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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   25 July 1845

Down Bromley Kent.

Friday. 25 July 1845.1

My dear Henslow.

Very many thanks for your ten notes, and enclosures: I had seen the Paragraph otherwise I should have been much interested in the death of (as he styled himself) “Comte Thierry, King of Nukahiva and Sovereign Chief of New Zealand”2 I wonder what has become of his wretched wife. I sincerely hope that your allotments will succeed;3 all that I have read in favour of them sounds most encouraging, and I have never been convinced by what has been written against them. I have bought a Farm in Lincolnshire and when I go there this Autumn, I mean to see what I can do in providing any cottage on my small estate with gardens— It is a hopeless thing to look to but I believe few things would do this Country more good in future ages4 than the destruction of primogeniture,—so as to lessen the difference in land wealth & make more small freeholders.— How atrociously unjust are the stamp laws which render it so expensive for the poor man to buy his 14 of an acre,5 it makes one’s blood burn with indignation. Have you seen Lyells Travels?6 He says the poorer classes in Canada complain of the timber duties! so that our Cottages are badly built under pretence to benefit a few rich merchants really no doubt for our own landowners.

Thanks for the slip about the Crag— I am astonished that stones containing 50–60 per cent of Phosphate of Lime are not most valuable.7

A fortnight ago we had born a little boy, our fourth child.—8 He is to be called George; & I believe I have pleasant associations with that name from formerly playing with your Boy.—9 I hope Mrs. Henslow is better.

Farewell. | C. D.


The date is given as it appears on a copy of the letter in the Cambridge University Library (the original has not been found). Francis Darwin in LL 1: 343 n. refers to it as of ‘July 4th’, but the reference to George Darwin’s birth (on 9 July) makes that impossible. It does suggest, however, that the original may have been dated simply ‘Friday’.
Charles Philip Hippolytus, Baron (not Comte) de Thierry. The report of his death was false. As ‘Sovereign Chief of New Zealand’ he threatened to take by force land which he claimed to own (see New Zealand encyclopaedia). Robert FitzRoy records that the Beagle’s arrival in New Zealand caused alarm because it was mistaken for Thierry’s ship (Narrative 2: 567).
Henslow had begun a scheme to provide the poor country labourers of his parish with gardens by sub-letting small plots to them. He met with strong opposition from the farm-owners. See Jenyns 1862, pp. 88–92, and Russell-Gebbett 1977, pp. 30–1.
‘in future ages’ is interlined in the copyist’s hand and was probably also interlined in the original.
Stamp duty payable on a conveyance on sale was made up of a sum charged for the deed and a sum calculated upon the value of the property transferred. For a large sale, e.g., CD’s farm at Beesby, this would amount to about 1% of the selling price, but for a small sale, a 14 acre of land for, say, £20–30, it would be nearer 10%.
C. Lyell 1845a.
Henslow had discovered beds of phosphate nodules in the Suffolk Crag while on holiday. Analysis showed them to be rich in phosphate of lime, which Henslow pointed out made them a useful source of fertiliser. (Henslow 1845b, Jenyns 1862, pp. 201–2 and Russell-Gebbett 1977, pp. 95–6).
CD and Emma’s third child, Mary Eleanor, had died in infancy; George was therefore their fourth surviving child.


Jenyns, Leonard. 1862. Memoir of the Rev. John Stevens Henslow, late rector of Hitcham, and professor of botany in the University of Cambridge. London: John Van Voorst.

LL: The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Edited by Francis Darwin. 3 vols. London: John Murray. 1887–8.

Narrative: Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. [Edited by Robert FitzRoy.] 3 vols. and appendix. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Russell-Gebbett, Jean. 1977. Henslow of Hitcham: botanist, educationalist and clergyman. Lavenham, Suffolk: Terence Dalton.


CD has bought a farm in Lincolnshire. Criticises primogeniture and stamp laws on land purchase.

Announces birth of G. H. Darwin.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 145: 59
Physical description
C 2pp C

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 895,” accessed on 22 February 2024,

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