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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Gould   [c. October 1846]1

Down Farnborough Kent


Dear Gould

I have seen in the Papers that you are going to Guatimala; is this actually true!!2 I am very curious to know, but my immediate object in writing is to say that I have had a letter from Dr. Dieffenbach expressing a great wish to accompany you.3 His means of living, however, are limited & he could not travel under 200£ per annum. All his collections would be at his employer’s disposal.— He has a very general & I believe sound knowledge on Chemistry, Geology, Natural Philosophy & some Botany & Zoology, so that he would be in many respects a very good man for an Expedition.— Will you kindly send me a line & tell me some news of your plans? Pray do.—

Do you know anything & would you exert yourself a little to get Dieffenbach taken on Ld. Ranelagh’s expedition,4 supposing, as I fear is too probable, that you will not want him yourself.5

With all good wishes. Ever yours sincerely. | C. Darwin


Dated on the basis of nn. 2 and 5, below.
John Gould never went to Guatemala (Sauer 1982) although it appears that he did begin to plan such an expedition, see n. 5, below. No reference to his plans in British newspapers has been traced; however, in a letter to John Gould dated 29 October 1846 (British Museum (Natural History), Zoology Library) Ernst Dieffenbach states that Gould’s proposed expedition was mentioned in the continental newspaper Galignani.
This letter has not been found, but see letters to Edward Forbes, 13 May [1845], and to J. D. Hooker, [19 May 1846], in which CD refers to Dieffenbach’s wish to join a natural history expedition. In 1845 Dieffenbach was offered an opportunity to join an expedition to the west coast of North America, which he declined (see G. Bell, pp. 110–11).
Thomas Heron Jones, 3d Viscount Ranelagh, announced plans for an expedition to South America in Athenæum, 8 August 1846, p. 819, and further details were published in Athenæum, 21 November 1846, p. 1191. The expedition was never carried out.
Dieffenbach wrote to Gould on his own behalf, reiterating the comments made by CD, in a letter dated 29 October 1846 from Giessen (British Museum (Natural History), Zoology Library). Gould’s reply, dated 25 November 1846, makes it clear that his plans were ‘still in Embryo’, that the newspaper reports were unauthorized, and that he was in no position to offer Dieffenbach any assistance (British Museum (Natural History), Zoology Library).


Athenæum. 1844. A few words by way of comment on Miss Martineau’s statement. No. 896 (28 December): 1198–9.

Sauer, Gordon C. 1982. John Gould: the bird man. A chronology and bibliography. London: H. Sotheran.


Recommends Ernst Dieffenbach for expedition to Guatemala.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Gould
Sent from
Source of text
Cambridge University Library Add 4251: 329
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13812,” accessed on 26 June 2022,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 3