skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. P. M. Weale   23 January [1868]1

Down Bromley | Kent

Jan 23—

My dear Sir

I congratulate you sincerely on your marriage, & I hope you will be happy & prosperous in your new life as a settler.2 I have always thought that there was a great charm in a settler’s life, & much better for the children than to struggle in this thickly packed country. I can well understand your regret at not soon revisiting your home. If you had been now in England you wd have had a chance for the botanical chair at Oxford; for they have found the greatest difficulty in finding any man who has done any botanical work.3

I thank you very cordially for your fresh information upon expression.4 I am sorry to hear from you so poor an account of the progress of civilization in S. Africa; but I have heard in other places of the great want of practical sense in the missionaries.5 It is quite intelligible to me that the bad government which you see round you leads you to doubt much about democracy. I fear much for England, as we shall soon be an almost pure democracy.6

I have heard nothing from Huxley as yet about the photograph of the Bushwoman;7 but I have received, together with your paper on the Bonatea, the striking photographs of many natives, but the scale is too small.8 I shall be glad to see your paper on the beautiful Orchis to which you refer; but so much has been published on the fertilization of these plants that I am doubtful whether any except very striking cases are worth publishing.9 Your belief in glacial action, unless it be supported by the clearest evidence will be disbelieved (if published) & will discredit you, as has lately occurred in the case of Brazil & Agassiz.10

You speak of the glacial period in the S. hemisphere as not having been severe; I do not know whether you have seen my paper published years ago in Geolog. Trans. on this period in S. America, where I think it must have been severe.11 If you send me your paper please to inform me what I am to do with it. I cannot help you with respect to the great African travellers, as from hardly ever leaving home owing to ill health I know none of them. Mr R. Trimen came here the other day, & I had much pleasure in seeing him.12 According to your request I enclose my photograph & shd be much obliged for yours.13

Your varied pursuits & tastes must make your life very interesting & I hope you will make many valuable discoveries in Nat. History

Believe me my dear Sir | yours very faithfully | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. P. M. Weale, [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15).
Information about Weale’s marriage was evidently in the missing portion of his letter of [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15). Weale’s wife was Anna Edye.
Charles Giles Bridle Daubeny, professor of botany at Oxford since 1834, had died in 1867.
Weale had sent replies to CD’s queries on expression of the emotions in his letter of [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15); see also ibid., letter from J. P. M. Weale, 7 July 1867.
Weale had criticised missionary teaching in South Africa as ineffectual, remarking: ‘There is little or no attempt at inculcating by precept & habit either industry or economy’ (Correspondence vol. 15, letter from J. P. M. Weale, [10 December 1867]). For CD’s views on missionary work, based on his experiences on the Beagle voyage, see ‘A letter, containing remarks on the moral state of Tahiti, New Zealand, &c.’ (Collected papers 1: 19–38). See also Journal of researches, pp. 493, 508, and Browne 1995, pp. 330–1.
The 1867 Reform Act gave the vote to every male adult householder living in a borough constituency. Male lodgers paying £10 or more for unfurnished rooms were also granted the vote. (EB.)
Information about the photograph may have been in the missing portion of the letter from J. P. M. Weale, [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15). Thomas Henry Huxley’s anthropology and ethnology are discussed in Di Gregorio 1984, pp. 160–84. On Huxley’s programme of anthropometric measurement utilising photography, see E. Edwards 1990.
Weale had sent CD a paper on the orchid Bonatea, which CD had forwarded to the Linnean Society of London (Weale 1867; see Correspondence vol. 15, letter to J. P. M. Weale, 22 February [1867]). The photographs have not been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.
The information on the orchid was in the missing portion of the letter from J. P. M. Weale, [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15). Darwin later communicated two papers by Weale on the pollination mechanisms of South African orchids to the Linnean Society (Weale 1870a and 1870b).
Weale’s comments about glacial action were in the missing portion of his letter of [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15). CD refers to Louis Agassiz and his claims to have found evidence of glaciation in the Amazon basin. CD and others had been highly critical of Agassiz’s findings; see Correspondence vols. 14 and 15.
CD refers to ‘Distribution of the erratic boulders’, which was published in the Transactions of the Geological Society of London in 1842 (Collected papers 1: 143–63). CD summarised the evidence of glaciation in the southern hemisphere in Origin, p. 373. See also S. Herbert 2005, pp. 245–94.
Weale’s enquiry about ‘great African travellers’ was in a missing portion of his letter of [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15). Roland Trimen visited CD at Down on 28 and 29 December 1867 (Correspondence vol. 15, letter to Roland Trimen, 24 December [1867]).
Weale’s request for a photograph was in a missing portion of his letter of [10 December 1867] (Correspondence vol. 15). CD probably sent a photograph from a series taken by Ernest Edwards in 1866 (see Correspondence vol. 14). No photograph of Weale has been found in the Darwin Archive–CUL.


Browne, Janet. 1995. Charles Darwin. Voyaging. Volume I of a biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

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

Di Gregorio, Mario A. 1984. T. H. Huxley’s place in natural science. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

‘Distribution of the erratic boulders’: On the distribution of the erratic boulders and on the contemporaneous unstratified deposits of South America. By Charles Darwin. [Read 5 May 1841.] Transactions of the Geological Society of London 2d ser. 6 (1841–2): 415–31. [Shorter publications, pp. 147–62. For read date, see Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 3 (1838–42): 425.]

Edwards, Elizabeth. 1990. The image as anthropological document. Photographic ‘types’: the pursuit of method. Visual Anthropology 3: 235–58.

Herbert, Sandra. 2005. Charles Darwin, geologist. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Weale, James Philip Mansel. 1867. Notes on the structure and fertilization of the genus Bonatea, with a special description of a species found at Bedford, South Africa. [Read 7 March 1867.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 10 (1869): 470–6.


Thanks for information on expression.

Poor progress of civilisation in South Africa. CD’s doubts and fears about democracy.

JPMW’s views on glaciation in S. Africa will discredit him unless supported by clearest evidence.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Philip Mansel Weale
Sent from
Source of text
University of Virginia Library, Special Collections (3314 1: 50)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5795,” accessed on 18 January 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16