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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Caroline, Catherine, and Susan Darwin   20–31 December [1831]1

Wednesday December 20th.

My dear Charles—

It is now exactly a week since we recd your letter telling us you had been oblgd to put back to Plymouth after the stormy night & miserable 24 hours you had passed.2 I was quite astonished how you could write so cheerfully after such suffering. I hope it served for a great piece of the seasoning you must go through before you are proof against sea sickness. Your account of the Captain was quite sublime— it was the Red Rover’s3 own still quiet manner & “low distinct tones” heard through all the uproar, & Papa’s eyes were full of tears when he thought first of your miserable night & then of your goodnatured Captain in all the confusion paying you a visit & arranging your hammock— he must be quite a Captain Wentworth every thing you tell us of him makes him more & more perfect. Erasmus came home about an hour after we had your letter & was all astonishment to find we had later intelligence of you than he had. He said the Saturday night was quite tremendous at Devonport & his bed rocked almost as much as if he had been at sea— Eras was thoroughly wearied with his journey home & he contrived to see nothing the Coaches always getting into the towns, Bath, Worcester &c. just when dark. I was surprised he did not stay a day at Bath to look about him more particularly as Paganini was playing there so that he would have had a very nice amusemt for his evening. We made him tell us every thing he could about you, ‘the Beagle’ & your companions & I can fancy you very well seated in your snug corner to your table. he made us laugh too with his account of your delivery of a book & the run you were oblgd to take afterwards to escape the General— I will not go back beyond the time of Erasmus coming here as I hope you recd a letter I wrote telling you of the Wedgwoods being here & the birth of another little nephew to the great disappointment of Marianne & Doctor Parker. I have not yet seen the baby but they tell me (of course) it is a nice little creature & it is to be christened after you & Dr P’s brother, making its appearance the very day of your sailing— This last week has felt to me very melancholy. I have been able to think of little besides you & though I hope & believe all you see will be great enjoyment, the selfish feeling of the great separation from you & the long, long time it must be before I can hope to see you again, is painful enough— in short, dear Charles you will be properly valued when we do see you again. I find Eras has hopes that you will return at the end of two years, & how we shall rejoice if his prophesy proves true— Papa is very well & I think every day gets more interest in the Hothouse which he is constantly going to see & I expect he will find it a very nice amusement and little occupation— Our days pass much as usual, cards in the eveng & after Papa is gone to bed Eras, Charlotte & we draw round the fire & have an hours cosy talk together & as I said before, generally about you— on (Monday Decr 18th.)4 Susan and I sallied forth to pay our wedding call at Eaton,5 Mr. & Mrs Williams & Mr and Mrs. White having arrived there a few days previously— a few miles from Shrewsbury we met Sarah alone in her carriage. She was coming to see us, having for the first time she said “rung the bell” & ordered the carriage & she seemed quite proud of having ventured upon such a step of authority— we got into the carriage to her & had a very merry drive with her to Shrewsbury— she made us but a short call & asked us to dine with her the next Monday which Susan & I promised to do which we did, & got there about an hour before dinner. We found Fanny & Sarah alone in the Drawing Room. Fanny had we found insis-ted upon Sarah not running out to meet us in the Hall—but made her sit still “to keep up her dignity”— you cannot think how pretty & nice they looked when we came into the room, both looking so gay & happy— Mr. & Mrs. Bruce, Mr Edward Hanmer, & Henry Hill, dined there— as soon as dinner was over Sarah & I sat together alone more than an hour & she was so open & affectionate that I hardly ever felt fonder of her. Edward Williams was in very good looks, thanks Sarah thought to a beautiful black satin neck cloth she makes him wear, but I think owing to his looking so very happy. I never before had talked much to him & was quite surprised to find how pleasant he was, & moreover he never once stammered— Sarah looked particularly lady like at the head of her table & did the honors very nicely. I believe there has been but one jealous fit since the marriage & Fanny said Sarah behaved exceedingly well— She was half frightened after telling us of it whether she had not done wrong, & I am glad to find from different things that they do not intend to talk of his faults now he is married to Sarah— All the neighbourhood have been calling at Eaton, the Corbets of Sundurne & Acton Reynald,6 & many other families who never before would visit the Williams— I find Mr. Bruce’s brother has been almost as great a traveller as you are going to be—having passed seven years in Arabia, Egypt, Nubia &c these Bruces are related to the Bruce 7 which I did not know before. Mr Bruce asked a great many particulars about you & begged I would tell you what happened to his brother who after 5 years travelling, & collecting & writing, was shipwrecked & all his papers destroyed & who never ceased regretting that he had not kept duplicates and sent off his journals & papers by every safe opportunity—he hoped you would profit by the hint. We finished the evening by a gambling game of cards— the Bruces have taken a house in London & all the brothers are gone away & I am happy to think Eaton is now clear of all the relations— the next morning Fanny came home with us & took Susan & Catherine on with her to Woodhouse for an Ellesmere ball & now I shall stop my letter for some days I never mean to make any apology for writing Twaddle for it is the only way you will know all or any thing about any body so goodnight dear Charles— in your first delight at all you are seeing at Rio you will hardly find time to read all I am writing—

