His first letter to JSH since December. Recounts his seasickness, geologising and marine collecting at St Jago [Santiago, Cape Verde Is.]; his first tropical forest. Collecting small insects from the tropics. His Welsh trip with Sedgwick has been extremely valuable.
Rio de Janeiro.
My dear Henslow.—
I have delayed writing to you till this period as I was determined to have a fair trial
of the voyage. I have so many things to write about, that my head is as full of oddly
assorted ideas, as a bottle on the table is with animals.— You being my chief
Lord of the Admiralty, must excuse this letter being full of my's &
I's.— After our two attempts to put to sea in spite of the
On the coast I collected many marine animals chiefly gasteropodous (I think some
new).— I examined pretty accurately a Caryophyllea & if my eyes were
not bewitched former descriptions have not the slightest resemblance to the
animal.— I took several specimens of an Octopus, which possessed a most
marvellous power of changing its colours; equalling any chamaelion, & evidently
accommodating the changes to the colour of the ground which it passed
over.—yellowish green, dark brown & red were the prevailing colours:
this fact appears to be new, as far as I can find out.— Geology & the
invertebrate animals will be my chief object of pursuit through the whole
voyage.— We then sailed for Bahia, & touched at the rock of St
Paul.— This is a Serpentine formation.— Is it not the only island in
the Atlantic which is not Volcanic?— We
likewise staid a few hours at Fernando Noronha; a tremendous surf was running, so that a
boat was swamped, & the Captain would not wait.— I find my life on
board, when we are in blue water most delightful; so very comfortable & quiet:
it is almost impossible to be idle, & that for me is saying a good
deal.— Nobody could possibly be better fitted out in every respect for
collecting than I am: many cooks have not spoiled the broth this time; M
I am now collecting fresh-water & land animals: if what was told me in London is true, viz that there are no small insects in the collections from the Tropics.— I tell Entomologists to look out & have their pens ready for describing.— I have taken, as minute (if not more so) as in England, Hydropori, Hygroti, Hydrobii, Pselaphi, Staphylini, Curculio, Bembididous insects &c &c.— It is exceedingly interesting observing the difference of genera & species from those which I know. it is however much less than I had expected I am at present red-hot with Spiders, they are very interesting, & if I am not mistaken, I have already taken some new genera.— I shall have a large box to send very soon to Cambridge, & with that I will mention some more Natural History particulars.
The Captain does every thing in his power to assist me, & we get on very well.—but I thank my better fortune he has not made me a renegade to Whig principles: I would not be a Tory, if it was merely on account of their cold hearts about that scandal to Christian Nations, Slavery.— I am very good friends with all the officers; & as for the Doctor he has gone back to England.—as he chose to make himself disagreeable to the Captain & to Wickham He was a philosopher of rather an antient date; at St Jago by his own account he made general remarks during the first fortnight & collected particular facts during the last.—
I have just returned from a walk, & as a specimen how little the insects are know.—Noterus, according to Dic Class. contains solely 3 European species, I, in one hawl of my net took five distinct species.— is this not quite extraordinary?.—
I received a letter from Herbert, stating that you have a vol: of Dic Class— Will you send it to Whyndam Club.— I suppose you are at this moment in some sea-port, with your pupils.— I hope for their & your sake, that there will be but few rainy mathematical days.— How I should enjoy one week with you: quite as much as you would one in the glorious Tropics.—
We sail for Monte Video at the end of this month (June) so that I shall have been here
nearly 3 months.— this has been very lucky for me.—as it
will be some considerable period before we again cross the Tropic.— I am
sometimes afraid I shall never be able to hold out for the whole voyage. I believe
5 years is the shortest period it will consume.— The mind requires a
little case-hardening, before it can calmly look at such an interval of separation from
all friends.— Remember me most kindly to M
M Video will be for long time my direction:— I hope you will write again to me.— there is nobody, from whom I like receiving advice so much as from you.—
I shall be much obliged if you will get one of the engravings of poor M
P.S. I found the other day a beautiful Hymenophallus, (but broke it to pieces in bringing home) & with it an accompanying Leiodes.—a most perfect copy of the Barmouth specimen.—
- f1 171.f1Henslow extracted passages from CD's letters and, without his knowledge, read them to the Cambridge Philosophical Society. The extracts were then published with some editorial changes, usually minor, in a pamphlet privately printed for the Society (Henslow 1835, Collected papers 1: 3--16). From this letter the following passages were extracted:
1.8 `we started … December' 1.8 1.18 `at St Jago … M r. Lyell.' 1.22 1.25 `St Jago … companion' 1.26 2.1 `On the coast … passed over.' 2.7 2.10 `We then … formation.' 2.11 2.23 `[After] Touching … April 4 th' 2.31 `A few days … 18 days.' 2.32 3.1 `I am now … expected' 3.6 5.1 `I have just … species.' 5.3 8.14 `At Bahia … 1300 miles' 8.16
- f2 171.f2CD's first field notebook (no. 1.4, now at Down House) contains geological observations of the Cape Verde Islands (briefly excerpted in Voyage). More detailed notes are in the manuscript `Diary of observations on the geology of the places visited during the voyage, Part 1' (DAR 32.1: 15--36). The Cape Verde mineralogical specimens are described in Harker 1907. The entire collection is now in the Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University.
- f3 171.f3`I had brought with me the first volume of Lyell's Principles of Geology (C. Lyell 1830--3), which I studied attentively; and this book was of the highest service to me in many ways. The very first place which I examined, namely St. Jago in the Cape Verde islands, showed me clearly the wonderful superiority of Lyell's manner of treating geology, compared with that of any other author, whose works I had with me or ever afterwards read.' (Autobiography, p. 77). Henslow had recommended that CD take the first volume of Lyell's Principles on the voyage, `but on no account to accept the views therein advocated' (ibid., p. 101). CD's copy, preserved in Darwin Library--CUL, is inscribed `From Capt FitzRoy'.
- f4 171.f4See Darwin and Henslow, p. 54 n. 1 for the modern view of the geology of St Paul Rocks.
- f5 171.f5Windham Club.
- f6 171.f6This apparently refers to the French engraving `La Forêt du Brésil'. See letter to Caroline Darwin, 25--6 April .
- f7 171.f7See letter to Charles Whitley, [9 September 1831] and letter to Caroline Darwin, [28 April 1831].