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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. S. Henslow   15–21 January 1833


15 Jany 18321

My dear Darwin,

I shall begin a letter to you lest something or other should persuade me to defer it till it becomes too late for the next packet— Wood & I had intended writing by the Decr. packet, but just as was about to do so your letter arrived stating that a Box was on its road, so I thought I had better delay till I had seen its contents. It is now here & every thing has travelled well. I shall however proceed by rule & answer your two letters first & then come to the Box. The 1st date of your first letter is May 18. & this I received at Cambridge in June, no, it was sent me from Cambridge in July, to Weymouth where I was spending the summer with my family and two pupils in exploring the geology &c &c of that neighbourhood, & a capable ramble we had. I stopped at Oxford in my way there, where the British Association had assembled for a weeks scientific discussion & a delightful time it was. Next summer this society is to meet in Cambridge. When at Oxford I received a letter from the Ld Chancellor giving me a small living in Berksh: about 14 miles from Oxford. Of course I do not reside, as I never mean to quit Cambridge without something very extraordinary should happen.2 I never mean to leave it for lucres sake. We returned to Cambridge in Octr. & have had the bustle of the Election to go thru’. We could make nothing of any attempt to squeeze a Whig in for the University so gave it up.3 We have got 2 Whigs for the town and 2 Whigs & one Tory for the County— But the papers will tell you all this— At this moment I am examiner in Paley & in one hour have to attend in the Senate house. Now for a revision of your letters— I would not bother myself about whether I were right or wrong in noting such & such facts about Geology— note all that may diagram be useful—most of all, the relative positions of rocks giving a little sketch thus. No.1. (specimen (a)) about 10 feet thick, pretty uniform in character— No.2 (specim. (b.c)) variable &c &c

When Sedgwick returns we will look over your specimens & I will send you our joint report—4 they seem quite large enough!— I myself caught an Octopus at Weymouth this summer & observed the change of color whenever I opened the tin box in which I put it, but not in such great perfection as you seem to have done— The fact is not new, but any fresh observations will be highly important— Quere if a serpentine rock be not the produce of volcanic baking of a chloritic slate? The rock of St Paul may not be an exception to the usual character of the Islds. of the Atlantic.5 I have got the description of the plates to the Dict. Classique & will send it where you direct. Your account of the Tropical forest is delightful, I can’t help envying you— So far from being disappointed with the Box—I think you have done wonders—as I know you do not confine yourself to collecting, but are careful to describe— Most of the plants are very desirable to me. Avoid sending scraps. Make the specimens as perfect as you can, root, flowers & leaves & you can’t do wrong. In large ferns & leaves fold them back upon themselves on one side of the specimen & they will get into a proper sized paper. Don’t trouble yourself to stitch them—for the really travel better without it— and a single label per month to
diagram this side is folded back at the edges
those of the same place is enough except you have plenty of spare time or spare hands to write more. L. Jenyns does not know what to make of your land Planariæ. Do you mistake for such the curious Genus, “Oncidium” allied to ye slug, of which a fig. is given in Lin. Transact.6 & are not the marine species also mollusca, perhaps Doris & other genera— Specimens & observations upon these wd. be highly interesting. If you could get hold of Cuvier’s Anatomie des Mollusques,7 you wd. find it very useful but I fear it is out of print— I will tell your Brother to enquire at Truttels.8 Watkins has received your letter— And now for the Box— Lowe underpacks Darwin overpacks — The latter is in fault on the right side. You need not make quite so great a parade of tow & paper for the geologc. specimens, as they travel very well provided they be each wrapped up German fashion & closely stowed—but above all things don’t put tow round any thing before you have first wrapped it up in a piece of thin paper— It is impossible to clear away the fibres of the tow from some of your specimens without injuring them— An excellent crab has lost all its legs, & an Echinus 1 2 its spines by this error. I don’t think however than any other specimens besides these 2 have been at all injured. Another caution I wd give is to place the number on the specimen always inside & never outside the cover. The moisture & friction have rubbed off one or two—& I can’t replace them. I shall thoroughly dry the different perishable commodities & then put them in pasteboard boxes with camphor & paste over the edges, & place them in my study or some very dry place. The heavy material I shall send to my lecture room, so soon as it is again habitable—for at present we are all in confusion—building a large Museum & lecture room & private rooms adjoining mine,9 for Clark & Cumming— I must now leave off for the Senate house & put this bye till I can find a few more minutes to conclude it.—

