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Darwin Correspondence Project

To C. T. Whitley    [10 August 1828]1


Sunday Evening

My dear Whitley

I would have written to you before this only I was aware this letter would be a sort of a “last dying speech & confession before my Lord Judge” & then those black words “infirm of purpose” &c &c sounded so very horribly that I could not summon resolution.—but here goes: I am idle as idle as can be: one of the causes you have hit on, viz irresolution the other is being made fully aware that my noddle is not capacious enough to retain or comprehend Mathematics.—2 Beettle hunting & such things I grieve to say, is my proper sphere and this is so much the worse, as I am entirely aware how splendid & at the same time useful a study it is.— Herbert is a fine example of the good effects of Mathematical studies.3 & even practically I am often surprised to see how frequently they come into play.—

Although my reading is a failure, I like Barmouth very much, I only wish I could spend every summer so pleasantly I see a great deal of Herbert & therefore I need not tell you how much I like him. What a glorious thing it would have been for me, if you had but come here instead of Inverara. I never should have dared to run idle under your eye.4 Lord have mercy on us, even your letter, caused some wonderfully unpleasant feelings about the præcordia.— Barmouth, although a pleasant place to live at, is as you seem to have experienced in Duncan’s5 letter, a woefully bad one to write from. Th⁠⟨⁠ere⁠⟩⁠fore to use your own words, ta⁠⟨⁠ke⁠⟩⁠ no⁠⟨⁠tice⁠⟩⁠ this most unsatisfactory scr⁠⟨⁠awl⁠⟩⁠ pretends to be nothing but what it really is.— If you condescend to answer this, which God knows is not worthy of an answer, you must direct, to Shrewsbury, as on the 27th I leave this place. Herbert says he intends writing soon to you.—

Believe me my dear Whitley | Yours most sincerely | Charles Darwin


The Sunday before the date of the postmark.
CD spent July and August 1828 in Barmouth, where he read mathematics with a tutor (see Correspondence vol. 2, Appendix I).
John Maurice Herbert was also in Barmouth. Herbert was an accomplished mathematician, eventually graduating from Cambridge University as 7th wrangler (Alum. Cantab.).
Whitley, who had been at Shrewsbury School with CD, graduated as senior wrangler in 1830. He was later reader in natural philosophy and mathematics at Durham University, 1833–55.
Adam Duncan was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge.


His idle life and the pleasures of Barmouth: "my reading [in mathematics] is a failure"; "Beettle hunting … is my proper sphere".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Thomas Whitley
Sent from
AUG 15 1828
Source of text
Shrewsbury School, Taylor Library
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 45A,” accessed on 24 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7 (Supplement)