RECORD: Macdonell, Anne. [1833]. [Recollection of Darwin in Buenos Ayres]. In Macdonell. 1913. Reminiscences of diplomatic life. London: Adam & Charles Black, pp. 27-29.

REVISION HISTORY: Text prepared by Kees Rookmaaker and edited by John van Wyhe 11.2010. RN1

NOTE: Part of this recollection is reprinted in Thomas Glick, What about Darwin? Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 2010.


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My father entertained the great naturalist Darwin, when he came to Buenos Ayres in 1837 in H.M.S. Beagle. He stayed with my parents, as there were few hotels and those were poor and uncomfortable. A story is told of how, on his return

1 Darwin stayed with Lumb for the first time in September 1833. See the Beagle diary, p. 191: "I rode to the house of Mr Lumb, an English merchant, who gave me a most hospitable reception; & I soon enjoyed all the comforts of an English house." 1837 is a mistake as the Beagle returned to England in 1836. Anne Lumb Macdonell (b. 1850), daughter of English merchant Edward Lumb (1804-1875). See See Correspondence 1: 355–6, 378–9, 386–8; Winslow 1975 and the Beagle notebooks.

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from one of his expeditions, he brought a little species of mole that belonged to that part of South America and was almost extinct. It is called the touca-touca from the noise it makes. Darwin rolled it up in one of his fine cambric handkerchiefs, wanting very much to boil it down to preserve its skeleton, and for this purpose put it carefully in his chest of drawers. He went away again for a three weeks' excursion, as he had heard of the mammoth shell at Quilmes, near to Uncle John Yates' place. During his absence the housemaid complained that in the Señor Professor's room there was such a bad smell that she could not go into it. My mother went, and soon finding the cause of the trouble, promptly threw the handkerchief and touca-touca into the fire.

On Mr. Darwin's return he inquired

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for the specimen, and was much upset at not finding it. My mother did not dare acknowledge her fault, and so begged my father [Edward Lumb] to tell Darwin what she had done, whereupon he said, "I will forgive Mrs. Lumb, for she is nearly as beautiful as the touca-touca." I wonder whether my beautiful mother appreciated the compliment?


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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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