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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Lort Stokes   [November–December 1845]1

Down, Bromley, Kent.


My dear Stokes.

I do not think the most sensitive person has the smallest right to take offence at what you have said. You could hardly have corrected, as you were bound to do, what apparently has been a gross error, with more delicacy.2

Poor Grey has made a very amusing book, but what a catalogue of mishaps & mismanagements.3 The whole expedition was that of a set of School Boys.

Ever Yours, | C. Darwin.


In some unknown way this letter fell into the hands of George Grey, see letter from George Grey, 10 May 1846. Since letters took about seven months to travel between England and New Zealand (see letter from George Grey, 10 May 1846, received by CD on 3 November 1846), it seems probable that this letter was written late in 1845.
Stokes had asked CD to read some of the proof-sheets of his account of the Beagle survey of the north-west coast of Australia (Stokes 1846). These included passages that contradicted remarks in Grey 1841 (see letter to J. L. Stokes, 3 November 1846). Stokes differed from Grey on the height of land observed from Discovery Bay and on the course of the Glen Elg River (Stokes 1846, 1: 201-3). See also Wickham 1838, pp. 464–5. Ironically, Stokes was mistaken in believing that the Glen Elg flanked Collier Bay and emptied into mangrove swamps bordering Stokes Bay on King Sound, while Grey was more correct in thinking that the river emptied ‘somewhere between Camden Sound and Collier’s Bay’ (Grey 1841, 1: 271). In fact, the river empties into Collier Bay at the head of Doubtful Bay.
Grey 1841 is the account of an attempt to explore the interior of Australia.


Grey, George. 1841. Journals of two expeditions of discovery in north-west and western Australia, during the years 1837, 38, and 39. 2 vols. London: T. and W. Boone.

Stokes, John Lort. 1846. Discoveries in Australia. 2 vols. London: T. & W. Boone.

Wickham, John Clements. 1838. Outline of the survey of part of the N. W. coast of Australia, in HMS Beagle in 1838. Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 8: 460-6.


Comments on book by George Grey [Journals of two expeditions of discovery in north-west and Western Australia (1841)]. "The whole expedition was that of a set of School Boys".

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Lort Stokes
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 144: 121b
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 940,” accessed on 24 July 2024,

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