« EelmineJätka »
know, I am willing to tell all that I know or remember. I was dreadfully hurt. I wrote, I am afraid, too strongly, and perhaps bitterly, trying to explain my real feelings towards her, and assuring her that I had never had a moment's thought of any one but her, and hoping that this explanation would suffice. But I received no reply, and from that day I never saw, or heard of, any of the family.
While these events were in progress, my dear friend, Dr. Richard Spruce, came home from Peru in very weak health, and, after staying a short time in London, went to live at Hurstpierpoint, in Sussex, in order to be near Mr. William Mitten, then the greatest English authority on mosses, and who had undertaken to describe his great collections from South America. This was in the autumn of 1864, and in the spring of 1865 I took a small house for myself and my mother, in St. Mark's Crescent, Regent's Park, quite near the Zoological Gardens, and within a pleasant walk across the park of the society's library in Hanover Square, where I had to go very often to consult books of reference. Here I lived five years, having Dr. W. B. Carpenter for a near 'neighbour, and it was while living in this house that I saw most of my few scientific friends.
During the summer and autumn I often went to Hurstpierpoint to enjoy the society of my friend, and thus became intimate with Mr. Mitten and his family. Mr. Mitten was an enthusiastic botanist and gardener, and knew every wild plant in the very rich district which surrounds the village, and all his family were lovers of wild flowers. I remember my delight, on the occasion of my first or second visit there, at seeing a vase full of the delicate and fantastic flowers of the large butterfly-orchis and the curious fly-orchis, neither of which I had ever seen before, and which I was surprised to hear were abundant in the woods at the foot of the downs. It was an immense delight to me to be taken to these woods, and to some fields on the downs where the bee-orchis and half a dozen other species grew abundantly, with giant cowslips nearly two feet high, the dyers' broom, and many other
interesting plants. The richness of this district may be judged by the fact that within a walk more than twenty species of orchises have been found. This similarity of taste led to a close intimacy, and in the spring of the following year I was married to Mr. Mitten's eldest daughter, then about eighteen years old.
After a week at Windsor we came to live in London, and in early autumn went for a month to North Wales, staying at Llanberris and Dolgelly. I took with me Sir Andrew Ramsay's little book on “The Old Glaciers of Switzerland and North Wales,” and thoroughly enjoyed the fine examples of ice-groovings and striations, smoothed rock-surfaces, roches moutonnées, moraines, perched blocks, and rock-basins, with which the valleys around Snowdon abound. Every day revealed some fresh object of interest as we climbed among the higher cwms of Snowdon; and from what I saw during that first visit the Ice Age became almost as much a reality to me as any fact of direct observation. Every future tour to Scotland, to the lake district, or to Switzerland became doubled in interest. I read a good deal of the literature of the subject, and have, I believe, in my later writings been able to set forth the evidence in favour of the glacial origin of lake-basins more forcibly than it has ever been done before. As a result of my observations I wrote my first article on the subject, “Ice-marks in North Wales," which appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Science of January, 1867. In this paper I gave a sketch of the more important phenomena, which were then by no means so well known as they are now; and I also gave reasons for doubting the conclusions of Mr. Macintosh in the Journal of the Geological Society, that most of the valleys and rocky cwms of North Wales had been formed by the action of the sea. I also gave, I think for the first time, a detailed explanation of how glaciers can have formed lake-basins, by grinding due to unequal pressure, not by “scooping out," as usually supposed.
In 1867 I spent the month of June in Switzerland with my wife, staying at Champery, opposite the beautiful Dent
du Midi, where at first we were the only visitors in a huge new hotel, but for the second week had the company of an English clergyman, his wife, and son. We greatly enjoyed the beautiful subalpine flowers then in perfection, and one day I went with the clergyman and his son, a boy of about thirteen, to see how far we could get on the way to the great mountain's summit. On the alp above the pine forest we had our lunch at a cow-herd's hut, with a large jug of cream, and then got the man to act as guide. He took us over a ravine filled with snow, and then up a zigzag path among the rocks along a mauvais pas, where an iron bar was fixed on the face of a precipice, and then up to an ice-smoothed plateau of limestone rock, still partly snow-clad, all the crevices of which were full of alpine flowers. I was just beginning to gather specimens of these and thought to enjoy an hour's botanizing when our guide warned us that a snowstorm was coming, and we must return directly, and the black clouds and a few snowflakes made us only too willing to follow him. We got back safely, but I have always regretted that hasty peep of the alpine rock-flora at a time of year when I never afterwards had an opportunity of seeing it.
