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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Syms Covington   23 November 1850

Down Farnborough, Kent,

November 23, 1850.

Dear Covington,—

I received your letter of the 12th of March on the 25th of August, but the box of which you advised me arrived here only yesterday. The captain who brought it made no charge, and it arrived quite safely. I thank you very sincerely for the great trouble you must have taken in collecting so many specimens. I have received a vast number of collections from different places, but never one so rich from one locality. One of the kinds is most curious. It is a new species of a genus of which only one specimen is known to exist in the world, and it is in the British Museum.1 I see that you are one of those very rare few who will work as hard for a friend when several thousand miles apart as when close at hand. There are at least seven different kinds in the box. The collection must have caused you much time and labour, and I again thank you very sincerely for so kindly obliging me. I have been amused by looking over two old papers you used in packing up, and in seeing the names of Captain Wickham,2 Mr. Macleay,3 and others mentioned. I am always much interested by your letters, and take a very sincere pleasure in hearing how you get on. You have an immense, incalculable advantage in living in a country in which your children are sure to get on if industrious. I assure you that, though I am a rich man, when I think of the future I very often ardently wish I was settled in one of our Colonies, for I have now four sons (seven children in all, and more coming), and what on earth to bring them up to I do not know. A young man may here slave for years in any profession and not make a penny. Many people think that Californian gold will half ruin all those who live on the interest of accumulated gold or capital, and if that does happen I will certainly emigrate.4 Whenever you write again tell me how far you think a gentleman with capital would get on in New South Wales. I have heard that gentlemen generally get on badly. I am sorry to say that my health keeps indifferent, and I have given up all hopes of ever being a strong man again. I am forced to live the life of a hermit, but natural history fills up my time, and I am happy in having an excellent wife and children. Any particulars you choose to tell me about yourself always interest me much. What interest can you get for money in a safe investment? How dear is food; I suppose nearly as dear as in England? How much land have you? I was pleased to see the other day that you have a railway commenced,5 and before they have one in any part of Italy or Turkey. The English certainly are a noble race, and a grand thing it is that we have got securely hold of Australia and New Zealand. Once again accept my thanks for your valuable collection of barnacles, and believe me, dear Covington, your sincere friend, C. DARWIN.


See letter to Syms Covington, 30 March 1849, in which CD asked him to send Australian cirripedes. CD referred to four of Covington’s specimens in Living Cirripedia (1854): 210, 353, 460, 487–90, listing them as having come from Twofold Bay, New South Wales, where Covington had his home. The ‘curious’ specimen was probably Catophragmus polymerus; there was only one other species of Catophragmus known to CD. The two species are described in Living Cirripedia (1854): 487–91.
John Clement Wickham, first lieutenant and CD’s shipmate aboard H.M.S. Beagle.
William Sharp Macleay. When Covington left for Australia, CD had written a letter of introduction and recommendation on his behalf to Macleay at Sydney (see Correspondence vol. 2, letter to W. S. Macleay, 29 May 1839).
The California gold-rush was at its height in the summer of 1850; from the British point of view, inflated prices for gold and the withdrawal of capital from traditional investments such as land, government bonds, and stocks and shares undermined the stability of the economy. CD expressed the same fears about the effects on his investments in Correspondence vol. 5, letter to W. D. Fox, 7 March [1852], and on 1 February 1852 recorded in his reading notebook (DAR 128; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV): ‘Emigrants Manual’ (Burton 1851).
The first railway in Australia ran from the north bank of the Yarra River to Hobson’s Bay in Melbourne. It was completed in 1854.


Burton, John Hill. 1851. Emigration in its practical application to individuals and communities (The emigrant’s manual). Edinburgh.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.


Thanks SC for box of specimens [of cirripedes].

Often wishes he had settled in one of the colonies because of opportunities for his children.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Syms Covington
Sent from
Source of text
Sydney Mail, 9 August 1884, p. 254

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1370,” accessed on 22 April 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4