Christmas day 25th— We have all been thinking of you & wishing you a happy Xmas, which to be sure is rather a farce knowing as we all do that you are pitching & tossing & as sick as may be— I was never more astonished when sitting painting quietly & believing you to be half way to the Madeiras to receive your two letters from Devonport & such long, interesting, agreeable letters. I am exceedingly glad you feel so much at home & comfortably established in the Beagle & if you are reconciled now to the confinement, so soon after going on board—I think with your Captain, & that you must fully deserve his compliment of being the “best of shore going fellows”— Dont be at all uneasy that you will not have letters enough— I dare say every body at home will determine they will write & I do not doubt they will—but I do not mean to trust to any one of them & unless I know for a certainty & have seen a letter to you put in the Post office in time for every Packet that sails I shall write myself if it is only half a page rather than let you miss having a letter & though I am careless in some respects, in any point of importance I can not reproach myself with ever forgetting what I have determined & promised to do, so you may be certain at any place you do not get a letter when you expect one that it will not be from our having forgotten to write, but from its having miscarried— Mr. Towers tells us that Government Packets sail the first Tuesday in every month & I shall send of this letter by January Packet. remember how long the communication must be between us & give directions in proper time how long we are to continue writing to Monte Video & where afterwards— & now I want to beg a favor of you—to keep a letter written of three lines just to say you are well—ready to be sent off at any opportunity that may occur—for I suppose sometimes you may have an opportunity of sending a letter by some other vessel, when you would not have time to write & when we are feeling anxious & hopeless of a letter arriving I can hardly fancy greater pleasure than the very sight of your handwriting—though literally your letter only contained the words you were well.

Nothing has happened since I put my letter by— Charlotte is very agreeable but rather grave I think— Eras & she have a good deal of talking together but we think they both the poor creatures often look miserably shy—poor Charlotte blushes & colours to her fingers ends & Eras thinks she must have done so at Maer & so innocently have raised your never-to-be-forgotten impertinence which so petrified me— perhaps you will think this solution arises from Erasmus’s jealousy & envy & I think it does seem rather suspicious— Fanny & Emma came here on Friday. Emma is looking very pretty & chats very pleasantly but I am still steady to my old friend Fanny—

A letter to my Father came from John Price, it ought to have been directed to Susan it was so full of messages to her & reproaches to her for having written only one side of note paper to him lately, when she was oblgd to write some message or communication for my Father to him. he supposed she thought it “highly improper to write 2 sides of note paper to a Bachelor &c”. & very angry that she had not told him of your plans. Susan is furious at “his impertinence” Erasmus was ordered to write—he refused saying he would have nothing to do with “Lovers quarrels” you may guess how indignant Susan was & it has ended in my being victim—but I think I will so write that our correspondence may end where it begins—

Dec 29th. Dear Charles I have just had your letter of the 27th. on the point of sailing & I must say a few words to you for after reading any of your charming letters I never can read for very long afterwards & usually take a solo walk & think of you. I delight in your enthusiasm & can fancy no more vivid enjoyment than when you first land, see your “glorious sun”, & exquisite vegetation— On Tuesday I got your dear affectionate letter by the early post & in the hopes of an answer reaching you wrote a short letter by that return of Post which I suppose after paying the dead letter office a visit will return to me in due time. I will not finish my letter till the day it must go that you may have the latest news.

