RECORD: Butler, Thomas. 1882.09.13. [Recollections of Darwin.] CUL-DAR112.A10-A12 Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker, edited by John van Wyhe (Darwin Online, http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Kees Rookmaaker 8.2008; corrections by Peter Lucas 8.2009. RN2
NOTE: Letter of 6 pages written on 3 leaves.
Editorial symbols used in the transcription:
[some text] 'some text' is an editorial insertion
[some text] 'some text' is the conjectured reading of an ambiguous word or passage
[some text] 'some text' is a description of a word or passage that cannot be transcribed
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Text in small red font is a hyperlink or notes added by the editors.
Reproduced with the permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.
[Archival number, upper right] 10
[in another handwriting] Butler T.
I’m afraid I can give you almost no information about the early days of your father. I remember him however well in his school days at Shrewsbury but was two or three years his senior & at that age a few a few years makes a considerable interval & I did not see a great deal of him. I remember however even then his natural History tastes were developing & on one or two occasions during a winter holiday time I went out with him
trying to shoot small birds which he was anxious to examine but was never present at the post-mortem investigation of them. We were at Cambridge together part of the time but he did not I think stay up to graduate & we were of different colleges & I saw almost nothing of him there. I spent however a long vacation with him at Barmouth on a
long va summer reading party & we used to make long mountain rambles in which he inoculated me with a taste for botany which has stuck by me all my life. His own specialty however at that time was in the
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capture of beetles & moths & I learnt something of the voracity of the former seeing that when several were placed in the same box sometimes only one wd be found on our return the rest having been devoured: and of the wonderful tenacity of life which they possessed. I remember also our killing the two largest vipers I have ever seen before or since, each about the length of our walking sticks & finding 4 full grown young ones in the body of the female & the question which arose whether she had swallowed them for protection when assailed or whether they were yet unborn & believe his choice was the former. He shewed me the mechanism of their
teeth & we buried them in order to catch some beetles which we found a week or more afterwards upon the spot, dark with reddish patches on their Elytra: but our party consisted of 7 or 8 men & we were most of us anxious to get to mountain tops & spots of remarkable scenery & he was not very often of our party.
I did not see him again until his return from the Beagle expedition when I traveled with him & Southey in a stage coach from Birmingham to Shrewsbury. He was then obviously very ill & looking like a shadow & that is I believe the last time I saw
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him. My lot was cast in Nottinghamshire & I seldom came to Shrewsbury for more than two or three days at a time. I have read most of his books always with great interest, none more so than his account of the Beagle voyage & was always struck with the patient labour & ingenuity of his investigations especially in the fertilisation of plants thro' the medium of various insects. I think it was from some other source that I learnt to appreciate the manifold provisions to keep the ants away from the nectaries & let the flying insects get in & so secure cross fertilization. I wish I could give you any
particulars more worth recording but I really have no data & really have not known much of him. The few months at Barmouth being the chief & I might almost say only time in which I came in contact with him. I was then reading for my degree & it was only on our Saturday excursions that we met & that was not very frequently.
I beg to remain dear Sir
Yrs. very faithfully
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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