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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Susan Darwin   [5 September 1831]

17 Spring Gardens London


I have so little time to spare that I have none to waste in rewriting letters so that you must excuse my bringing up the other with me & altering it.— The last letter was written in the morning. in middle of day Wood received a letter from C. Fitzroy, which I must say was most straightforward & gentlemanlike, but so much against my going, that I immediately gave up the scheme.—& Henslow did the same: saying that he thought Peacock has acted very wrong in misrepresenting things so much.— I scarcely thought of going to Town, but here I am & now for more details & much more promising ones.— Cap Fitzroy is town & I have seen him; it is no use attempting to praise him as much as I feel inclined to do, for you would not believe me.— One thing I am certain of nothing could be more open & kind than he was to me.— It seems he had promised to take a friend with him,1 who is in office & cannot go.—& he only received the letter 5 minutes before I came in: & this makes things much better for me, as want of room of was one of Fs greatest objections.— He offers me to go share in every thing in his cabin, if I like to come; & every sort of accomodation than I can have but they will not be numerous.— He says that nothing would be so miserable for him as having me with him if I was unformfortable, as in small vessel we must be thrown together, & thought it his duty to state every thing in the worst point of view: I think I shall go on Sunday to Plymouth to see the Vessel.— There is something most extremely attractive in his manners, & way of coming straight to the point.— If I live with him he say I must live poorly, no wine & the plainest dinners.— The scheme is not certainly so good as Peacock describes: C F. advises me not make my mind quite yet: but that seriously, he thinks it will have much more pleasure than pain for me.—

The Vessel does not sail till the 10th of October.— it contains 60 men 5 or 6 officers &c.—but is a small vessel.— it will probably be out nearly 3 years.— I shall pay to mess the same as Captain does himself 30£ per annum, & Fitzroy says if I spend including my outfitting 500 it will be beyond the extreme.— But now for still worse news, the round the world is not certain, but the chance, most excellent: till that point is dicided I will not be so.— And you may believe after the many changes I have made, that nothing but my reason shall dicide me.—

Fitzroy says the stormy sea is exaggerated that if I do not chuse to remain with them, I can at any time get home to England, so many vessels sail that way & that during bad weather (probably 2 months) if I like, I shall be left in some healthy, safe & nice country: that I shall alway have assistance.— that he has many books, all instrument, guns, at my service.— that the fewer & cheaper clothes I take the better.—

The manner of proceeding will just suit me. they anchor the ship & then remain for a fortnight at a place.—

I have made Cap Beaufort perfectly understand me.: he says if I start & do not go round the world: I shall have good reason to think myself deceived.— I am to call the day after tomorrow, & if possible to receive more certain instructions.— The want of room is decidedly the most serious objection: but Cap Fitz. (probably owing to Woods letter) seems determined to make me comfortable as he possibly can.— I like his manner of proceeding.— He asked me at once.— “shall you bear being told that I want the cabin to myself? when I want to be alone.— if we treat each other this way, I hope we shall suit, if not probably we should wish each other at the Devil” We stop a week at the Madeira islands: & shall see most of big cities in S. America. C. Beaufort is drawing up the track through the South Sea.—

I am writing in great hurry: I do not know whether you take interest enough to excuse treble postage.— I hope I am judging reasonably, & not through prejudice about Cap. Fitz: if so I am sure we shall suit.— I dine with him to day.— I could write great deal more if I thought you liked it, & I had at present time.— There is indeed a tide in the affairs of men,2 & I have experienced it, & I had entirely given it up till 1 to day:

Love to my Father, dearest Susan | good bye, Chas. Darwin


It is not clear when this promise was made, but neither Francis Beaufort nor George Peacock knew of it when they set out to find a naturalist. It may be that, on hearing about CD from Charles Alexander Wood and Beaufort, Robert FitzRoy had misgivings about sharing his quarters with a total stranger and that he then invited a friend whom he knew well and whose company he would enjoy.
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 4. 3. 217 (Arden edition).


Wood has heard from FitzRoy, who seemed so much against CD’s going that CD and Henslow gave up. CD is in London; has seen FitzRoy, who is now ready to invite him. CD remains undecided. He likes FitzRoy. Gives details of prospective arrangements. They probably will be gone three years; "round the world" is not certain. Want of room is a serious objection.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Sent from
London, Spring Gardens, 17
C.H 5 SE 1831 X
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 7pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 117,” accessed on 23 March 2023,

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