Charles Darwin and every scientist ever

I have a long day ahead of me and lots of annoying little responsibilities to take care of and am feeling a little overwhelmed — there’s even more to do next week — so this was a perfect start to my day. I am not alone!

I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything. One lives only to make blunders. I am going to write a little Book for Murray on orchids & today I hate them worse than everything so farewell & in a sweet frame of mind, I am

Ever yours”

—Charles Darwin, 1861

You can pick up a copy of The Various Contrivances by Which Orchids Are Fertilized by Insects right now. It’s a little book, only … 338 pages? Suddenly filled with a sense of failure and despair again.


  1. KG says

    It’s a little book, only … 338 pages? Suddenly filled with a sense of failure and despair again.

    Surely, setting out to write a “little book” and producing one of 338 pages is a monumental failure!

  2. Onamission5 says

    Jesus. It’s like he ripped a page directly from one of my journals. Is it wrong to find that strangely comforting?

  3. Lathari says

    I would like to draw attention to Darwin’s last book, “a small book of little moment”, a distillation of decades studying one humble subject, asking friends to do measurements around the world, etc. This book, only 288 pages, is the wonderfully named
    “The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits”.

  4. arkhilokhos says

    Lathari: I second the recommendation. Without that book, I would have had to live my entire life in the dark about how earthworms feel about being serenaded by bassoons.

  5. ionopachys says

    I love the presumably sarcastic closing: “in a sweet frame of mind, I am Ever yours.”

  6. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin points out taking a whole day to write a 300-odd page book means Darwin’s typewriting monkeys were under-performing. Perhaps they were also feeling poorly?

    However, it should be pointed out Darwin’s usual success with typewriting monkeys is still a bit of a mystery, as practical typewriters didn’t exist then. The monkeys were not using quill pens, that is an urban legend (for one thing, the feathers of a monkey cannot be made into quills).