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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Syms Covington   21 October 1853

Down Bromley, Kent,

October 21, 1853.

Dear Covington,—

I received your letter dated May 25, “53, at Pambala,1 here at Down on Oct. 11, which I think is very quick. I thank you sincerely for writing, as I had for some time been thinking how you were getting on. From what we see in the papers, most of us in England have got an awful idea of the state of things at the diggings.2 Your account of the way the Sunday was kept near the Ovens3 was very pleasant to hear. On the spot you must, of course, judge best, but I should have liked to have heard of your turning up a fine nugget worth some hundred pounds, and that would have repaid you for your long journey, which I traced by your letter on the map. Well, I daresay it was almost worth your while once to have seen the diggings, for it must be a curious spectacle. I should like very much at some future time to hear how you get on, and whether the mining has done you and other residents near Twofold Bay4 good or harm. About half a year ago I had Mr. Septimus Martin, the son of the rector of the adjoining parish,5 dining with me; he has now gone back to Melbourne, and is married. He had formerly been at Twofold Bay, and told me a little about it. I feel a great interest about Australia, and read every book I can get hold of. I lately read a long one by Colonel Mundy.6 I really have no news to tell you of myself; we live a most quiet life. I have not yet finished my second volume on the Barnacles, but hope soon to do so, and begin some other subject. I saw a few weeks ago Captain Fitz Roy; perhaps you heard that a year or two ago he had the great misfortune of losing his wife.7 I am afraid he lost much money by his government of New Zealand.8 I saw also Captain Sulivan,9 who has now half-a-dozen children. Lastly, the only other officer I have heard of, Melleish, has greatly distinguished himself by hard fighting with some Chinese Pirates.10 We are all much afraid of war with Russia, which, pray God, may be prevented.11 You might like to hear that two or three years ago Fuegia12 was heard of by a sealer in the west part of the Straits of Magellan. He13 could still speak some English. With every good wish for yourself and family, pray believe me your faithful friend, | C. DARWIN.


A mistake in the Sydney Mail transcription for Pambula (see n.4, below).
In his letter to Syms Covington, 14 March 1852, CD had asked Covington to tell him how people behaved at the recently discovered Australian goldfields.
The Ovens River goldfield in New South Wales.
Covington had settled at Pambula, on Twofold Bay. In 1854 he became its second postmaster (Ferguson 1971, p. 10).
Septimus Martin, the son of Joseph William Martin, rector of Keston, near Bromley, Kent.
CD read the three volumes of Godfrey Charles Mundy’s Our antipodes (1852) between 17 May and 2 July 1853. CD’s comment was ‘Very good.’ (Correspondence vol.4, Appendix IV, 128: 5).
Mary Henrietta FitzRoy died in 1852 (Mellersh 1968, p. 270).
During his governorship of New Zealand, Robert FitzRoy had used his own funds, as he had during the Beagle voyage, for purposes for which he should have obtained government approval and for which he was not reimbursed (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845, pp. 124–5).
Arthur Mellersh, midshipman then mate in the Beagle, was at this time serving in the East Indies.
Turkey declared war on Russia in October 1853. England and France intervened, siding with Turkey, and eventually declared war on Russia in March 1854.
Fuegia Basket. FitzRoy had given this name to Yokcushlu, the Fuegian girl he had taken to England with three other natives of Tierra del Fuego during the first voyage of the Beagle. During the second voyage she was returned to her homeland with two of her companions, Orundellico (Jemmy Button) and Elleparu (York Minster), the third, Boat Memory, having died in England. See Correspondence vol. 1, letter to Caroline Darwin, 30 March – 12 April 1833.
A mistake in the Sydney Mail transcription for ‘She’ (see n. 12, above).


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

Ferguson, B. J. 1971. Syms Covington of Pambula, assistant to Charles Darwin on the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world 1831 to 1836. Bega, New South Wales: Imlay District Historical Society.

Mellersh, Harold Edward Leslie. 1968. FitzRoy of the Beagle. London: Rupert Hart-Davis.


Comments on SC’s trip to the gold diggings. CD is most interested in Australia and reads every book about it that he can find. Sends news of former Beagle shipmates FitzRoy, Sulivan, Mellersh, and of Fuegia [Basket].

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. 1538,” accessed on 23 June 2024,

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