To Caroline Darwin  July – [12 August] 18351
My dear Caroline
My last letter was dated Coquimbo—I rejoice that I am now writing from Peru.— I have received the three months letters which were missing, & I know that in a few days I shall receive several more. In the mean time I will write an outline of our proceedings since the last letter. From Coquimbo I rode to Guasco, where in the valley I staid a few days; from that place to Copiapò, there is a complete desert of two & a half days journey, during which the poor horses had not one single mouthful to eat. The valley of Copiapo is a narrow little stripe of vegetation between districts utterly sterile.— Indeed the whole of Chili to the North of Coquimbo, I should think would rival Arabia in its desert appearance When in the valley of Copiapo I made two journeys to the Cordilleras & reached the divisions of the waters; it was most piercingly cold in those elevated regions, but the cloudless sky, from which rain does not fall more than once in several years, looked bright & cheerful.—
It is very hard & wearisome labor riding so much through such countries, as Chili, & I was quite glad when my trip came to a close. Excluding the interest arising from Geology, such travelling would be down right Martyrdom. But with this subject in your mind, there is food in the grand surrounding scenes, for constant meditation. When I reached the port of Copiapo, I found the Beagle there, but with Wickham as temporary Captain. Shortly after the Beagle got into Valparaiso, news arrived that H.M.S. Challenger was lost at Arauco, & that Capt Seymour a great friend of Fitz Roy & crew were badly off amongst the Indians.— The old Commodore in the Blonde was very slack in his motions, in short afraid of getting on that lee-shore in the winter; so that Capt Fitz Roy had to bully him & at last offered to go as Pilot.— We hear, that they have succeeded in saving nearly all hands, but that the Captain & Commodore have had a tremendous quarrel; the former having hinted some thing about a Court- Martial to the old Commodore for his slowness.— We suspect, that such a taught hand, as the Captain is, has opened the eyes of every one, fore & aft in the Blonde to a most surprising degree. We expect the Blonde will arrive here in a very few days & all are very curious to hear the news; no change in state politicks ever caused in its circle more conversation, that this wonderful quarrel between the Captain & the Commodore has with us.—
The Beagle after leaving the port of Copiapò, touched at Iquique, in Peru, a place famous for the exportation of Nitrate of Soda.— Here the country is an absolute desert, during a whole days ride, after leaving the Beach, I saw only one Vegetable production & this was a minute yellow Lichen attached to old Bones. The inhabitants send 40 miles for their water & firewood, & their provisions come from a greater distance.— From Iquique we came direct to this place, where we have been for the last week. The country is in such a state of Anarchy, that I am prevented from making any excursion.— The very little I have seen of this country, I do not like; The weather, now in the winter season is constantly cloudy & misty, & although it never rains; there is an abundance, of what the people are pleased to call Peruvian dew, but what in fact is a fine drizzle.— I am very anxious for the Galapagos Islands,—I think both the Geology & Zoology cannot fail to be very interesting.— With respect to Otaheite, that fallen paradise, I do not believe there will be much to see.— In short nothing will be very well worth seeing, during the remainder of this voyage, excepting the last & glorious view of the shores of England.—
This probably is the last letter, I shall write from S. America, I have written also to Mr Owen & Fox.— With the three months letters were two from Fox, the most kind & affectionate ones, which could be written.— He gives me a long account of his wife; I hope she is as nice a little lady, as he seems to think & assuredly deserves.— How very strange it will be, thus finding all my friends, old married men with families.—
July [August] 12th I have received three more letters making the chain complete from England to February 1835.— Capt Fitz Roy has arrived in good spirits & in a short time we sail for the Galapagos. He has just stated, five minutes ago on ye Quarter Deck that this time year we shall be very near to England. I am both pleased & grieved at all your affectionate messages, wishin〈g〉 me to return home.— If you think I do not long to see you again, you are indeed spurring a willing horse; but you can enter into my feelings of deep mortification, if any cause, ev〈en〉 ill-heath should have compelled me to have left the Beagle.— I say, should have, because you will agree with me, that it is hardly worth while, now to think of any such step.— Give my most affectionate love to poor dear old Erasmus, I am very glad, that ye same letter which brought an account of his illness, also told me of his recovery.— During my whole stay at Plymouth I have but one single recollection which is pleasant & that was his visit to me. Indeed, I do not know to what period of my life I can look back, without such thoughts coming to mind. I received his half letter & am grieved that I shall neither receive the letter & box which he is going to send till we reach the C. of Good Hope. What a good name that Cape has, indeed it with be one of good Hope when the Beagle passes its bluff Head.—
You will not hear from me for upwards of 10 month, nor I from you, in which time may God bless you all for being such kind dear relations to me. Farewell. Your affectionate brother | Charles Darwin.
NB. If you do not understand my former directions about letters you had better enclose them to Capt Beaufort.— Remember a letter too much (ie too late) is better than one too little
NB. 2d.— Tell my Father I have drawn a bill for 30£, to take with me money for the Islands.—
Describes his trip from Coquimbo to Copiapò, where he rejoined the Beagle – a hard and wearisome journey, but geologically interesting.
FitzRoy piloted the [Blonde] to rescue crew of wrecked Challenger.
CD has received letters that were missing, and others; for ten months there will be none to or from him.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 281,” accessed on 24 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-281