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Letter 207

Darwin, C. R. to Fox, W. D.

23 May 1833

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    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."

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    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.


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.— 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 snacks 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:—

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 207.f1
    Letters from W. D. Fox, 29 August -- 28 September 1832 and 23 January 1833.
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    f2 207.f2
    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].
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    f3 207.f3
    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.
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