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Darwin Correspondence Project


To W. D. Fox   23 May 1833

Maldonado. | Rio Plata.

May 23d. 1833

My dear Fox

Upon our return from a cruize amongst the islands of Tierra del Fuego,—I received your two letters dated at the wide of interval of August & January.—1 I am very much obliged to you for writing; your letters never fail to throw me into a pleasant reverie of past times & this is one of the highest pleasures I now enjoy.— I find the loss of society a great one.— there is nothing on board the Beagle which can call to mind our evenings in Cambridge.— There is indeed a difference between one of your Coffee parties, with Whitmore &c &c & an evening spent in the gun-room.— But it will be all the same in fifty years, as a boy says, who is going to be well flogged, & thus I have brought myself not to care much for anything which does not interfere with Natural Hist.—

This summers cruize has not been a very profitable one; excepting some little in Geology.— I wish you would begin, like myself, to be a smatterer in this latter branch.— she will soon be the favourite mistress & one easy to be wooed.— I hope for better luck, when the happy day arrive of doubling the Horn & steering for warmer climes.—

This whole East side is totally devoid of all picturesque beauty; & the coast not being rocky & there being no forests, it is bad for the greater part of Zoology.— We are passing this winter in this vicinity; when we shall say farewell to the R. Plata, I know not: I trust that next summer will complete the whole of this part of S. America.— The voyage is an immense one; how different from the first proposed two years.— it is, as you say, a serious evil, so much time spent in wandering.— I often conjecture, what will become of me; my wishes certainly would make me a country clergyman.— You expect sadly more than I shall ever do in Nat: Hist:— I am only a sort of Jackall, a lions provider; but I wish I was sure there were lions enough.— Now this morning I have collected a host of minute beetles; who, I should like to know, in England is both capable & willing to describe them?— You ask me about Ornithology; my labours in it are very simple.— I have taught, my servant to shoot & skin birds, & I give him money.— I have only taken one bird, which has much interested me: I daresay it is as common as a cock sparrow, but it appears to me as if all the Orders had said, “let us go snacks2 in making a specimen”.— I collect reptiles, small quadrupeds, & fishes industriously, especially the first: The invertebrate marine animals, are however my delight; amongst them I have examined some, almost disagreeably new; for I can find no analogy between them & any described families.— Amongst the Crustaceæ I have taken many new & curious genera: The pleasure of working with the Microscope ranks second to geology.— I strongly advice you instanter to buy from Bancks in Bond Stt. a simple microscope, such as the Mr Browne recommends.—& then make out insects scientifically by which I mean separate, examine & describe the trophi: it is very easy & exceedingly interesting; I speak from experience, not in insects, but in most minute Crustaceæ.

I am very glad to hear in your last letter, that your health, after such struggles, is at last so much better, & that you are actually collecting the dear little beetles.— Your domestic arrangements at Ryde, sounded exquisitely 〈com〉fortable: it makes me envious to fancy them. I have told you nothing about our cruize to the South: because (you will say a very odd reason) I have too much to tell.— We had plenty of very severe gales of wind; one beating match of 3 weeks off the Horn; when it often blew so hard, you could scarcely look at it.— We shipped a sea—which spoiled all my paper for drying plants: oh the miseries of a real gale of wind! In Tierra del I first saw bona? fide savages; & they are as savage as the most curious person would desire.— A wild man is indeed a miserable animal, but one well worth seeing.—

Will you write again? I make a poor return: but indeed letter writing is not my fort: if you were but in hail, I would talk you deaf on the spot.— Once more I must thank you for your most kind letters.— I assure you I well know how to value & cordially be grateful for your friendship. Believe me, my dear old Fox | Yours affectionately, Chas Darwin

Remember me most kindly to Mr & Mrs Fox & to every one at Osmaston.— Tell Miss A. Maria I will remember her out of mere spite, because she wont me.— Direct to Valparyso, pro futuro.— I have collected in this place about 70 species of birds & 19 Mammalia: Your question: what I did in Ornithology? has done me good: I have watched the manners of the whole set:—3


Letters from W. D. Fox, 29 August – 28 September 1832 and 23 January 1833.
To take equal shares. The bird is probably the same ‘inosculating creature’ CD wrote of in his letter to J. S. Henslow, [c. 26 October –] 24 November [1832].
The words transcribed as ‘watched’ and ‘set’ are not clearly legible. If correct, the meaning appears to be that CD observed the habits of the species collected. This is borne out by the Maldonado entries in his ‘Zoological diary’ (DAR 30.2: 77–86v.), which contain detailed observations of flight, nesting, feeding, and other habits. Most of these entries are reproduced in ‘Ornithological notes’, pp. 214–25.


He misses society. "I often conjecture what will become of me; my wishes certainly would make me a country clergyman. – You expect sadly more than I shall ever do in Nat. Hist: I am only a sort of Jackall, a lions provider; but I wish I was sure there were lions enough."

Has collected a host of minute beetles, some reptiles, small quadrupeds, and fishes. Invertebrate marine animals are his delight. The pleasure of working with microscope ranks second only to geology.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Fox, W. D.
Sent from
Maldonado, Rio Plata
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (Fox 46b)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 207,” accessed on 24 July 2016,