e cavallar, o qual propagou sufficientemente, e mais que tudo as cabras” — “Varias viverras se acoutam tambem nessas matas entre ellas uma especie de gato dalgalia ou viverra civetta. Lagartos, lagartixas sapos acham-se por toda a parte, e dos amphibios a rãa, e o cágado—e nas praias destas Ilhas sahem muitas tartarugas, de que a casca se aproveita para o commercio por ser da melhor qualidade” 5

I hope this long quotation may afford you a slight insight I will however keep you memo in my sight. It is most difficult to gain any information on these subjects. Fernando was inhabited by a black race of men, supposed originally to have passed over from [Camarõens] 6 river, as there are several words in both languages the same— It is not unlikely I may go abroad again early in next year, and if I can give you any information or make inquiries into any particular subject for you, I will do all I can in these respects.

I remain my dear Sir | ever yours sincerely | W. F. Daniell C. Darwin Esq— | &c &c

The island of St. Thomas’ was discovered in 1470 on Dec 21. by Joãn de Santarem and Pedro de Escobar. It was colonized in September 1485

Navegação de Lisboa a Ilha de St Thomes e Principe por um Piloto Portuguese about 1500— published

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘19’7 brown crayon
After valediction: ‘Is it volcanic? Wooded?’ink; ‘Are there such animals now?’ink, circled ink; ‘Was St. Thomas inhabited? |[Sandrige] off coast far out’ ink; ‘Is it certain that F. Po was not meant.’ ink; ‘St. T. about as big as Madeira; about 160 miles from Mainland’ ink After postscript: ‘This is the authority for J. de Limas’ CD note: Discovered about [interl] 1470 by Santarem, believed St Thomas uninhabited. when discovered. ([added ink] 328 *miles in size [interl ink]— 66 miles S.W. by W of Princes | J. de Lima.— *Statistical work [added ink] *in 1550 [ink over pencil] exported [interl ink] *much sugar [ink over pencil] exported.‘ pencil; ’I must give this as hostile case, saying species unknown.— & remarking how easily islds are colonised.—8 ink


CD’s letter, probably written after he had received the letter from W. F. Daniell, 8 October – 7 November 1856, has not been found. Charles Roderic and Walter McGrigor were army agents at 17 Charles Street, St James’s Square (Post Office London directory 1857).
HMS Scourge was serving off the west coast of Africa in 1856 (Navy list 1856).
Edmund Gabriel was an anti-slave-trade commissioner in Luanda, Angola. See also Correspondence vol. 5, CD memorandum, [December 1855].
See letters to W. B. Tegetmeier, 19 November [1856] and 29 November [1856].
‘The only mammalian species found on these islands when they were discovered were monkeys of various types and many rather noxious rats. The Portuguese immediately introduced there herds of cattle, wool-bearing goats, and horses, which multiplied adequately, especially the goats’ — ‘Various Viverra also find shelter in the forests there, among them a type of civet-cat or Viverra civetta. Large and small lizards and toads are found everywhere, and of the amphibians the frog and the fresh-water turtle—and on the shores of these islands appear sea turtles whose shells are of use commercially, being of the best quality’. The editors thank Mario di Gregorio for this translation.
Presumably the Cameroons estuary, originally named in Portuguese ‘Rio dos Camarões’.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of animals.
CD had inquired about the mammals on the islands of Principe and São Tomé, some 200 miles off the coast of Gabon in the Gulf of Guinea, and about the depth of the sea separating the islands from the mainland (see letter from W. F. Daniell, 8 October – 7 November 1856). The statistical work referred to is Lopes de Lima 1844–62. The ability of monkeys, reptiles, and frogs, for example, to cross open seas (see n. 5, above) was difficult to explain by natural means. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 15 November [1856].


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 28 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Lopes de Lima, José Joaquim. 1844–62. Ensaios sobre a statistica das possessôes portuguezas na africa occidental e oriental; na Asia occidental; na China, e na Oceania. 5 vols. Lisbon.

Navy list: The navy list. London: John Murray; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 1815–1900.

Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Believes he can give CD information on Mammalia of St Thomas [São Tomé, Gulf of Guinea]. Quotes from a Portuguese history of the islands on unique species of monkeys and civet cats found there.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Freeman Daniell
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Gt Russell St, 25
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 270, 271
Physical description
ALS 3pp †, CD note

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1988,” accessed on 22 May 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6