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The Letters of Charles Darwin


of England; and after his early boyhood he seems usually to have
gone to church and not to Mr. Case’s. It appears (”St. James’
Gazette”, Dec. 15, 1883) that a mural tablet has been erected to
his memory in the chapel, which is now known as the ’Free
Christian Church.’) my taste for natural history, and more
especially for collecting, was well developed. I tried to make
out the names of plants (Rev. W.A. Leighton, who was a
schoolfellow of my father’s at Mr. Case’s school, remembers his
bringing a flower to school and saying that his mother had taught
him how by looking at the inside of the blossom the name of the
plant could be discovered. Mr. Leighton goes on, ”This greatly
roused my attention and curiosity, and I enquired of him
repeatedly how this could be done?”–but his lesson was naturally
enough not transmissible.–F.D.), and collected all sorts of
things, shells, seals, franks, coins, and minerals. The passion
for collecting which leads a man to be a systematic naturalist, a
virtuoso, or a miser, was very strong in me, and was clearly
innate, as none of my sisters or brother ever had this taste.
One little event during this year has fixed itself very firmly in
my mind, and I hope that it has done so from my conscience having
been afterwards sorely troubled by it; it is curious as showing
that apparently I was interested at this early age in the
variability of plants! I told another little boy (I believe it
was Leighton, who afterwards became a well-known lichenologist
and botanist), that I could produce variously coloured
polyanthuses and primroses by wat ering them wit h certain coloured
fluids, which was of course a monstrous fable, and had never been
tried by me. I may here also confess that as a little boy I was
much given to inventing deliberate falsehoods, and this was
always done for the sake of causing excitement. For instance, I
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once gat hered much valuable fruit from my father’s trees and hid
it in the shrubbery, and then ran in breathless haste to spread
the news that I had discovered a hoard of stolen fruit.
I must have been a very simple little fellow when I first went to
the school. A boy of the name of Garnett took me into a cake
shop one day, and bought some cakes for which he did not pay, as
the shopman trusted him. When we came out I asked him why he did
not pay for them, and he instantly answered, ”Why, do you not
know that my uncle left a great sum of money to the town on
condition that every tradesman should give whatever was wanted
without payment to any one who wore his old hat and moved [it] in
a particular manner?” and he then showed me how it was moved. He
then went into another shop where he was trusted, and asked for
some small article, moving his hat in the proper manner, and of
course obtained it without payment. When we came out he said,
”Now if you like to go by yourself into that cake-shop (how well
I remember its exact position) I will lend you my hat, and you
can get whatever you like if you move the hat on your head
properly.” I gladly accepted the generous oer, and went in and
asked for some cakes, moved the old hat and was walking out of
the shop, when the shopman made a rush at me, so I dropped the
cakes and ran for dear life, and was astonished by being greeted
with shouts of laughter by my false friend Garnett.
I can say in my own favour that I was as a boy humane, but I owed
this entirely to the instruction and example of my sisters. I
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