skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. S. Henslow   [10 November 1839]

12 Upper Gower St

Sunday Evening

My dear Henslow

I take opportunity of MrsHenslow being here to write to you, and congratulate you on all your toils in packing up being finished. I think Ramsgate has done MrsHenslow good, though most unfortunately she caught cold & has not been well all this day.— It is very lucky there was no place in the coach tomorrow unoccupied, for I do not think she would have been able to have gone.

I am delighted to hear you have taken some of my plants with you to Hitcham.— I believe you have received a message I sent you saying that Humboldt in a letter to Me expresses at great length his vivid regret that M. Henslow has not been able to describe the species, or even characterize the genera of the very curious collection of plants from Galapagos.—1 Do think once again of making one paper on the Flora of these islands—like Roxburgh on St. Helena,2 or Endlicher on Norfolk Isld.—3 I do not think there will often occur opportunities of drawing up a monograph of more interest.— if your descriptions are frittered in different journals, the general character of the Flora never will be known, & foreigners, at least, will not be able to refer to this & that journal for the different species— But you are the best judge.—4

I have been lately reading some remarks on the geograph. distrib. of plants & I am very curious to have a paper at some time from you on the general character of the Flora of T. del. Fuego & especially of the Alpine Flora〈.〉 The one point of land, which projects so far into temper〈ate〉 countries ought to be characterized by very peculiar forms in relation to the northern hemisphere.— Robert Brown has a very large & I believe perfect collection from Tierra del Fuego, which I daresay he would allow you to undertake, if you chose, as it has been in his possession about nine years.— I do not believe, anyone has published any general account of the Flora of Patagonia,—small as my collection is,—it gives I am sure a very fair notion of the Flora—& the climate being so peculiar, I cannot fancy anything more remarkable than the contrasts of its Flora with that of Tierra del Fuego, countries so near to each other.— Do think of these points.—

I have written to Dr. Colchester5 & sent him my printed questions.—6 Dont forget to bear in mind, as you said you would for me, to notice any facts either hostile or corroboratory of my notion of all plants occasionally impregnating each other.— I keep on steadily collecting every sort of fact, which may throw light on the origin & variation of species.—

My wife sends her kind regards to you— we shall always be most happy to see you here, & the oftener the better & we hope some time to accept your kind invitation for Hitcham.

Good Bye | My dear Henslow | Ever yours | Chas. Darwin


This letter is dated by an entry in Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) for Friday 8 November 1839: ‘Mrs. Henslow came’. See letter from Alexander von Humboldt, 18 September 1839.
In Beatson 1816.
Endlicher 1833. The volume is preserved in Darwin’s Library at Down House. Norfolk Island, in the Pacific, is about 800 miles east of New South Wales.
By this time Henslow had described only two new species of Galápagos Opuntia (Henslow 1837a). He never undertook the work CD refers to but turned the specimens over to Joseph Dalton Hooker, who published an enumeration of Galápagos plants (J. D. Hooker 1845) and a discussion of their geographical distribution (J. D. Hooker 1846).
Dr Colchester has not been identified.
See Correspondence vol. 2 Appendix V for the text of these questions. Answers to CD’s questionnaire were sent from Richard Sutton Ford, 6 May 1839, and from George Tollet, [10 May 1839]. See also Freeman and Gautrey 1969.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Endlicher, Stephan Ladislaus. 1833. Prodromus florae Norfolkicae sive catalogus stirpium quae in insula Norfolk annis 1804 et 1805 a Ferdinando Bauer collectae et depictae nunc in Museo Caesareo Palatino rerum naturalium Vindobonae servantur. Vienna.


Urges JSH to describe Galapagos species in a paper on the flora of the islands.

Has been interested in geographical distribution and would be interested to have a paper by JSH on the general character of flora of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia.

"I keep on steadily collecting every sort of fact which may throw light on the origin & variation of species."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Stevens Henslow
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
The Morgan Library and Museum, New York (Heineman Collection MA 7127)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 543,” accessed on 3 August 2021,

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