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at Shrewsbury on October 4, 1836, “after an absence of five years and two days." He wrote to Fox: “You cannot imagine how gloriously delightful my first visit was at home; is was worth the banishment.” But it was a pleasure that he could not long enjoy, for in the last days of October he was at Greenwich unpacking specimens from the Beagle. As to the destination of the collections he writes, somewhat despondingly, to Henslow :
“I have not made much progress with the great men. I find, as you told me, that they are all overwhelmed with their own business. Mr. Lyell has entered, in the most goodnatured manner, and almost without being asked, into all my plans. He tells me, however, the same story, that I must do all myself. Mr. Owen seems anxious to dissect some of the animals in spirits, and, besides these two, I have scarcely met any one who seems to wish to possess any of my specimens. I must except Dr. Grant, who is willing to examine some of the corallines. I see it is quite unreasonable to hope for a minute that any man will undertake the examination of a whole order. It is clear the collectors so much outnumber the real naturalists that the latter have no time to spare.
“I do not even find that the Collections care for receiving the unnamed specimens. The Zoological Museum * is nearly full, and upwards of a thousand specimens remain unmounted. I dare say the British Museum would receive them, but I cannot feel, from all I hear, any great respect even for the present state of that establishment. Your plan will be not only the best, but the only one, namely, to come down to Cambridge, arrange and group together the different families, and then wait till people, who are already working in different branches, may want specimens. But it appears to me (that)
 to do this it will be almost necessary to reside in London. As far as I can yet see my best plan will be to spend several months in Cambridge, and then when, by your assistance, I
* The Museum of the Zoological Society, then at 33 Bruton Street The collection was some years later broken up and dispersed.
know on what ground I stand, to emigrate to London, where
I I can complete my Geology and try to push on the Zoology. I assure you I grieve to find how many things make me see the necessity of living for some time in this dirty, odious London. For even in Geology I suspect much assistance and communication will be necessary in this quarter, for instance, in fossil bones, of which none excepting the fragments of Megatherium have been looked at, and I clearly see that without my presence they never would be. ...
“I only wish I had known the Botanists cared so much for specimens * and the Zoologists so little; the proportional number of specimens in the two branches should have had a very different appearance. I am out of patience with the Zoologists, not because they are overworked, but for their mean, quarrelsome spirit. I went the other evening to the Zoological Society, where the speakers were snarling at each other in a manner anything but like that of gentlemen. Thank Heavens! as long as I remain in Cambridge there will not be any danger of falling into any such contemptible quarrels, whilst in London I do not see how it is to be avoided. Of the Naturalists, F. Hope is out of London ; Westwood I have not seen, so about my insects I know nothing. I have seen Mr. Yarrell twice, but he is so evidently oppressed with business that it is too selfish to plague him with my concerns. He has asked me to dine with the Linnean on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I dine with the Geological, so that I shall see all the great men. Mr. Bell, I hear, is so much occupied that there is no chance of his wishing for specimens of reptiles. I have forgotten to mention Mr. Lonsdale,* who gave me a most cordial reception, and with whom I had much most interesting conversation. If I was not much more inclined for geology than the other branches of Natural History, I am sure Mr. Lyell's and Lonsdale's kindness ought to fix me. You cannot conceive anything more thoroughly good-natured than the heart-and-soul manner in which he put himself in my place and thought what would be best to do. At first he was all for London versus Cambridge, but at last I made him confess that, for some time at least, the latter would be for me much the best. There is not another soul whom I could ask, excepting yourself, to wade through and criticise some of those papers which I have left with you. Mr. Lyell owned that, second to London, there was no place in England so good for a Naturalist as Cambridge. Upon my word I am ashamed of writing so many foolish details; no young lady ever described her first ball with more particularity."
