It was in the great Brazilian rainforests that Darwin felt most keenly the sense of the sublime, in ‘the great, wild, untidy, luxuriant hothouse’ of the Amazon. In Brazil even Humboldt’s ‘glorious descriptions’ did not do justice to the reality. Darwin was dazed by:
‘‘the luxuriance of the vegetation…..the elegance of the grasses, the novelty of the parasitical plants, the beauty of the flowers’ His mind was ‘a chaos of delight’. Pausing in a shady nook, he listened to the droning, croaking, throbbing life. Now, as in ages past, when no human interlopers were around to hear, the forest reverberated to ‘ a most paradoxical mixture of sound and silence’, like some great cathedral at evensong, with the anthem fading to ‘universal stillness’. Adding ‘raptures to…raptures’ he began collecting flowers enough to ‘make a florist go wild’ and countless beetles. Such ‘transports of pleasure’ he had never known”.