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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Susan Darwin   [9 September 1831]

[17 Spring Gardens]

Friday Morning

My dear Susan

I have just received the parcel: I suppose it was not delivered yesterday owing to the Coronation.—1 I am very much obliged to my Father & every body else.— Every thing is done quite right: I suppose by this time you have received my letter written next day—& I hope will send off the things.—

My affairs remain in statu quo.— Cap Beaufort says I am on the books for victuals, & he thinks I shall have no difficulty about my collections when I come home.— But he is too deep a fish for me to make him out.— The only thing that now prevents me finally making up my mind is the want of certainty about S S Islands, although morally I have no doubt we should go there whether or no it is put in the instructions: Cap. Fitz says I do good by plaguing Cap Beaufort: it stirs him up with a long pole.— Cap Fitz. says he is sure he has interest enough—(particularly if this administration is not everlasting: I shall soon turn Tory.!) anyhow even when out to get the ship ordered home by whatever track he likes.— From what Wood says I presume Dukes Grafton & Richmond interest themselves about him.—2 By the way Wood has been of the greatest use to me.—& I am sure his personal introduction of me, inclined Cap Fitzroy to have me.—

To explain things from the very beginning; Cap Fitz first wished to have naturalist & then he seems to have taken a sudden horror of the chances of having somebody he should not like on board the Vessel: he confesses, his letter to Cambridge, was to throw cold water on the scheme.— I dont think we shall quarrell about politics although Wood (as might be expected from a Londonderry) solemnly warned Fitzroy that I was a whig.— Cap Fitz was before Uncle Jos—he said “now your friends will tell you a sea Captain is the greatest brute on the face of the creation; I do not know how to help you in this case, except by hoping you will give me a trial.”— How one does change.— I actually now wish the voyage was longer before we touched Land. I feel my blood run cold at the quantity I have do.— Every body seems ready to assist me. The Zoological want to make me a corresponding member; all this I can construe without crossing the Equator:— But one friend is quite invaluable, viz a Mr Yarrell, a stationer & excellent naturalist: he goes to the shops with me & bullies about prices (not that I yet buy). hang me if I give 60£ for pistols.—

Yesterday all the shops were shut—so that I could do nothing.—& I was child enough to give 1’1 for an excellent seat to see the procession— And it certainly was very well worth seeing.— I was surprised that any quantity of gold could make a long row of people quite glitter.— it was like only what one sees in picture books of Eastern processions.— The King looked very well, & seemed popular: but there was very little enthusiasm so little that I can hardly think there will be a coronation this time 50 years.—

The life Guards pleased me as much as anything: they are quite magnificent & it is beautiful to see them clear a crowd; you think that they must kill a score at least, & apparently they really hurt nobody, but most deucedly frighten them.— Wherever a crowd was so dense that the people were forced off the Causeway: one of these six feet gentleman, on a black horse, rode straight at the place, making his horse rear very high & fall on the thickets spot: you would suppose men were made of spong to see them shrink away.— In the evening there was an illumination, & much grander than the one on the Reform bill.—3 All the principal streets were crowded just like a Race ground.— Carriages generally being 6 abreast, & I will venture to say not going 1 mile an hour.— Duke of Northumberland learnt a lesson last time: for his house was very grand: much more so than the other great nobility: & in much better taste: every window in his house was full of perfectly straight lines of brilliant lights: & from their extreme regularity & number had a beautiful effect.— The paucity of invention was very striking, crowns anchors & W R.s were repeated in endless succession.— The prettiest were gass pipes with small holes, they were almost painfully brilliant.— I have written so much about the Coronation, that I think you will have no occasion to read Morning Herald.— For about the first time in my life I find London very pleasant: hurry, bustle & noise are all in unison with my feelings.— And I have plenty to do in spare moments I work at Astronomy: as I suppose it would astound a sailor if one did not know how to find Lat & Long.—

I am now going to Cap Fitzroy, & will keep letter open till evening for any thing that may occur.— I will give you one proof of Fitzroy being a good officer, all officers are the same as before 2/3 of his crew, & the eight marines, who went before all offered to come again: so the service cannot be so very bad: The admiralty have just issued orders for a large stock of Canister meat & Lemon juice & &c.—

I have just returned from spending a long day with Cap Fitz, driving about in his gig & shopping.— This letter is too late for to days post.— You may consider it settled that I go: yet there is room for change, if any untoward accident should happen: this I can see no reason to expect: I feel convinced nothing else will alter my wish of going.— I have begun to order things. I have procured case of good strong pistols & excellent rifle for 50£: there is a saving: good telescope, with compass 5£, & these are nearly the only expensive instruments I shall want.— Cap Fitz has every thing: I never saw so, (what I should call, he says not) extravagant a man as regard himself, but as economical towards me.— How he did order things. His fire arms will cost 400£ at least:— I found Carpet bag when I arrived; all right & much obliged.— I do not think I shall take any Arsenic: shall send partridges to Mr Yarrell, much obliged: Ask Edward to bargain with Clemson4 to make for my gun: 2 spare hammers or cocks: 2 main spring: 2 sere springs: 4 nipples or plugs: I mean one for each barrell, except nipples of which there must be 2 for each: all of excellent quality & set about them immediately. tell Edward make enquiries about prices

I go on Sunday, per packet to Plymouth, shall stay 1 or 2 days then return, & hope to find letter from you.— few days in London: then Cam, Shrews, London, Plymouth, Madeira, is my route.— It is great bore my writing so much about Coronation. I could fill another sheet.—

I just been with Cap King, Fitzroy senior officer last expedition: he thinks that the expedition will suit me.— Unasked he said Fitzroys temper was perfect: He send his own son5 with him as midshipman

The key of my microscope was forgotten it is of no consequence.

Love to all | Chas. Darwin


The coronation of King William IV on 8 September 1831.
Robert FitzRoy was a nephew of George Henry FitzRoy, 4th Duke of Grafton. Charles Gordon Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond, was a more distant relation.
The Reform Bill did not become law until June 1832, but in March 1831 it passed its second reading in the House of Commons. This was the occasion of general jubilation.
Shrewsbury gunsmith.


Discusses help he is receiving in his preparations for the voyage from William Yarrell and others. He has ordered a case of pistols, a rifle, and a good telescope with compass. It is settled that he will go.

Describes the coronation of William IV.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Sent from
London, Spring Gardens, 17
10 SE 1831 CX
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 122,” accessed on 9 February 2023,

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