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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. S. Henslow   31 August 1833


31 Augt 1833

My dear Darwin,

I am afraid that I have been rather negligent in not writing sooner to announce the arrival of your last Cargo which came safe to hand excepting a few articles in the Cask of Spirits which are spoiled, owing to the spirit having escaped thro’ the bung-hole— I am now in possession of your letter of last April, which has stirred me up to send you off a few books which I thought might interest you, & I have (or rather shall) write to your Brother to recommend one or two more— The fossil portions of the Megatherium turned out to be extremely interesting as serving to illustrate certain parts of the animal which the specimens formerly received in this country & in France had failed to do. Buckland & Clift exhibited them at the Geological Section1 (what this means you will learn from the Report I send you)—2 & I have just received a letter from Clift requesting me to forward the whole to him, that he may pick them out carefully repair them, get them figured, & return them to me with a description of what they are & how far they serve to illustrate the ostuology of the Great Beast— This I shall do in another week when I return again to Cambridge—for I am staying at present at Ely & am here merely on Saturday for L. Jenyn’s duty tomorrow he having been unwell & advised not to take duty at present— I have popped the various animals that were in the Keg into fresh spirits in jars & placed them in my cellar— The more delicate things as insects, skins &c. I keep at my own house, with the precaution of putting camphor into the boxes— The plants delight me exceedingly, tho’ I have not yet made them out—but with Hooker’s work & help I hope to do so before long—3 I never thought of putting your name down to a Tablet we have been erecting to poor Ramsay’s4 memory in Jesus Chapel till lately— As the list has not yet appeared I have ventured to do so for 21/– I propose having an engraving (I think I told you) from an excellent likeness which Miss Jenyns5 made for me—& this I shall let the subscribers to the Tablet have at whatever the cost price may be, about 10/ or 12/– probably— I am sure from your respect for R’s memory I have not done wrong in putting down your name— The comet you speak of is expected in 1835, according to calculation—but it seems very doubtful whether the calculation is correct— The papers of course talk nonsense about it, but it is really something out of the ordinary cometical occurrences—6 Mrs Henslow produced me a fine girl on June 23, the day before the Association met— It proved quite a breeding week with the Cambridge Ladies Mrs Clark & Mrs Willis7 being confined within a day or two of the same time— I long as much as you do to see the day when we shall be discussing the various events of your voyage together, but I hope also that there is much yet to arrive before you bend your way home again. Not but what I wd. have you return immediately if you are really tired out—but you remember how we used to talk of the certainty of many an annoyance that must arrive, & many a wish to be home again— If you propose returning before the whole period of the voyage expires, don’t make up your mind in a hurry—but let it be a steady thought for at least a month without one single desire to continue—& if such an event should occur you may fairly conclude that you are sick of the expedition—but I suspect you will always find something to keep up your courage— Send home every scrap of Megatherium skull you can set your eyes upon.—& all fossils. Use your sweeping net well for I foresee that your minute insects will nearly all turn out new— (I must write on now to the end as I have transgressed the limits)—8 I have turned Entomologist myself this summer for my little girls who have started a collection of Insects & Shells—& make me work for them— Poor Stephens9 has just lost 400£ in a Law suit & we are levying a subscription to help him on with his Illustrations— I delight in your descriptions of the few animals you now & then allude to—

Believe me | affecty. yrs. | J. S. Henslow


William Buckland was deputy chairman of the Geological Section of the 1833 British Association meeting; William Clift was Curator of the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. The Report of the 1833 meeting makes no mention of CD’s Megatherium bones.
The Report of the British Association meeting of 1832 at Oxford. In 1832 Buckland addressed the General Meeting on the Megatherium bones found by Woodbine Parish (see Buckland 1832).
William Jackson Hooker, then Regius Professor of Botany at Glasgow. Henslow described only some specimens collected later in the voyage: new species of Galápagos cacti (Henslow 1837) and the plants from the Keeling Islands (Henslow 1838). It was left to Joseph Dalton Hooker (William Jackson Hooker’s son) to describe the collections from the Falkland Islands and Tierra del Fuego (Hooker 1844–7) and later the Galápagos flora (Hooker 1846a and 1846b). Most of the collection, however, remained unclassified until recently when Duncan M. Porter undertook to study it anew. For his account of the history of the work on CD’s botanical specimens and the rediscovery of his notes, see Porter 1980a, 1981, and 1982.
Halley’s Comet appeared, as predicted, in 1835.
Henslow had written on the part of the cover reserved for the address.


Buckland, William. 1832. On the fossil remains of the Megatherium recently imported into England from South America. Report of the British Association meeting in Oxford (1832), pp. 104–7.

Henslow, John Stevens. 1837. Description of two new species of Opuntia; with remarks on the structure of the fruit of Rhipsalis. Magazine of Zoology and Botany 1: 466–9.

Henslow, John Stevens. 1838. Florula Keelingensis. An account of the native plants of the Keeling Islands. Annals of Natural History 1: 337–47.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1844–7. Flora Antarctica. 1 vol. and 1 vol. of plates. Pt 1 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Reeve Brothers.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1845a. An enumeration of the plants of the Galapagos Archipelago; with descriptions of those which are new. [Read 4 March, 6 May, and 16 December 1845.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 20 (1846–51): 163–233.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1846b. On the vegetation of the Galapagos Archipelago, as compared with that of some other tropical islands and of the continent of America. [Read 1 and 15 December 1846.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 20 (1846–51): 235–62.

Porter, Duncan M. 1980. Charles Darwin’s plant collections from the voyage of the Beagle. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 9: 515–25.

Porter, Duncan M. 1981. Darwin’s missing notebooks come to light. Nature 291: 13.

Porter, Duncan M. 1982. Charles Darwin’s notes on plants of the Beagle voyage. Taxon 31: 503–6.


The [Megatherium] fossils were extremely interesting and were shown at the Geological Section of the BAAS meeting at Cambridge [1833].

The plants delight him; will work them out with W. J. Hooker.

CD should send every fossil he can find; minute insects will be nearly all new. Delighted with descriptions of the few animals alluded to.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Stevens Henslow
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 97(ser. 2): 14–15
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 213,” accessed on 13 September 2023,

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