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The Correspondence of John Stevens Henslow

John Stevens Henslow (1796–1861) spent his adult life attached to the University of Cambridge. He graduated in mathematics in 1818, then acted as a demonstrator for the Professor of Chemistry, carried out and published papers on field geology, and was a founder of the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1821. He held two University Chairs: Mineralogy from 1823–27, and Botany from 1825 until his death in 1861.

Henslow was closely involved in University affairs and the introduction of science into the Cambridge Tripos. He was a gifted teacher and pedagogic innovator. His best-known student was Charles Darwin, with whom he maintained a life-long friendship and correspondence. Henslow also acted as the (unofficial) agent for Lord Palmerston, one of the University’s two MPs, in the election of 1826.

In 1823 Henslow was ordained and became curate of Little St Mary’s. He was awarded the living of Cholsey in 1835, and became Rector of Hitcham, near Stowmarket in Suffolk, in 1837. Henslow moved to Hitcham, but continued giving his botany course at Cambridge in May every year until his death. During this time, he attempted to introduce science into agriculture nationally and locally, whilst also taking steps to improve the lives of agricultural labourers. Universal education was a constant concern for him, through the University of London, the Department of Science and Art, regional museums, and his parish school.

Henslow had a network of correspondents across all levels of society, nearly 300 in these surviving letters. The letters he retained until his death are mostly held in the Cambridge University Library, but others have been dispersed around the world. Letters between Henslow and Darwin were published in 1967 (by Nora Barlow) and also in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin (from 1985 onwards).

The Henslow letters have been collected and transcribed by M. E. Edmunds, K. H. Joice, A. L. Jones, D. Kohn, J. G. Murrell and J. S. Parker.

Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Baxter
Date:
1 February 1830
Source of text:
Oxford University Herbarium
Summary:

JSH writes semi-critically regarding Baxter’s failure to respond to a previous letter requesting ‘3 more complete sets’ and asking about payment.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Baxter
Date:
12 February 1830
Source of text:
Oxford University Herbarium
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
N. J. Winch
Date:
6 April 1830
Source of text:
Linnean Society Library Winch Letters W6.184
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Baxter
Date:
22 June 1830
Source of text:
Oxford University Herbarium
Summary:

JSH asks for wild specimens of Senecio squalidus to be sent to Cambridge for drying.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Robert Brown
Date:
1 January 1831
Source of text:
British Library Add. 32441: 133-34
Summary:

Sends Brown a copy of his recently published paper, On the Examination of a Hybrid Digitalis. Comments on Brown’s work, Observations on the Organs and Mode of Fecundation in Orchideæ and Asclepiadeæ and says he is looking forward to fact checking it in the summer. Asks to visit Brown for another ‘lesson’.

Says he has not had time to examine mignonette specimen, hopes to do so soon and complete drawings. Sends some of the wood specimens being gathered for Cambridge Botanical Museum, largely from the plantations of his father in law, George Leonard Jenyns.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Robert Brown
Date:
25 March 1831
Source of text:
British Library Add. 32441: 138-39
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Wilson
Date:
9 April 1831
Source of text:
New York Botanic Garden Library
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
N. J. Winch
Date:
9 April 1831
Source of text:
Linnean Society Library Winch Letters W7.024
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Charles Lyell
Date:
14 June 1831
Source of text:
American Philosophical Society Library
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Whewell
Date:
14 August 1831
Source of text:
Trinity College Cambridge Whewell Add.Ms.a.206: 63
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
N. J. Winch
Date:
12 January 1832
Source of text:
Linnean Society Library Winch Letters W7.081
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Robert Havell
Date:
1 June 1832
Source of text:
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale 16445242
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Jerdan
Date:
11 July 1833
Source of text:
Uppsala University Library Waller Ms alb-77:187
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Vernon Harcourt
Date:
8 August 1833
Source of text:
Oxford, Bodleian Library MS.Eng.d.3873 ff.162-6
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
Charles Thomas Whitley
Date:
10 November 1833
Source of text:
Durham University Library Whitley Letters Add. MS 834/3
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Baxter
Date:
22 March 1834
Source of text:
Oxford University Herbarium
Summary:

JSH makes arrangements for subscription to Baxter’s British Phaenogamous Botany and makes offer of duplicates.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Whewell
Date:
15 May 1836
Source of text:
Trinity College Cambridge Whewell Add.Ms.a.206: 64
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Henry Fox Talbot
Date:
16 February 1837
Source of text:
The National Trust, Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey 36277
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Baxter
Date:
6 June 1837
Source of text:
Oxford University Herbarium
Summary:

Discusses dedication for Baxter’s British Phaenogamous Botany to JSH.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project
Text Online
From:
J. S. Henslow
To:
William Jardine
Date:
23 and 26 Mar 1838
Source of text:
Edinburgh University Library DK/6.20/138
Summary:

No summary available.

Contributor:
Henslow Correspondence Project