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Darwin Correspondence Project

From George Peacock   [c. 26 August 1831]

My dear Sir

I received Henslow’s letter last night too late to forward it to you by the post, a circumstance which I do not regret, as it has given me an opportunity of seeing Captain Beaufort at the admiralty (the Hydrographer) & of stating to him the offer which I have to make to you: he entirely approves of it & you may consider the situation as at your absolute disposal: I trust that you will accept it as it is an opportunity which should not be lost & I look forward with great interest to the benefit which our collections of natural history may receive from your labours

The circumstances are these

Captain Fitzroy (a nephew of the Duke of Graftons) sails at the end of September in a ship to survey in the first instance the S. Coast of Terra del Fuego, afterwards to visit the South Sea Islands & to return by the Indian Archipelago to England: The expedition is entirely for scientific purposes & the ship will generally wait your leisure for researches in natural history &c: Captain Fitzroy is a public spirited & zealous officer, of delightful manners & greatly beloved by all his brother officers: he went with Captain Beechey1 & spent 1500£ in bringing over & educating at his own charge 3 natives of Patagonia:2 he engages at his own expense an artist at 200 a year to go with him: you may be sure therefore of having a very pleasant companion, who will enter heartily into all your views

The ship sails about the end of September & you must lose no time in making known your acceptance to Captain Beaufort, Admiralty hydr I have had a good deal of correspondence about this matter, who3 feels in common with myself the greatest anxiety that you should go. I hope that no other arrangements are likely to interfere with it

Captain will give you the rendezvous & all requisite information: I should recommend you to come up to London, in order to see him & to complete your arrangements I shall leave London on Monday: perhaps you will have the goodness to write to me at Denton, Darlington, to say that you will go

The Admiralty are not disposed to give a salary, though they will furnish you with an official appointment4 & every accomodation: if a salary should be required however I am inclined to think that it would be granted

Believe me | My dear Sir | Very truly yours | Geo Peacock

If you are with Sedgwick I hope you will give my kind regards to him


An error for Captain Phillip Parker King, commander of the Adventure and Beagle survey of the southern coasts of South America (1826–30). Robert FitzRoy was appointed commander of the Beagle in 1828 to replace Captain Pringle Stokes, who had committed suicide (Narrative 1: 188). King’s account of the first expedition is in the first volume of Narrative.
FitzRoy had brought four natives to England. One, Boat Memory, died of smallpox soon after arriving. The others were named York Minster, James (Jemmy) Button, and Fuegia Basket (a girl). FitzRoy’s original plan was to fulfil a commitment to return the Fuegians to their native land; he had already chartered a small vessel for the voyage when an uncle obtained for him the appointment to survey the southern coasts of South America. For FitzRoy’s account of the Fuegians, see Narrative 2: 1–16.
Peacock has inadvertently omitted the name of his correspondent, who was almost certainly Henslow.
In the event, CD’s appointment was not official. Although CD lists himself on the title page of Journal of researches as ‘Naturalist to the Beagle’ and in the Zoology as ‘Naturalist to the Expedition’ this is not to be understood as an official title conferred by the Admiralty. The letters of the next month bear out the contention of J. W. Gruber 1969 and Burstyn 1975 that CD’s situation was that of guest of Captain FitzRoy, who sought a ‘well-educated and scientific person’ as a companion (Narrative 2: 18).


Burstyn, H. L. 1975. If Darwin wasn’t the Beagle’s naturalist, why was he on board? British Journal for the History of Science 8: 62–9.

Gruber, Jacob W. 1969. Who was the Beagle’s naturalist? British Journal for the History of Science 4: 266–82.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Narrative: Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. [Edited by Robert FitzRoy.] 3 vols. and appendix. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Zoology: The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. 5 pts. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1838–43.


Details about FitzRoy and proposed voyage of Beagle. CD invited to go on the voyage as naturalist.

Letter details

Letter no.
George Peacock
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 97 (ser.2): 11–13
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 106,” accessed on 29 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 1