4th August 1836
Then the dense splendid foliage of the Mango hides the ground with its darkest shade, whilst its upper branches are rendered the more brilliant by the profusion of light. In the temperate zones, as it appears to me, the case is different, the colours there are not so dark, or rich, & hence the declining sun, which casts forth red, purple or yellow rays, is best adapted to add beauties to the scenery of those climes.
When quietly walking along the shady pathways & admiring each successive view, one wishes to find language to express ones ideas: epithet after epithet is found too weak to convey to those who have not had an opportunity of experiencing these sensations, a true picture of the mind. I have said the plants in a hot-house fail to communicate a just idea of the vegetation, Yet I must recur to it: the land is one great wild, untidy, luxuriant hot house, which nature made for her menagerie, but man has taken possession of it, & has studded it with gay houses & formal gardens. How great would be the desire in every admirer of nature to behold, if such was possible, another planet; yet at the distance of a few degrees from his native country, it may be truly said, the glories of another world are open to him.
CHARLES DARWIN TO MISS S. DARWIN.
Bahia, Brazil, August 4 .
My dear Susan,
I will just write a few lines to explain the cause of this letter being dated on the coast of South America. Some singular disagreements in the longitudes made Captain Fitz-Roy anxious to complete the circle in the southern hemisphere, and then retrace our steps by our first line to England. This zigzag manner of proceeding is very grievous; it has put the finishing stroke to my feelings. I loathe, I abhor the sea and all ships which sail on it. But I yet believe we shall reach England in the latter half of October. At Ascension I received Catherine's letter of October, and yours of November; the letter at the Cape was of a later date, but letters of all sorts are inestimable treasures, and I thank you both for them. The desert, volcanic rocks, and wild sea of Ascension, as soon as I knew there was news from home, suddenly wore a pleasing aspect, and I set to work with a good-will at my old work of Geology. You would be surprised to know how entirely the pleasure in arriving at a new place depends on letters. We only stayed four days at Ascension, and then made a very good passage to Bahia.
I little thought to have put my foot on South American coast again. It has been almost painful to find how much good enthusiasm has been evaporated during the last four years. I can now walk soberly through a Brazilian forest; not but what it is exquisitely beautiful, but now, instead of seeking for splendid contrasts, I compare the stately mango trees with the horse-chestnuts of England. Although this zigzag has lost us at least a fortnight, in some respects I am glad of it. I think I shall be able to carry away one vivid picture of inter-tropical scenery. We go from hence to the Cape de Verds; that is, if the winds or the Equatorial calms will allow us. I have some faint hopes that a steady foul wind might induce the Captain to proceed direct to the Azores. For which most untoward event I heartily pray.
Both your letters were full of good news; especially the expressions which you tell me Professor Sedgwick used about my collections. I confess they are deeply gratifying--I trust one part at least will turn out true, and that I shall act as I now think--as a man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life. Professor Sedgwick mentioning my name at all gives me hopes that he will assist me with his advice, of which, in my geological questions, I stand much in need. It is useless to tell you from the shameful state of this scribble that I am writing against time, having been out all morning, and now there are some strangers on board to whom I must go down and talk civility. Moreover, as this letter goes by a foreign ship, it is doubtful whether it will ever arrive. Farewell, my very dear Susan and all of you. Good-bye.
Posted by Arborfield at 07:22