But as for novelty all this is nothing to a family of pelagic animals which at first sight appear like Medusae but are really highly organised. I have examined them repeatedly, and certainly from their structure it would be impossible to place them in any existing order. Perhaps Salpa is the nearest animal, although the transparency of the body is nearly the only character they have in common. I think the dried plants nearly contain all which were then (Bahia Blanca) flowering. All the specimens will be packed in casks. I think there will be three (before sending this letter I will specify dates, etc., etc.). I am afraid you will groan or rather the floor of the lecture room will when the casks arrive. Without you I should be utterly undone. The small cask contains fish: will you open it to see how the spirit has stood the evaporation of the Tropics. On board the ship everything goes on as well as possible; the only drawback is the fearful length of time between this and the day of our return. I do not see any limits to it. One year is nearly completed and the second will be so, before we even leave the east coast of S. America. And then our voyage may be said really to have commenced. I know not how I shall be able to endure it. The frequency with which I think of all the happy hours I have spent at Shrewsbury and Cambridge is rather ominous--I trust everything to time and fate and will feel my way as I go on.

November 24th.--We have been at Buenos Ayres for a week; it is a fine large city, but such a country, everything is mud, you can go nowhere, you can do nothing for mud. In the city I obtained much information about the banks of the Uruguay--I hear of limestone with shells, and beds of shells in every direction. I hope when we winter in the Plata to have a most interesting geological excursion into that country: I purchased fragments (Nos. 837-8) of some enormous bones, which I was assured belonged to the former giants!! I also procured some seeds--I do not know whether they are worth your accepting; if you think so I will get some more. They are in the box. I have sent to you by the "Duke of York" packet, commanded by Lieut. Snell, to Falmouth two large casks containing fossil bones, a small cask with fish and a box containing skins, spirit bottle, etc., and pill- boxes with beetles. Would you be kind enough to open these latter as they are apt to become mouldy. With the exception of the bones the rest of my collection looks very scanty. Recollect how great a proportion of time is spent at sea. I am always anxious to hear in what state the things come and any criticisms about quantity or kind of specimens. In the smaller cask is part of a large head, the anterior portions of which are in the other large one. The packet has arrived and I am in a great bustle. You will not hear from me for some months.

LETTER 5. TO J.S. HENSLOW. Valparaiso, July 24th 1834.

A box has just arrived in which were two of your most kind and affectionate letters. You do not know how happy they have made me. One is dated December 15th, 1833, the other January 15th of the same year! By what fatality it did not arrive sooner I cannot conjecture; I regret it much, for it contains the information I most wanted, about manner of packing, etc., etc.: roots with specimens of plants, etc., etc. This I suppose was written after the reception of my first cargo of specimens. Not having heard from you until March of this year I really began to think that my collections were so poor, that you were puzzled what to say; the case is now quite on the opposite tack; for you are guilty of exciting all my vain feelings to a most comfortable pitch; if hard work will atone for these thoughts, I vow it shall not be spared. It is rather late, but I will allude to some remarks in the January letter; you advise me to send home duplicates of my notes; I have been aware of the advantage of doing so; but then at sea to this day, I am invariably sick, excepting on the finest days, at which times with pelagic animals around me, I could never bring myself to the task--on shore the most prudent person could hardly expect such a sacrifice of time.

More Letters of Charles Darwin Volume I Page 14

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Charles Darwin

All Pages of This Book