* A passage in a subsequent letter shows that his plants also gave him some anxiety. “I met Mr. Brown a few days after you had called on him; he asked me in rather an ominous manner what I meant to do with my plants. In the course of conversation Mr. Broderip, who was present, remarked to him, “You forget how long it is since Captain King's expedition.' He answered, “Indeed, I have something in the shape of Captain Kings's undescribed plants to make me recollect it.' Could a better reason be given, if I had been asked, by me, for not giving the plants to the British Museum ? "
A few days later he writes more cheerfully: "I became acquainted with Mr. Bell, † who to my surprise expressed a good deal of interest about my crustacea and reptiles, and seems willing to work at them. I also heard that Mr. Broderip would be glad to look over the South American shells, so that things flourish well with me.”
About his plants he writes with characteristic openness as to his own ignorance: “You have made me known amongst the botanists, but I felt very foolish when Mr. Don remarked on the beautiful appearance of some plant with an astounding long name, and asked me about its habitation. Some one else seemed quite surprised that I knew nothing about a Carex
* William Lonsdale, b 1794, d. 1871, was originally in the army, and served at the battles of Salamanca and Waterloo. After the war he left the service and gave himself up to science. He acted as assistant secretary to the Geological Society from 1829–42, when he resigned, owing to ill health.
+ T. Bell, F.R.S., formerly Prof. of Zoology in King's College, London, and sometime secretary to the Royal Society. He afterwards described the reptiles for the zoology of the voyage of the Beagle.
from I do not know where. I was at last forced to plead most entire innocence, and that I knew no more about the plants which I had collected than the man in the moon."
As to part of his Geological Collection he was soon able to write : "I [have disposed of the most important part [of] my collections, by giving all the fossil bones to the College of Surgeons, casts of them will be distributed, and descriptions published. They are very curious and valuable ; one head belonged to some gnawing animal, but of the size of a Hippopotamus! Another to an ant-eater of the size of a horse!”
It is worth noting that at this time the only extinct mammalia from South America, which had been described, were Mastodon (three species) and Megatherium. The remains of the other extinct Edentata from Sir Woodbine Parish's collection had not been described. My father's specimens included (besides the above-mentioned Toxodon and Scelidotherium) the remains of Mylodon, Glossotherium, another gigantic animal allied to the ant-eater, and Macrauchenia. His discovery of these remains is a matter of interest in itself, but it has a special importance as a point in his own life, since it was the vivid impression produced by excavating them with his own hands * that formed one of the chief starting-points of his speculation on the origin of species. This is shown in the following extract from his Pocket Book for this year (1837): “In July opened first note-book on Transmutation of Species. Had been greatly struck from about the month of previous March on character of South American fossils, and species on Galapagos Archipelago. These facts (especially latter), origin of all my views."]
* I have often heard him speak of the despair with which he had to break off the projecting extremity of a huge, partly excavated bone, when the boat waiting for him would wait no longer.
C. Darwin to W. D. Fox.
November 6th (1836). MY DEAR Fox,
I have taken a shamefully long time in answering your letter. But the busiest time of the whole voyage has been tranquillity itself to this last month. After paying Henslow a short but very pleasant visit, I came up to town to wait for the Beagle's arrival. At last I have removed all my property from on board, and sent the specimens of Natural History to Cambridge, so that I am now a free man. My London visit has been quite idle as far as Natural History goes, but has been passed in most exciting dissipation amongst the Dons in science. All my affairs, indeed, are most prosperous; I find there are plenty who will undertake the description of whole tribes of animals, of which I know nothing. So that about this day month I hope to set to work tooth and nail at the Geology, which I shall publish by itself.
It is quite ridiculous what an immensely long period it appears to me since landing at Falmouth. The fact is I have talked and laughed enough for years instead of weeks, so [that] my memory is quite confounded with the noise. I am delighted to hear you are turned geologist : when I pay the Isle of Wight a visit, which I am determined shall somehow come to pass, you will be a capital cicerone to the famous line of dislocation. I really suppose there are few parts of the world more interesting to a geologist than your island. Amongst the great scientific men, no one has been nearly so friendly and kind as Lyell. I have seen him several times, and feel inclined to like him much. You cannot imagine how good-naturedly he entered into all my plans. I speak now only of the London men, for Henslow was just like his former self, and therefore a most cordial and affectionate friend. When you pay London a visit I shall be very proud to take you to the Geological Society, for be it known, I was