Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
Letter signed (‘Charles Darwin’) to [Henry Nottidge Moseley: ‘My dear Sir’], Down, Beckenham, Kent, 5 November 1876.
Four pages, 203 x 125mm, bifolium, headed notepaper. Provenance: by descent.
Making the acquaintance of the naturalist aboard the Challenger, ‘the most memorable scientific expedition which ever left England’. Darwin is much obliged to Moseley for his ‘kind present of the Japanese book, with its curious & amusing drawings. As I am no believer in Physiognomy I will not trouble you to send me the other books’; he also thanks him for the photograph and ‘for several of your papers on observations made during the voyage of the Challenger. It has been a grand thing for you to have taken part & done such capital work in the most memorable scientific expedition which ever left England’. From [Sir Edwin] Ray Lankester, Darwin understands that Moseley would like to pay him a visit, something that would give him great pleasure: ‘I must forewarn you that I am incapable of talking long with anyone, as my head suffers afterwards’, but they will make the arrangements nevertheless.
The final decade of Darwin’s life was characterised by an improvement in his general health and happiness – despite the background ache of such long-term ailments as are mentioned in the present letter – and by a prodigious output of published work. One of his correspondents during this period was Henry Nottidge Moseley (1844-1891), the British naturalist who accompanied the Challenger expedition of 1872-6. The ‘capital work’ completed by the team of scientists aboard HMS Challenger included the discovery and cataloguing of over 4,000 previously-unknown species and the foundation of the discipline of oceanography: Darwin’s recognition of the enormity of the expedition’s legacy involves a humble relegation of his own travels on the Beagle to a secondary position.
Darwin Correspondence Project 10663
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