skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. M. Herbert   2 June 1833

Maldonado, Rio Plata

June 2d.— 1833.—

My dear Herbert

I have been confined for the last three days to a miserable dark room in an old Spanish house from the torrents of rain.— I am not therefore in very good trim for writing, but defying the blue devils I will send you a few lines if it is merely to thank you very sincerely for writing to me.— I received your letter, dated December 1st. a short time since.— We are now passing part of the winter in the R. Plata, after having had a hard summers work to the South.— Tierra del Fuego is indeed a miserable place; the ceaseless fury of the gales is quite tremendous.— One evening we saw old Cape Horn & three weeks afterwards, we were only 30 miles to Windward of it.— It is a grand spectacle to see all nature thus raging: but Heaven knows every one in the Beagle has seen enough in this one summer to last them their natural lives.— The first place we landed at was Good Success Bay, it was here Banks & Solander met such disasters on ascending one of the mountains. The weather was tolerably fine, & I enjoyed some walks in a wild country like that behind Barmouth The valleys are impenetrable from the entangled woods, but the higher parts, near the limits of perpetual snow, are bare.— From some of these hills the scenery from its savage, solitary character was most sublime.— the only inhabitant of these heights is the Guanaco, & with its shrill neighing it often breaks the glacial stillness.— The consciousness, that no European had ever trod much of this ground, added to the delight of these rambles.—

How often, & how vividly have many of the hours spent at Barmouth come before my mind. I look back to that time with no common pleasure; at this moment I can see you seated on the hill behind the Inn, almost as plainly as if we were really there.— It is necessary to be separated from all which one has been accustomed to, to know how properly to treasure up such recollections, & at this distance, I may add, how properly to esteem such as yourself.— My dear old Herbert I wonder when I shall ever see you again; I hope it may be as you say, surrounded with heaps of parchment; but then there must be sooner or later a dear little lady to take care of you & your house.— Such a delightful vision makes me quite envious.— This is a curious sort of life for a regular shore-going person, such as myself.— the worst part of it is its extreme length.— there is certainly a great deal of high enjoyment & on the contrary a tolerable share of vexation of spirit.— every thing however shall bend to the pleasure of grubbing up old bones & captivating new animals.— By the way you rank my Nat: Hist: labours far too high: I am nothing more than a lions provider; I do not feel at all sure, that they wi⁠⟨⁠ll⁠⟩⁠ not growl & finally destroy me.—

It does ones heart good to hear how things are going on in England.— Hurrah for the honest Whigs.— I trust they will soon attack that monstrous stain on our boasted liberty, Colonial Slavery.— I have seen enough of Slavery & the dispositions of the negros, to be thoroughly disgusted with the lies & nonsense one hears on the subject in England. Thank God the cold-hearted Tories, who as J Mackintosh used to say, have no enthusiasm except against enthusiasm, have for the present run their race.— I am sorry, by your letter, to hear you have not been well & that you partly attribute it to want of exercise.— I wish you were here amongst the green plains: we would take walks which would rival the Dolgelley ones: & you should tell stories which I would believe even to a cubic fathom of pudding: instead of this I must take my solitary ramble; think of Cambridge days & pick up Snakes, beetles & Toads.

Excuse this short letter; you know I never studied the complete letter-writer & believe me my dear Herbert | Your affectionate friend | Chas. Darwin.—

Pray, Write again: Remember me to all friends & Whitley. I shall never forget how many pleasant hours I have spent with the latter: Read Heads gallop, if you want an accurate account of this country:

Do you ever hear anything of F Watkins, Cameron or Matthews.— I wrote to the former many months ago, but he has never answered me.—

Direct pro futuro to Valparaiso

I have just met with the following quotation in the “Sacred history of the World”, taken from the Hereford!! Journal. November 1824.1 Carnations have been engrafted on Fennel & for the first two or three years the flowers were green: Likewise Peaches on a Mulberry, in which case the fruit will have a purple dye to the stone.—

Were you the original & ingenious experimentalist? I think I have heard you argue that White Lies do no harm.— Here are green Carnations & purple Peaches brought foreward to show the beneficence of Providence.— When such evidence is proved false, who will not become a Sceptic.— Reflect—, if the Author, what awful consequences may have been produced.—


Turner 1832–7, 2: 111 and n., quotes a ‘Letter to the Editor’ from ‘Ethelbert’, Hereford Journal … (24 November 1824). The quoted passage also appears in Bradley 1726, 2: 301. Herbert went to Hereford school, which explains CD’s exclamation marks.


Bradley, Richard. 1726. A general treatise on husbandry and gardening. 2 vols. London.

Turner, Sharon. 1832–7. The sacred history of the world, as displayed in the creation and subsequent events to the deluge. Attempted to be philosophically considered in a series of letters to a son. 3 vols. London.


Describes Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn; was reminded of hours at Barmouth; chafes at the length of the trip.

Hopes the Whigs will do away with slavery – has seen enough of it and Negroes to be disgusted with the lies heard in England.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Maurice Herbert
Sent from
Maldonado, Rio Plata
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.5)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 209,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

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