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Letter 222

Darwin, C. R. to Darwin, C. S.

23 [Oct 1833]

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    Describes his trip to north of Santa Fé, his illness, and return by boat to Buenos Aires – which he found in the throes of a revolution. Covington is cut off from the town, which some expect to be plundered.


Buenos Ayres

September 23d.—1

My dear Caroline

A vessel will sail in an hours time to Liverpool, & I will write as much as I can.— I have just returned from an adventurous tour.— I think I mentioned my intention of starting to the Northern parts of this Province.— I by chance procured Capt. Head's peon & arrived after a rapid gallop at St. Fe about 300 miles to the North— it was an interesting ride & good opportunity of seeing the real sea-like Pampas. at St Fe I was most unfortunately, rather unwell, so as to be unable to ride.— I crossed over to the Bajada the Capital of Entre Rios & there staid some days, but finding so much time lost I was obliged to embark on board a vessel down the Parana— This immense river, with its islands full of Tigers & Capinchos, is so very great, as to appear only like an oblong lake.— When we arrived near Buenos Ayres, I left the vessel with the intention of riding into town.— The minute I landed I was almost a prisoner, for the city is closely blockaded by a furious cut-throat set of rebels.— By riding about (at a ruinous expence) amongst the different generals, I at last obtained leave to go on foot without passport into the city: I was thus obliged to leave my Peon & luggage behind; but I may thank kind providence I am here with an entire throat.— Such a set of misfortunes I have had this month, never before happened to poor mortal. My servant (Covington by name & most invaluable I find him) was sent to the Estancia of the Merchants whose house I am staying in.— he the other day nearly lost his life in a quicksand & my gun completely.—

We now here the house is ransacked (& probably his clothes all stolen!) Communication with the country is absolutely cut off, he cannot come into town, & the Beagle before long sails to the South.— Here is a pretty series of misfortunes, & there are plenty of smaller ones to fill up the gaps.—

I drew a bill a month ago for 80£. I am very sorry to say I shall be obliged from these great unexpected misfortunes to draw another one.— After my Fathers first great growl is over, he must recollect we shall be now 8 months to the South, where as last time I can neither spend or draw money.—the only security, I can give which will be trusted.—

Independent of all these uncommon mortifications & my illness at St Fe preventing my return by the Rio Uruguay, through a most interesting Geo- logical country.—the tour answered well.— It is quite magnificent when I consider I have ridden nearly 800 miles in a North & South direction & the greater part through country most imperfectly known.—

We are in a pretty state in this nice city.— they think nothing of cutting the throats of 30 prisoners, whom they happened to take the other day:—and they are right; for what is it, to quietly stabbing all the Indian women above 20 years old or younger if ugly.— Oh these Creoles are such a detestably mean unprincipled set of men, as I hope this world does not contain the like.— There literally is only one Gentleman in Buenos Ayres, the English Minister.— He is has writt<en> to or<der> the Beagle up.— But we sail under such particular instructions I know not whether the Captain will come.— If he does all will be right about Covington.—otherwise I shall be obliged to send some small vessel or boat to smuggle him off the Coast.—

In fact I am in a pretty pickle.— I wish the confounded revolution gentlemen would, like Kilkenny Cats, fight till nothing but the tails are left.— Some of the good people expect the town to be plundered.— Which will a very amusing episode to me.—

dear Caroline. Yours Chas. Darwin

I will write again.—

I sent home by the Capt: Beaufort about 2 or 3 months ago—some more of my journal. Be sure acknowledge it, & in more than one letter.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 222.f1
    `September 23d.—' was written by CD. `September' has been deleted and `October 1833' inserted, in what appears to be another hand, to correct CD's error.
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    f2 222.f2
    Jaguars (Spanish `tigres') and capybaras.
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    f3 222.f3
    See `Beagle' diary, p. 191: `These disturbances caused me much inconvenience; my servant was outside, I was obliged to bribe a man to smuggle him in through the belligerents. His clothese, my riding gear, collections from St Fe were outside, with no possibility of obtaining them. I was, however, lucky in having them all sent to me at M. Video.' See also letter from Edward Lumb, 13 November 1833.
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