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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Thomas Bell   [26 April – August 1845]1



My dear Bell

Would you kindly take the trouble to send me a line (to 7. Park St. Grosvenor Square) to tell me Bibron’s2 address, without indeed, which wd be much better, you could tell me the two points, I am anxious about.—viz, the name of the Trigonocephalus3 from B. Blanca and secondly whether there be more than one species of snake at the Galapagos, & whether such have a S. American physiognomy.4

I am right, in thinking that you sent all my snakes to Bibron?

My reason for wanting to know is that I am preparing a second Edit. of my Journal for Murray’s Colonial Library.

I hope you are well; does not this rain gladden your heart, when you think of the meadows of Selbourne?5

Pray give my kind compliments to Mrs. Bell, and believe me | Ever yours truly | C. Darwin

Wd you let me have a line soon.—


The date range is that of the composition of Journal of researches 2d ed. (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 3, Appendix II).
Gabriel Bibron. Bell had sent CD’s Beagle collection of snakes to him (see Reptiles, p. vi) for use in Duméril and Bibron 1834–54, vols. 6 and 7: in vol. 6, p. xii, the authors acknowledge having received specimens from Bell.
Trigonocephalus was the then accepted term for a genus which included pit vipers. The snake in question interested CD because, though it lacks a rattle, it displays the rattlesnake’s habit of rapidly vibrating the end of its tail when irritated or surprised: ‘showing how every character, even though it may be in some degree independent of structure, has a tendency to vary by slow degrees’ (Journal of researches 2d ed., p. 96). In a note at the end of the volume (p. 506) CD reports that Bibron thought it to be a new species, which he proposed to call T. crepitans.
‘There is one snake which is numerous; it is identical, as I am informed by M. Bibron, with the Psammophis Temminckii from Chile’ (Journal of researches 2d ed., p. 381).
Bell, a great admirer of Gilbert White, had purchased White’s house, ‘The Wakes’, in Selborne, Hampshire.


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

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Reptiles: Reptiles. Pt 5 of The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle. By Thomas Bell. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1843.


Asks for Gabriel Bibron’s address. He has two questions about snakes in S. America for which he wants answers, as he is preparing a new edition of his Journal of researches.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Bell
Sent from
Source of text
Archives of the New York Botanical Garden
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 848,” accessed on 2 June 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3