skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   6 May 1849

The Lodge, Malvern

May 6, 1849

My dear Henslow

Your kind note has been forwarded to me here. You will be surprised to hear that we all, children servants and all have been here for nearly two months. All last autumn and winter my health grew worse and worse; incessant sickness, tremulous hands and swimming head; I thought I was going the way of all flesh. Having heard of much success in some cases from the Cold Water Cure, I determined to give up all attempts to do anything and come here and put myself under Dr. Gully. It has answered to a considerable extent: my sickness much checked and considerable strength gained. Dr. G., moreover, (and I hear he rarely speaks confidently) tells me he has little doubt but that he can cure me, in the course of time, time however it will take. I have experienced enough to feel sure that the Cold Water Cure is a great powerful agent and upsetter of all constitutional habits. Talking of habits the cruel wretch has made me leave off snuff—that chief solace of life. We thank you most sincerely for your prompt and early invitation to Hitcham for Brit. Assoc. for 1850:1 if I am made well and strong, most gladly will I accept it; but as I have been hitherto, a drive every day of half-a-dozen miles would be more than I could stand with attending any of the sections. I intend going to Birmingham, if able; indeed I am bound to attempt it, for I am honoured beyond all measure in being one of the V.P.2 I am uncommonly glad you will be there; I fear, however, we shall not have any such charming trips as Nuneham and Dropmore.3 We shall stay here till at least June 1st., perhaps till July 1st., and I shall have to go on with the aqueous treatment at home for several more months. One most singular effect of the treatment is, that it induces in most people, and eminently in my case, the most complete stagnation of mind: I have ceased to think even of Barnacles!

I heard sometime since from Hooker; but the letter was so purely Geological that I did not suppose it would interest Miss Henslow: How capitally he seems to have succeeded in all his enterprises. You must be very busy now: I happened to be thinking the other day over the Gamlingay trip to the Lilies of the Valley:4 are those were delightful days5 when one had no such organ as a stomach, only a mouth and the masticating appurtenances. I am very much surprised at what you say, that men are beginning to work in earnest [at] Botany.6 What a loss it will be for Nat. History, that you have ceased to reside all the year in Cambridge.

My dear Henslow farewell. | Yours most affectionately | C. Darwin

I hope that Mrs. Henslow is much better: we are all flourishing.


After the introduction of new regulations in 1848, the British Association listed the towns which had proferred invitations for future meetings. An invitation from Ipswich for 1849, ‘signed by the High Sheriff, the Bishop of Norwich, and eighty gentlemen of the Eastern Counties’, had been received by the British Association’s general committee at the meeting held in Swansea, 8–16 August 1848 (see Report of the 19th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Birmingham in 1849, p. xviii). Although Ipswich, close to Henslow’s parish of Hitcham, was evidently rejected for a meeting in 1849, the British Association may have planned to meet there in 1850, but, if so, the meeting was postponed until 1851. The 1850 meeting took place in Edinburgh.
CD, much improved in health by September, was able to attend the British Association meeting. He was one of eight vice-presidents.
Henslow and his family had accompanied CD and Joseph Dalton Hooker on these outings to famous beauty spots at the time of the Oxford meeting of the British Association.
Wild lilies of the valley grew there (see ML 1: 67 n. 1). During CD’s undergraduate years, he and other young naturalists went on several entomological and botanical excursions to Gamlingay with Henslow.
The copyist wrote ‘are those were delightful days’, but the ‘are’ was probably a misreading of CD’s ‘ah’. Francis Darwin, who saw the original when editing ML, has ‘ah, those’ (ML 1: 67).
This refers to the improved status given to natural science in the universities as a result of educational reforms in 1848.


ML: More letters of Charles Darwin: a record of his work in a series of hitherto unpublished letters. Edited by Francis Darwin and Albert Charles Seward. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1903.


Describes cold water cure he has been taking for two months at J. M. Gully’s establishment.

Plans to go to BAAS meeting at Birmingham if health improves.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 145: 63
Physical description
C 3pp C

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1241,” accessed on 25 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4