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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Philip Gidley King    21 February 1854

Down | Farnborough, | Kent.

Feb. 21. 1854.

My dear King

I can hardly tell you how pleased I was, about a week ago, to receive your letter dated the 26th. of October.1 I lead a rather solitary life, & in my walks very often think over old days in the Beagle, & no days rise pleasanter before me, than sitting with you on the Booms, running before the trade wind across the Beagle, & no days rise pleasanter before me, than sitting with you on the Booms, running before the trade wind across the Atlantic. Often & often have I wished to hear a little news of you. How changed we are since those days, you with three childred, & I with seven, of which the oldest is above 14, & will soon be a young man.—2 Your life, in having so much of the managemt of the A. Agricult. Coy. must be almost that of a Gaucho. In very many respects, I envy you; though having, owing to my Father’s long life of professional exertion, a very fair income, yet when I think of the extreme difficulty of finding professions for my five sons, I often think that it would be wise to emigrate.3 But I have neither energy or strength for such an awful undertaking; & really for a quiet settler, the Australian Colonies seem ruined.

I have been much interested by your account of the Gold Companies &c &c. How fortunate it is that Sulivan did not accept the offer to go out made by some one of the many Companies. If I am not mistaken, the Coy. to which you allude, as so very badly managed, is that presided over by Strezlecki,4 & I am very sorry for it, for he is a capital fellow. I sometimes hear news of Australia from Syms Covington (my old servant in the Beagle) who is settled at Twofold Bay, & writes to me every year. He has had an attempt at the diggings, but ended by selling at a large profit a 6-month stock of provisions. I also hear news from our neigbours the Normans; for Mrs. Norman’s sister is Mrs. Macarthur, (Mrs. King’s cousin I fancy)5 I was dining there two or three days ago, & I heard that the Macarthurs complain of the Colony much as your Father does.— I was so sorry not to have seen your Father when last in England;6 but my health was then miserable & I actually did not hear of his having been in England till he had left it. His friend, (when I first saw your Father) poor old Mr. Stokes has lately had a very suffering ending to his life.—7 My health is now much better, but I fear I shall never be strong again;—a walk for instance of 4 miles would quite annihilate me.— I live in the country about 16 miles from London, in a good large house, in a very solitary part of the country: we do not see much company, excepting relations; & I work very steadily at Natural History.—

I have lately published one volume, & am now preparing a second, on Cirripedes or Barnacles.8 They have turned out very curious, & were very little known. I have been at the work so many years that I am wearied of the subject: but there is one single species, which I believe is in your Father’s collection, namely Scalpellum papillosum of King from Patagonia, which I shd. like extremely to examine, if your Father has a duplicate & if he ever looks over his collections & could lay his hands on it.9 The species of this genus present a quite new case in the animal kingdom, & have associated with them minute parasitical beings of the same species; & which I have called Complemental Males.—10

I can tell you hardly any news of our old ship-mates; I saw FitzRoy rather lately, & he looked very well & was very cordial to me. Poor fellow, I fear besides his other misfortunes, he is rather poor; at least he has given up House-keeping.11 Stokes I have not seen or heard of for an age: I tried several times to get him to come down here, but with no success. I hear he is to have the offer of the command of the Northern exploring expedition into the interior.12 I saw Sulivan in the summer, & he was hearty & merry as ever: we went together & saw the grand reviews at Chobham,13 where 10,000 men were encamped.— Talking of soldiers, makes me think what a dreadful misfortune, the near imminence of war is.—14

Farewell my dear Philip King, I shall ever think of our old days of friendship with great pleasure; and I hope that your sons may turn out half as nice Boys as you were when you joined the Beagle, & then any parent might be satisfied.

Your affectionate friend | C. Darwin

Should you ever be inclined to write again, I shd. very much like to hear all about you, & how you pass your days & to what you mean to bring up your sons to.— &c &c &c—


King’s letter has not been found. He settled in Australia in 1836 after having been midshipman aboard the Beagle. In 1854, he was assistant superintendent of the estates of the Australian Agricultural Company and manager of the Peel River Land and Mining Company and lived in Goonoo Goonoo, New South Wales (Nicholas and Nicholas 1989, p. 133).
CD and Emma Darwin had five sons and two daughters. The oldest, William Erasmus Darwin, was attending Rugby School.
CD expressed the same wish in a letter to Syms Covington, 21 October 1853 (Correspondence vol. 5).
Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, whom CD first met in 1844 (see Correspondence vol. 3). Strzelecki explored the Australian interior in 1839 and 1840.
George Warde Norman and his wife Sibella lived near CD in Bromley, Kent. Sibella Norman’s sister Emily had married James Macarthur and emigrated to Australia in 1838. CD refers to King’s mother Harriet King, who was related by marriage to several branches of the Macarthur family.
Phillip Parker King, commander of the Adventure and Beagle on a surveying expedition to South America, 1826–30, had settled in Australia in 1834. It has not been possible to determine the date of his visit to England.
Charles Stokes, a London stockbroker and naturalist, died in 1853.
Living Cirripedia (1851) described the pedunculated cirripedes. Living Cirripedia (1854), which described the sessile cirripedes, appeared in September 1854.
CD had listed P. P. King’s description of Scalpellum papillosum in Living Cirripedia (1851): 375 under ‘Species dubiæ’, stating that it had been ‘so imperfectly described, that not even the number of the valves is given’ and citing King and Broderip 1832–4 as his source. CD did not mention the species in Living Cirripedia (1854).
CD identified the small, ‘complemental’ males of Scalpellum in 1848 (see Correspondence vol. 4, letter to J. D. Hooker, 10 May 1848). The discovery was particularly noteworthy in relation to CD’s view of the origin of sexual dimorphism (see ibid., Appendix II, pp. 399–400).
Robert FitzRoy had commanded the Beagle expedition, 1831–6, on which CD and King had sailed. His wife died in 1852. For CD’s meeting with FitzRoy, see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to Syms Covington, 21 October 1853.
John Lort Stokes shared a cabin with CD during the Beagle voyage. From 1851, after completing a naval survey of New Zealand, Stokes was on half-pay in England. In the end, he did not command the northern exploring expedition.
Bartholomew James Sulivan was another Beagle contemporary. CD refers to the large military encampment established from May to August 1853 in Chobham, Surrey, for exercising the troops stationed in England. Operations in the field commenced on 21 June when Queen Victoria watched a mock battle; ‘prodigious crowds’ visited the encampment during the summer (Annual register (1853), Chronicle, pp. 77–9). For Sulivan’s interest in home defence, see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. D. Fox, 7 March [1852]. The visit to Chobham with Sulivan took place on 13 August 1853 (see Correspondence vol. 5, Appendix I and p. 539 n. 22). It is described in Emma Darwin 2: 154.
Britain and France declared war on Russia in January 1854.


PGK’s letter stirred memories of their old days in the Beagle.

Gives news of his work on cirripedes. Would like to examine Scalpellum papillosum of King from Patagonia if PGK’s father has a duplicate in his collection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Philip Gidley King
Sent from
Source of text
W. B. Gidley King; copy in Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales (FM4/6900, 326–9)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1554A,” accessed on 29 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 7 (Supplement)