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Letter 168

Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D.

May [1832]

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    Writes of voyage and his work in natural history: geology, collecting insects (freshwater beetles and spiders at Botofogo Bay); life at sea, sublime views ashore.

Transcription

Botofogo Bay, near Rio de Janeiro

May 1832.—

My dear Fox

I have delayed writing to you & all my other friends till I arrived here & had some little spare time.— My mind has been since leaving England in a perfect hurricane of delight & astonishment. And to this hour scarcely a minute has passed in idleness.— I will give you a very short outline of our voyage. We sailed from England after much difficulty on the 27th of December & arriv'd after a short passage to St Jago.— I suffered exceedingly all the first part, the snowy peak of Teneriffe by convincing me I was well on the road to see the world first put fresh life into me.— At St Jago my Natura Hist: & most delightful labours commenced.— during the 3 weeks I collected a host of marine animals, & enjoyed many a good geological walk.— Touching at some islands we sailed to Bahia, & from thence to Rio, where I have already been some weeks.—

My collections go on admirably in almost every branch. as for insects I trust I shall send an host of undescribed species to England.— I believe they have no small ones in the collections, & here this morning I have taken minute Hydropori, Noterus Colymbetes, Hydrophilus, Hydrobius, Gyrinus, Heterocerus Parnus, Helophorus Hygrotius, Hyphidrus, Berosus &c &c, as a specimen of fresh-water beetles.— I am entirely occupied with land animals, as the beach is only sand; Spiders & the adjoining tribes have perhaps given me from their novelty the most pleasure.— I think I have already taken several new genera.— But Geology carries the day; it is like the pleasure of gambling, speculating on first arriving what the rocks may be; I often mentally cry out 3 to one Tertiary against primitive; but the latter have hitherto won all the bets.— So much for the grand end of my voyage; in other respects things are equally flourishing, my life when at sea, is so quiet, that to a person who can employ himself, nothing can be pleasanter.—the beauty of the sky & brilliancy of the ocean together make a picture.— But when on shore, & wandering in the sublime forests, surrounded by views more gorgeous than even Claude ever imagined, I enjoy a delight which none but those who have experienced it can understand— If it is to be done, it must be by studying Humboldt.—

At our antient snug breakfasts at Cambridge, I little thought that the wide Atlantic would ever separate us; but it a rare priviledge, that with the body, the feelings & memory are not divided.— On the contrary the pleasantest scenes in my life, many of which have been in Cambridge, rise from the contrast of the present the more vividly in my imagination.— Do you think any diamond beetle will ever give me so much pleasure as our old friend Crux Major.— Can we ever forget our few days at Whittlesea Meer with little Albert? It is one of my most constant amusements to draw pictures of the past, & in them I often see you & poor little Fan—Oh Lord, & then old Dash poor thing!— do you recollect how you all tormented me about his beautiful tail.— I am now living here by myself, as the Beaglle has returned to Bahia to settle a longitude question, & about the middle of next month we shall sail for Monte Video.— I rely upon your writing to me there (it will be our head quarters for a terrible long time) direct M< > HMS. B<eagle> Monte Video S. America: do as I have done, & tell me all about yourself how contrive to live on such a stationary, slow sailing craft as a Parsonage: what you are, have, & intend doing.— Remember minutiae become more not less interesting, as the distance increases.—

I suppose I shall remain through the whole voyage, but it is a sorrowful long fraction of ones life; especially as the greatest part of the pleasure is in anticipation.— I must however except that resulting from Natur— History; think when you are picking insects off a hawthorn hedge on a fine May day (wretchedly cold I have no doubt) think of me collecting amongst pineapples & orange trees; whilst staining your fingers with dirty blackberries, think & be envious of ripe oranges.— This is a proper piece of Bravado, for I would walk through many a mile of sleet, snow or rain to shake you by the hand, My dear old Fox. God Bless you.

Believe me | Yours very affectionately | Chas Darwin

Remember me most kindly to Mr & Mrs Fox & to all your family: Once more good night & good bye.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 168.f1
    After the voyage CD's insect specimens were described by Charles Cardale Babington, Frederick William Hope, Francis Walker, George Robert Waterhouse, and Adam White. See Collected papers 2: 295--300.
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    f2 168.f2
    Claude Lorrain.
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    f3 168.f3
    Albert Way.
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