Decr 31. I got your second letter on Thursday written when the “anchors were weighing, sails, unfurling”8—& as my letter written on Tuesday returned this morning with (The Beagle has sailed) on its back—I suppose you are now really off. Eras, Charlotte Fanny & Emma all went off on Monday just filling the coach & a very pleasant merry party they must have made. they slept at Birmingham the first night. I have heard since from Eras who declares Dr Holland is very attentive to Charlotte & he is quite convinced has serious intentions. I feel very sure Charlottes intentions are equally serious & certainly will not have him—if she did but esteem & like I think he really would be a very affectionate husband, but that is match that will never be—

All Shropshire is Gossiping now at a quarrel between Dr. Dugard & Mrs. Hill— Dr D. declaring Mrs. H promised him a certain sum (£1000 a year it is said) if he brought the marriage to bear between Sir Rowland & Miss Clegg,9 having made the promise before Mrs. Dugard & one of the young Hills, which she now denies & says “the finger of God” brought it to bear. Dr. Dugard threatens to prosecute Mrs. Hill in the Kings Bench for defamation for what she says & told the whole story a few days ago—[to] Sarah (Mrs Williams), at a dinner party. On the other side, the Hills are furious say it is all false. Dr. D. trying to get money—& they tell the story every where. every body are curious how this disgraceful affair will end.—

Susan and Cath want this flap to write a few lines to you, but their long letter will go by February packet directed to Rio unless in the mean time we have fresh direction— If you write to Eras, shall you direct to his Club? as he talks of leaving his Regent St. lodging—but he has given you direction I dare say— I have been reading all morning Beecheys voyages & have at least double interest in his account of the South Sea islands from knowing you will visit them (first page)

I have read & re read so many times your letters that I know them by heart, almost I should say for you & I agree our memory is not our strongest point— I have just seen my Father he sends you his kindest love. I wish you had seen his pleased feeling look when I read him yr affectionate message.

Good bye my very very dear Charles | Yrs very affectly | Caroline Darwin

Nancy was so pleased by your so kindly recollecting her She says she does not know what it would be proper for her to say to you

My dearest Charley. I have got this little scrap out of Caroline’s enormous letter, just to tell you how often I think of you, and how very very much I hope you will have liked your voyage as much as can be expected, and when you get this, you will be beginning really to enjoy yourself, and see the wonders of the world. I can hardly believe I am really writing to you in South America. what will you think of this little speck, Shrewsbury, when you come back? You cannot think how interesting we shall find your letters—we depend on your writing as often as you have opportunity, it will be such a comfort to us to hear often from you. Your letters were very interesting even from Devonport; I long for your first account of Madeira. I see Beechey got to Teneriffe in 12 days. Mr Owen talks so much of you, and with so much affection and feeling. I wish you could see his countenance about you. I have been several times at Woodhouse lately, for Balls. I will write more to you, I am determined, the 1st of February. Goodbye, my dearest Charles, | Catherine.—

My dear Charley I cannot let this go without writing my own love & telling you how I long to have yr first Madeira letter it will be so very interesting. I am very sanguine about yr enjoyment as I think you are like myself & always look at the best side. I shall commence on a folio sheet in a very few days for the 1st. of Feb & now I must bid you Good bye wishing you a most happy prosperous New Year which begins tomorrow Ever Dear⁠⟨⁠est⁠⟩⁠ C yr most affectionate Susan Darwin


The Wednesday before Christmas in 1831 was the 21st of December.
Gale winds had forced the Beagle to return to Plymouth on 11 December. ‘I suffered most dreadfully; such a night I never passed, on every side nothing but misery’ (‘Beagle’ diary, p. 13).
James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the sea, The red rover, a tale (1827).
This must refer to Monday, 12 December, since another Monday (the 19th) intervened before the letter was begun.
The Corbet family of Sundorne Castle, Shropshire, (see Burke’s Landed Gentry 1879) and the Corbet family of Acton Reynald, Shropshire (see Burke’s Peerage 1980).
Robert de Bruce VIII, King of Scotland.
This phrase is a misquotation of a line from act 3 of Nahum Tate’s libretto of Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas (1689); the libretto reads: ‘Anchors weighing, sails unfurling’.
Dr Thomas Dugard was physician at the Shrewsbury Infirmary (Gentleman’s Magazine n.s. 14 (1840): 556). Sir Rowland Hill and Anne Clegg, ‘with whom he had a large fortune which he dissipated’, were married 21 July 1831 (Complete Peerage). See also letter from William Mostyn Owen Sr, 1 March 1832.


‘Beagle’ diary: Charles Darwin’s Beagle diary. Edited by Richard Darwin Keynes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1988.


Family and Shropshire news.

Letter details

Letter no.
Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Darwin/Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Wedgwood; Emily Catherine (Catherine) Darwin/Emily Catherine (Catherine) Langton; Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
DE 31 1831
Source of text
DAR 204: 70
Physical description
ALS 4pp (PS by Catherine & Susan Darwin)

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 153,” accessed on 19 April 2024,

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