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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Syms Covington1   14 March 1852

Down Farnborough, Kent,

March 14, 1852.

Dear Covington,—

I was very much pleased a couple of months ago to receive your very interesting letter of June, 1851, with an account just such as I liked to hear of your present state and prospects and of the general condition of the Colony.2 You mention in your letter the discovery of gold, but since then you have had the wonderful Geelong beds discovered.3 Have you carried your plan into execution of going to trade at the gold mines? If you have and are returned and could spare an evening, it would amuse me much to hear what you saw there and how the people behave. Many people are proud in England at hearing that you Australians have behaved wonderfully better than the Californians.4 Is this so? or is all the world alike when tempted by gold? I had a note two days ago from your brother, Mr. B. Covington,5 of ‘28, Harding-street, Windsor, Liverpoool,’ saying that he was very anxious to hear news of you; so as there was nothing in your letter to me which you could have disliked any one seeing I sent it to him. My life and pursuits are so uniform that I have really no news to tell you of myself. I have published one book on Barnacles, and am going to publish a second volume, and quite lately I have been examining some of the specimens you sent me, and very useful and interesting they proved.6 My health keeps indifferent. The only officer of the Beagle that I have seen for several years is Captain Sulivan, who paid me a visit on his return lately from the Falkland Islands, where he and three other gentlemen have set up a large cattle farm, and hope it will answer very well.7 With my best wishes for your prosperity and happiness, believe me your friend, | CHARLES DARWIN


The text of this letter and the other letters to Covington were published in de Beer 1959b. Gavin de Beer’s transcripts of the letter texts differ considerably from the versions in the Sydney Mail, but according to de Beer 1859b, the Sydney Mail was the source of his versions, a fact that is corroborated by surviving material in de Beer’s papers in the archives of University College London. The discrepancies are, perhaps, the result of de Beer revising the transcript in accordance with what he knew of CD’s usual writing practices.
CD had asked Covington for information about life in Australia, in Correspondence vol. 4, letter to Syms Covington, 23 November 1850.
The discovery of gold in Guyong, New South Wales, in February 1851, precipitated the Australian gold-rush. By the end of 1851 it had been discovered that the gold fields in Victoria were more extensive than those of New South Wales (Hughes 1987, pp. 561–5). Geelong is on Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.
Violent crime, though present, was far less common amongst Australian gold-miners than those in California (May 1977, p. 50).
CD had asked Covington to collect cirripedes for him, and Covington had sent him a large number from Twofold Bay, New South Wales, where he lived (see Correspondence vol. 4, letters to Syms Covington, 30 March 1849 and 23 November 1850, n. 1).
Bartholomew James Sulivan dined with the Darwins on 27 November 1851 (Emma Darwin’s diary) following his return to England in the autumn of 1851. Sulivan had taken three-years leave from the navy, which he spent farming and stock-rearing on the Falkland Islands (Sulivan ed. 1896, pp. 400–2).


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

Hughes, Robert. 1987. The fatal shore: a history of the transportation of convicts to Australia, 1787–1868. London: Collins Harvill.

May, Robin. 1977. The gold rushes. London: William Luscombe.


Asks for details about the discoveries of gold in Australia.

Has published one book on barnacles [1851].

Sulivan has just returned from his cattle farm in the Falklands.

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. 1477,” accessed on 5 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5