Jany. 21. The Examn. is over & no Xts. man plucked— I don’t know whether you were acquainted with the men of this yr. (except Downes who is No. 26) or I wd send you their names— The Capt: is Laffer of Xts.—10 I have just been putting bye the perishable articles in the way I said— Birds —several have no labels— the best way is to tie the label to their legs— One has its tail feathers crumpled by being bent from bad packing—the rest in good order— Quad s. The large one capital, the 2 mice rather mouldy— Pack up an infinite quantity more of land & freshwater shells, they must be nearly all new— The minute Insects most excellent— what work you will have— You know better than I whether it is not dangerous to their antennæ & legs to pack them in cotton. I suppose if moistened by vapour they may be taken out quite safe.— The Lichens are good things as scarcely any one troubles himself to send them home— For goodness sake what is No. 22311 it looks like the remains of an electric explosion, a mere mass of soot—something very curious I daresay— Wd. it not be a good precautionary measure to transmit to England a copy of your memoranda, with your next packet? I know it is a dull job to copy out such matters—but it is highly expedient to avoid the chance of losing your notes by sending home a duplicate— Every individual specimen once arrived here becomes an object of great interest, & tho’ you were to send home 10 times as much as you do, yet when you arrive you will often think & wish how you might & had have sent home 100 times as much! things which seemed such rubbish—but now so valuable— However no one can possibly say you have not been active—& that your box is not capital. I shall not wait for Sedgwicks return before I send this but must give you an account of the Geolc. specs. in the next— I shall now forward this with the vol. of the Dict. Class. to your Brother & wish you a continuance of good success. I have no fears of your being tired of the expedition whilst you continue to meet with such as you have hitherto, & hope your spirits will not fail you in those dull moments which must occasionally intervene, during the progress of so long an undertaking. Downes & other friends have begged me to remember them to you most kindly & affectionately & Mrs Henslow adds her best wishes— Mine you well know are ever with you & I need not add that you sd believe me | Most affectly. & sincerely yrs. | J S Henslow

My 3 children are well—& my boy is growing a very fine fellow— An increase expected next June— We are in Mourning for Mrs Henslow’s Mother—


The year was written as 1832, but should be 1833.
The living, located at Cholsey-cum-Moulsford, was worth £340 a year. Henslow resided there only during the Cambridge Long Vacation (see Darwin and Henslow, p. 89 n. 1).
This was the election from which John William Lubbock withdrew. Elected were Right Hon. Henry Goulburn (Conservative) and Right Hon. Sir Charles Manners-Sutton (Conservative), Speaker of the House of Commons. For these and other returns mentioned, see Hanham 1972, pp. 43–6.
No such report has been found.
Treuttel, Wurtz and Richter, foreign and classical booksellers, 30 Soho Square (Post Office directory, 1834).
The Anatomy Museum and lecture rooms for the Anatomy and Chemistry Schools were built in 1832–3 in part of the former Botanic Garden, then located near Free School Lane.
Specimen no. 223 in CD’s ‘Zoological diary’ (DAR 30.1: 20) is identified as ‘Mucor Linn.’, a fungus.


Cuvier, Georges. 1817a. Le règne animal distribué d’après son organisation, pour servir de base a l’histoire naturelle des animaux et d’introduction à l’anatomie comparée. 4 vols. Paris: Deterville.

Darwin and Henslow: Darwin and Henslow: the growth of an idea. Letters 1831–1860. Edited by Nora Barlow. London: John Murray. 1967.

Dod, Charles Roger. 1972. Electoral facts from 1832 to 1853 impartially stated … Edited with an introduction and bibliographical guide to electoral sources, 1832–1885., by H. J. Hanham. Brighton: Harvester Press.

Guilding, Lansdown. 1825. Description of a new species of Onchidium. [Read 4 November 1823.] Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 14: 322–4 and Tab. IX.


Acknowledges receipt of two letters from CD and a box of specimens.

Mentions attendance at BAAS meeting and a gift to him of a small living near Oxford. Some political news.

Congratulates CD on the work he has done – the specimens are of great interest. Gives advice on packing, labelling, and future collecting and suggests that – as a precaution – CD send home a copy of his notes on the specimens.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Stevens Henslow
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 204: 111
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 196,” accessed on 14 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1