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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. M. Herbert   [19 November 1836]

9 Old Square Lincoln’s Inn

Saturday Night.

My dear Darwin,

Welcome, right welcome, was the sight of that good round unmistakeable hand of yours, as your letter lay on my breakfast table this morning: I began to fear that there must be some fatal obstacle in the way of our ever again meeting or corresponding— I did not pass thro’ Shrewsbury until the Saturday after I had intended, which will excuse the servant from the charge of stupidity in not giving me the letter; besides, I was in such a desperate hurry that the man had no time to recollect yr. message— The first thing I did after I got to town, which was some 2 or 3 days before you left, was to endeavour to beat up your quarters; but alas vain were all my enquiries; nobody that we knew seemed to be conscious of yr. return to England. The Court Guide told me that yr. brothers lodgings were in Regent St:; I went there, whence I was directed to 34 Marlborough St:1 but the engaging fair one, who opened to my knock, cd give me no clue to the object of my enquiries— I then went to Yarrell’s; he had seen you the night before, & knew that you were going to stay in town ’till the Saturday, but had no notion where you were to be met with. My slow brain never suggested Mr. Hope to me ‘till it was too late, and ’till Secker told me that he had heard from yr. cousin (Wedgwood) that you had actually left town. Mind you must soothe my disappointment next week, or when you next come to town, by exhibiting (for you are, as you sd. you shd. be, a Lion, or at all events a Puma) at my Rooms, No. 9. Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn

I am right glad to hear of yr. intention of going down to Cambridge, as I have serious thoughts of spending the Xmas vacation there myself, being at length in a condition to satisfy the unliquidated claims of those gentlemen from whom even you did not on all occasions think it prudent to take the Wall.2 I say I am right glad of yr. determination, as we will have sundry reunions, to remind us of those by-gone days, which most of us can recur to with pleasure, but of the happiness of which I for one doubt the return—

You ask me about my future plans; Heaven only knows; I am in the most perplexing state of indecision poor mortal was ever in; one moment I am bent on turning a country conveyancer, another—a circuit lawyer, another—Chancery has its charms,3 then I have serious thoughts of going into orders, & putting myself under the tuition of some country curate to grind me in divinity. Don’t however suppose that I am turned grumbler in my old age, nor expect me to be a philosopher; I am just what I was, the same mixture of absurdity, egotism, & imperturbability, (so long as the electricity is not too violently excited by stroking against the hair,) with a strong dash of the chiaro oscuro, producing however no effect.

I can’t admit the charge of having defamed yr. musical taste, tho’ I have often spoken of yr. want of musical memory, the coexistence of which with yr. musical taste & longings has been often the subject of my most curious speculations. Yet I can’t understand how or when or to whom I even mentioned it, so as to come to the ears of yr. fair cousins, whom I do not remember ever to have met or seen. “Faith I think I see & hear you now, on my having tried you with “God save the King” or “Cherry Ripe”—“By G— — old fellow, I don’t know, but isn’t it the Hallelujah I heard in King’s last Sunday?” At times I imagine yr. fondness for music must have been the result of reasoning, tho’ the intensity of yr. feeling it, as evinced by yr. back-bone criticisms on Handel’s Choruses, wd. lead one to infer a very large developement of the organ of Tune.4

Whitley’s wedding was rather a grand affair, what with a Bishop officiating as Minister, & myself as Paranymph.5 On the night after his wedding the Company staying in the Bride’s Sisters’ house got up an Amateur Play, & I was obliged to personate Bob Acres!!6 Mrs. Whitley is a very ladylike accomplished & agreable person, with more pretentions to intellectual than personal powers of fascination; she is just the person one wd wish, tho’ I think not expect, him to marry. You must not be offended at his not answering yr. letter, as that is his custom, he having the unfeelingness to treat me, his cousin ex parte maternâ, in this manner. Have you seen Cameron yet? He has just been ordained to the Curacy of Whitchurch. Watkins is stationed at Clirow7 in Radnorshire, as Venables’s Father’s Curate. We must have a meeting of the Club8 to welcome you on yr. return, when you must bring up yr. reports of TransAtlantic Cookery— What is the Story between you & Buckland?9

God bless you. I shall be on the most anxious look out for you— | Yrs. most affly. J M Herbert


E. A. Darwin lived at 43 Great Marlborough Street.
Herbert was called to the bar in May 1835. He became a County Court Judge in 1847 (Alum. Cantab.).
See Autobiography, pp. 61–2, for CD’s memories of music at Cambridge.
Best man.
A character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals (1775).
Now spelled ‘Clyro’.
The Glutton (or Gourmet) Club (see letter from Frederick Watkins, [18 September 1831], n. 1).
Herbert may have heard that William Buckland intended to discuss CD’s fossils in the second edition of his Bridgewater treatise (see letter to J. S. Henslow, [30–1 October 1836], n. 5).


Alum. Cantab.: Alumni Cantabrigienses. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900. Compiled by John Venn and J. A. Venn. 10 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1922–54.

Autobiography: The autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. With original omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by Nora Barlow. London: Collins. 1958.


Welcomes CD; has tried to find him. May see him in Cambridge. Reminisces about CD’s musical taste and memory. Describes Charles Whitley’s wedding and wife. Mentions friends.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Maurice Herbert
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Lincoln’s Inn, Old Square, 9
C NO 21 1836
Source of text
DAR 204: 137
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 323,” accessed on 25 September 2021,

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