We then went by Martigny over the St. Bernard, reaching the hospice after dark through deep snow, and next day walked down to Aosta, a place which had been recommended to me by Mr. William Mathews, a well-known Alpine climber. It was a very hot place, and its chief interest to us was an excursion on mules to the Becca de Nona, which took us a long day, going up by the easiest and descending the most precipitous road—the latter a mere staircase of rock. The last thousand feet I walked up alone, and was highly delighted with the summit and the wonderful scene of fractured rocks, ridges, and peaks all around, but more especially with the summit itself, hardly so large as that of Snowdon and exhibiting far grander precipices and rock-masses, all in a state of visible degradation, and showing how powerfully the atmospheric forces of denudation are in constant action at this altitude-10,380 feet. Hardly less
interesting were the charming little alpine plants in the patches of turf and the crevices in the rocks, among which were two species of the exquisite Androsaces, the true gems of the primrose tribe. I also one day took a lonely walk up a wild valley which terminated in the glacier that descends from Mount Emilius; and on another day we drove up the main valley to Villeneuve, and then walked up a little way into the Val Savaranches. This is one of those large open valleys which have been the outlet of a great glacier, and in which the subglacial torrent has cut a deep narrow chasm through hard rocks at its termination, through which the river now empties itself into the main stream of the Dora Baltea. This was the first of the kind I had specially noticed, though I had seen the Gorge of the Trient on my first visit to Switzerland at a time when I had barely heard of the glacial epoch.
Returning over the St. Bernard we went to Interlachen and Grindelwald, saw the glaciers there, and then went over the Wengern Alp, staying two days at the hotel to see the avalanches and botanize among the pastures and moraines. Then down to Lauterbrunnen to see the Staubbach, and thence home.
As I had found that amid the distractions and excitement of London, its scientific meetings, dinner parties and sightseeing, I could not settle down to work at the more scientific chapters of my “ Malay Archipelago," I let my house in London for a year, from Midsummer, 1867, and went to live with my wife's family at Hurstpierpoint. There, in perfect quiet, and with beautiful fields and downs around me, I was able to work steadily, having all my materials already prepared. Returning to London in the summer of 1868, I was fully occupied in arranging for the illustrations and correcting the proofs. The work appeared at the end of the year, and my volume on “Natural Selection” in the following March.
I may here state that although the proceeds of my eight years' collecting in the East brought me in a sufficient income
to live quietly as a single man, I was always on the lookout for some permanent congenial employment which would yet leave time for the study of my collections. The possibility of ever earning anything substantial either by lecturing or by writing never occurred to me. My deficient organ of language prevented me from ever becoming a good lecturer or having any taste for it, while the experience of my first work on "The Amazon" did not encourage me to think that I could write anything that would much more than pay expenses. The first vacancy that occurred was the assistant secretaryship of the Royal Geographical Society, for which Bates and myself were candidates. Bates had just published his “Naturalist on the Amazon,” and was, besides, much better qualified than myself by his business experience and his knowledge of German, which he had taught himself when abroad. Besides, the confinement and the London life would, I am sure, have soon become uncongenial to me, and would, I feel equally certain, have greatly shortened my life. I am therefore glad I did not get it, and I do not think I felt any disappointment at the time; and as it brought Bates to live in London, I was able to see him frequently in his private room and occasionally at his home, and talk over old times or of scientific matters that interested us both, while we frequently met at the Entomological or other societies' evening meetings. This was in 1864, and I was too busy with my descriptive work and writings to think much more on the subject till 1869, when it was decided by the Government to establish a branch museum in Bethnal Green which should combine art and natural history for the instruction of the people. I thought this would suit me very well if I could get the directorship. Lord Ripon, then Lord President of the Council, was a friend of Sir Charles Lyell, and after an interview with him he promised to help me with the Government, while Huxley (I think) introduced me to Sir Henry Cole, then head of the Science and Art Department at South Kensington. I also had the kind assistance of several other friends, but though the museum was built and opened, I think, in 1872, it was