The Life and Letters of Darwin, Vol. 1 HTML version

The Appointment To The 'Beagle'
[In a letter addressed to Captain Fitz-Roy, before the "Beagle" sailed, my father wrote,
"What a glorious day the 4th of November (The "Beagle" did not however make her final
and successful start until December 27.) will be to me--my second life will then
commence, and it shall be as a birthday for the rest of my life."
The circumstances which led to this second birth--so much more important than my
father then imagined--are connected with his Cambridge life, but may be more
appropriately told in the present chapter. Foremost in the chain of circumstances which
lead to his appointment to the "Beagle", was my father's friendship with Professor
Henslow. He wrote in a pocket-book or diary, which contain a brief record of dates, etc.,
throughout his life:--
"1831. CHRISTMAS.--Passed my examination for B.A. degree and kept the two
following terms.
"During these months lived much with Professor Henslow, often dining with him and
walking with him; became slightly acquainted with several of the learned men in
Cambridge, which much quickened the zeal which dinner parties and hunting had not
"In the spring paid Mr. Dawes a visit with Ramsay and Kirby, and talked over an
excursion to Teneriffe. In the spring Henslow persuaded me to think of Geology, and
introduced me to Sedgwick. During Midsummer geologised a little in Shropshire.
"AUGUST.--Went on Geological tour (Mentioned by Sedgwick in his preface to Salter's
'Catalogue of Cambrian and Silurian Fossils,' 1873.) by Llangollen, Ruthin, Conway,
Bangor, and Capel Curig, where I left Professor Sedgwick, and crossed the mountain to
In a letter to Fox (May, 1831), my father writes:--"I am very busy...and see a great deal of
Henslow, whom I do not know whether I love or respect most." His feeling for this
admirable man is finely expressed in a letter which he wrote to Rev. L. Blomefield (then
Rev. L. Jenyns), when the latter was engaged in his 'Memoir of Professor Henslow'
(published 1862). The passage ('Memoir of the Rev. John Stevens Henslow, M.A.,' by the
Rev. Leonard Jenyns. 8vo. London, 1862, page 51.) has been made use of in the first of
the memorial notices written for 'Nature,' and Mr. Romanes points out that my father,
"while describing the character of another, is unconsciously giving a most accurate
description of his own":--
"I went to Cambridge early in the year 1828, and soon became acquainted, through some
of my brother entomologists, with Professor Henslow, for all who cared for any branch of
natural history were equally encouraged by him. Nothing could be more simple, cordial,
and unpretending than the encouragement which he afforded to all young naturalists. I