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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   [28 May 1837]1

[36 Great Marlborough Street]

My dear Henslow

I am very much obliged to you for thinking of sending me up the chart and account of Diego Garcia.—2 It is a beautiful instance of a Lagoon Island,—but I was previously aware of its existence.— On Wednesday I am going to read a short account of my views of the whole affair,3 and Lyell I believe intends giving up the crater doctrine.—4 so that I am just at present full of interest on the subject.—

I fear by your letter you cared more about the edible Fungi than I thought.— I took them to Mr Brown, who said he had never seen anything of the sort before, & appeared interested on the subject, but whether he means describe them, & for what he wants them,—I have not a guess at some future time, if I can summon courage I will ask him, but I stand in great awe of Robertus Brown.—

I forgot to say I hope you will express my thanks to Mr Parker, for his kindness in so readily forwarding the chart;— I know of no particular

questions to ask; as the only one of which I am very anxious that of subsidence, would require a very guarded examination on the spot, with such ideas in view.—

I have told Eyton you would take Freycinet,5 & he now tells me he has the whole of the letter press; which I send together with this letter.—

Since writing last, our plans about publishing are become definite with respect to time.— I shall begin to print in the beginning of August; but the whole will not be published till November 1st.— The questions about plants are very few in number which I want answered, and I will copy them out on the other side.— A man ought to go round the world two or three times to learn experience. I suspect I have begun at the wrong end, I ought to have published detailed Geology, & Zoology first; & then all general views might have come out in as perfect a form, as the subject permitted.— Now the first book, will consist of mere series of imperfect sketches.— But it cannot be helped, and I am determined not to plague myself about it. Things shall take their course, and I will do as well as I can.— I will copy out the list of Botanical questions on a separate piece of paper.—

I have been paying the Beagle a visit to day. She sails in a week for Australia. It appeared marvellously odd to see the little vessel—and to think that I should not be one of the party.— If it was not for the sea sickness, I should have no objection to start again.— I envy you people in the country; even the smoky gardens near Greenwich looked quite beautiful, so fresh & green.—

Yours ever most truly | Chas. Darwin—

N.B. If you should ever have an opportunity, will you send one of those junctions of the Parasitical bush & Beech, which I brought home for Mr Brown.— I have always forgotten it.—


The date, written on the letter by Henslow, may be the date of receipt.
Main island of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
CD read his paper ‘On certain areas of elevation and subsidence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as deduced from the study of coral formations’ at the Geological Society on 31 May 1837 (Collected papers 1: 46–9).
See Charles Lyell’s letter to J. F. W. Herschel, 24 May 1837: ‘I am very full of Darwin’s new theory of Coral Islands, and have urged Whewell to make him read it at our next meeting. I must give up my volcanic crater theory for ever, though it costs me a pang at first, for it accounted for so much’ (K. M. Lyell, ed. 1881, 2: 12).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Lyell, Katharine Murray, ed. 1881. Life, letters and journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. 2 vols. London: John Murray.


CD to read paper on formation of coral islands at Geological Society. Lyell seems prepared to give up [his view].

Publication of the Narrative is now definite. Feels he should have published journal after the geology and zoology of the voyage.

Robert Brown, as well as JSH, is interested in edible fungi from Tierra del Fuego.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
London, Gt Marlborough St, 36
Source of text
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Henslow letters: 36 DAR/1/1/36)
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 356,” accessed on 6 February 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2