Reports on the funeral of Robert FitzRoy.
His own health has deteriorated and he must give up his work.
Board of Trade. S.W.
My dear Darwin
I was going to write to you today thinking you would like to know that I saw the remains of poor FitzRoy laid in their last resting place on Saturday. I was in Cornwall when I heard of it, having read a letter from him the day before. I had resigned my appointment a week before that—as three Doctors—consulted separately—told me I must give up, & ought to have done so sooner.
FitzRoy wrote to me saying he thought I was right, and that he was anxious about what he ought to do. We have been urging him here for some time to take a long rest—& I have told him over & over again that he ought to do so, or give up entirely: but he wanted the strength of mind to decide, and I fear the idea of losing the Income for his family had much to do with it— In his note he said he had been very ill but his wife & a skilful Doctor, had—under god—saved his life, & he also remarked on never really feeling the value of blessings & particularly of health—until losing them. Though he trusted in his case it was only temporary— This I think shows he had no previous idea of taking away his own life, and that it could only have been done through the sudden impulse of insanity.
I came back Thursday night hoping to be in time for the funeral. I found a note from
Mellersh at Brighton asking me to tell him when it was to
be—but I found no one knew any thing about it at the Board or
& Now about my own case. I remained abroad four months, was not much better for two months while moving about in France &
Italy—but after six weeks quiet rest at Vevey I got so well that when we went
up to a mountain Pension for three weeks I was able to walk up mountains for hours
without any return of pain or weakness in leg, or headache, & I returned as well
as I ever felt but as I got to work again the symptoms soon returned, and by January I
was very unwell. at one time I was a fortnight at home with severe shooting
pains in back of head every few seconds, and afterwards for six weeks my leg gave way so
in knee & below it that I could not walk from the station to
office—& latterly—for the first time,—I feel my
work a burthen to me. About a month since, the D
I should like to run down to you for one night before I leave, to see you before we go.
I am sorry to hear such a poor account of you. Why do you not give up all work and try a
Summer in the Swiss Mountain air? My eldest boy passed last
July and is now Sub Lieut & Assist Surveyor of Firefly in Mediterranean. The
second is now passing at Portsmouth. The youngest asked me to let him try the Cambridge local examination last
December he was 15 & of course in the Junior batch. out of 675 he was bracketed
With very kind regards to M
- f1 4831.f1The year is established by the reference to the death of Robert FitzRoy; he committed suicide on 30 April 1865 (DNB).
- f2 4831.f2FitzRoy was buried in the cemetery at St Luke's Church, Norwood, on 6 May 1865 (DNB). See also letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 4 May .
- f3 4831.f3Sulivan had been suffering from health problems (see Correspondence vol. 12, letters from B. J. Sulivan, 18 March  and 23 September , and Sulivan ed. 1896, p. 378). He had been working as chief naval officer of the Marine Department at the Board of Trade (DNB).
- f4 4831.f4FitzRoy had been head of the Meteorological Department at the Board of Trade (DNB). On FitzRoy's financial difficulties, see Anderson 1999, pp. 201--2.
- f5 4831.f5Maria Isabella FitzRoy.
- f6 4831.f6Arthur Mellersh and Sulivan had both served under FitzRoy on the Beagle during the 1831--6 voyage (see Correspondence vol. 1), Mellersh as a midshipman and Sulivan as second lieutenant (Freeman 1978).
- f7 4831.f7The reference is to John George Smyth and Henry Smyth (Burke's landed gentry 1846, s.v. Smyth of Heath Hall).
- f8 4831.f8See letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865 and n. 4.
- f9 4831.f9Charles Pigeard was naval attaché at the French Embassy, London (Post Office London directory 1865). Elements of FitzRoy's weather-forecast service were based on work in France; FitzRoy had also been elected a corresponding member of the Académie des sciences in Paris in 1863 (see Burton 1986).
- f10 4831.f10Thomas H. Babington was a senior clerk at the Board of Trade, where he worked as FitzRoy's assistant in the Meteorological Department (British imperial calendar 1865, p. 100; Mellersh 1968, pp. 288--9).
- f11 4831.f11Sulivan refers to George FitzRoy of Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire (Burke's peerage 1970, s.v. Grafton, duke of).
- f12 4831.f12See n. 7, above.
- f13 4831.f13Charles George Noel, Viscount Campden (Burke's peerage 1865).
- f14 4831.f14Sulivan refers to Lieutenant-general Thomas Wood. Wood had two brothers, David Edward Wood and Charles Alexander Wood; the Woods were cousins of FitzRoy (County families 1865; Burke's peerage 1878 s.v. Londonderry, Marquis of; DNB, s.v. FitzRoy, Robert, and Wood, David Edward).
- f15 4831.f15For FitzRoy's surviving daughters see letter from J. D. Hooker, 2 May 1865 and n. 4.
- f16 4831.f16Sulivan had taken six months' leave in 1864 because of poor health (see Correspondence vol. 12, letters from B. J. Sulivan, 18 March  and 23 September ). See also Sulivan ed. 1896, p. 378.
- f17 4831.f17The Sulivans retired to Bournemouth in Hampshire (County families 1872--90; see also letter from B. J. Sulivan, 31 May ). Only two of Sulivan's daughters have been identified, Sophia Henrietta and Catherine Sabine Sulivan.
- f18 4831.f18James Young Falkland Sulivan.
- f19 4831.f19Thomas Edward Sulivan. Sulivan refers to the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
- f20 4831.f20Henry Norton Sulivan.
- f21 4831.f21The University of Cambridge established the Local Examination Syndicate in 1858. The aim was to use the authority of the University to promote a standardised measure of educational attainment. At centres throughout the country two examinations were held in December every year, one for boys under 16 and one for boys under 18. Papers relating to the syndicate are in the University Archives--CUL (Cambridge University Register (Local Examinations) 57.1: 1--46).