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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. J. Aubertin   19 July 1863

Down. | Bromley. | Kent S.E.

July 19th./63.

My dear Mr. Aubertin.

I received your letter dated April 27th. many weeks ago, but only yesterday the stones—1 I do not suppose anyone without examining the country could form a guess how thick the rocks, of which you sent specimens would run.— They form a very coarse micaceous schist, & I can well believe must be most difficult to tunnel through   One may conjecture that the case is more hopeful than if the rock had been granite or porphyry— The rocks belong to the metamorphic series which I believe is developed to a larger extent in Brazil than in any other quarter of the world. I saw no other rocks besides these & Plutonic in Brazil & I examined a series collected along the whole coast from Rio to near the Plata—2 I thank you for your very kind & long letter which interested me much; especially about the progress of the mulattoes. &c. I am very glad to hear that you are well & endure your life— I heard of your appointment shortly after you sailed—3 I cannot give a very good account of myself, as I am constantly ailing— My eldest daughter thank God is well,4 but one of my Boys is an Invalid5 & we had fearful illness in our family last year.6 Mrs. Darwin is well and begs to be kindly remembered to you— Owing to the state of our Family we have not seen anything of Miss Butler for a long time, but she has visited us here once or twice & was as pleasant as usual.7 Of Miss Scott I know nothing.—8

I can tell you of only one other Ilkleyite, namely Mr Robinson; & he is married and has a living.—9

Will you grant me a little favour, I have a Boy, who remembers you, & is a passionate collector of postage stamps.—10 He tells me that there are many kinds used in Brazil, now will you devote an envelope & tear off any old stamps which you may receive, & when you have got a few send them through your London Correspondent. You would give great pleasure, if you would take so much trouble  

with every good wish for your success & health. | Pray believe me my dear Mr. Aubertin— | Very faithfully yours. | Ch Darwin.


See letter from J. J. Aubertin, 27 April 1863. Aubertin was superintendent of a railway in Brazil and had sought CD’s advice on tunneling through rocks of which he sent samples.
CD visited the Brazilian coast during the Beagle voyage in 1832 and in 1836 (see ‘Beagle’ diary); his geological diary and notes from the voyage are in DAR 32–8, and his geological specimen books are in DAR 236.
CD refers to Aubertin’s appointment in 1860 as superintendent of the São Paulo railway (Graham 1968, p. 67).
CD and Aubertin apparently met in the winter of 1859 while undergoing treatment at Edmund Smith’s hydropathic establishment at Ilkley Wells, Yorkshire (see letter from J. J. Aubertin, 27 April 1863 and n. 1); at the time, CD had been concerned about the state of health of Henrietta Emma Darwin (see Correspondence vol. 7, letter to W. D. Fox, 23 September [1859]).
CD refers to Horace Darwin, who had been chronically ill since the previous year (see letter from G. V. Reed, 12 January 1863 and n. 2).
Leonard and Emma Darwin were both ill with scarlet fever in the summer of 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10).
Mary Butler had undergone treatment at Edmund Smith’s hydropathic establishment at Ilkley Wells, Yorkshire, at the same time as CD and Aubertin (see letter from J. J. Aubertin, 27 April 1863 and n. 20). According to Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242), Butler stayed at Down House from 25 April to 1 May 1860.
Miss Scott has not been identified, but see the letter from J. J. Aubertin, 27 April 1863.
Mr Robinson has not been identified.
Leonard Darwin.


‘Beagle’ diary: Charles Darwin’s Beagle diary. Edited by Richard Darwin Keynes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1988.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Graham, Richard. 1968. Britain and the onset of modernization in Brazil 1850–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Discusses geology of Brazil.

Asks for Brazilian stamps for his son.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John James Aubertin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 143: 24
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4246,” accessed on 22 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11