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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Syms Covington   28 February 1855

Down Farnborough, Kent,

February 28, 1855.

Dear Covington,—

I was very glad to get your letter about six weeks ago, dated August 8, 1854, with so good an account of yourself, your affairs, and your children. You have exactly the same family which we have—five boys and two girls; but you beat me in being able to say that yours are all strong and healthy, which is hardly the case with mine, though none have anything serious amiss with them. How little you thought when we landed together at Sydney,1 that you should one day have land and house letting for £83 per annum. I am very glad to hear the Colony is progressing so well, and that, as you say, “our good Queen has not more loyal subjects in her dominions than are the Australians.” I have lately seen and heard news, more especially of the gold districts, from a Mr. Mackenzie, who was a schoolmaster at Sydney and afterwards a surveyor, has made a nice fortune, and, his wife dying there, he has come back with his one daughter to end his days here, and has published a little book describing Australia.2 But he seemed to regret Australia. I am sure this last winter, with six weeks’ frost, and with the thermometer sometimes at 0o, is enough to make anyone past boyhood wish to be in a warmer and better climate. We were during this time in London, for we took a house for a month to have a little amusement, but the weather was cold and the streets all so dirty and snowy that it looked very dismal. The Thames was nearly quite frozen over. I have heard nothing of late of our old shipmates. Captain Fitz Roy is head of a department for keeping an account of observations on wind, weather, and currents made over all the world.3 He is married again,4 but I have not seen his wife. Captain Sulivan acquired much credit in the Baltic,5 and he has now commissioned another small ship, and will sail again soon for the Baltic, and I shall go and see him before he sails. He has now six or seven children. Captain Stokes6 is in England. I saw him some months ago. I hear he does little now but shoot and hunt. There has been terrible dissatisfaction in England about the management of the war, which seems to have been very badly conducted; but the men and officers have behaved most nobly, and have made the name of Englishmen a prouder thing than ever. Let me hear again from you. To what shall you bring up your boys? I wish to God I knew what to do with mine.—

Believe me, with every good wish, your friend, | C. DARWIN.


The Beagle landed at Sydney Cove on 12 January 1836.
David Mackenzie, schoolmaster in Sydney who also acted as a minister in the absence of an official church incumbent. During one of his previous visits to London he had published The emigrant’s guide (Mackenzie 1845).
Following a conference of maritime powers at Brussels in 1853, Robert FitzRoy was appointed meteorological statist by the Board of Trade. CD was a member of a committee appointed by the Royal Society to advise the Board on the office (see Mellersh 1968, p. 262).
After the death of his first wife Mary Henrietta in 1852, FitzRoy married Maria Smyth in 1854.
Bartholomew James Sulivan commanded a vessel in naval actions during the war with Russia (H. N. Sulivan ed. 1896). See letter to J. D. Hooker, 1 March [1854], n. 14.
John Lort Stokes shared the poop cabin with CD during the Beagle voyage.


Mackenzie, David. 1845. The emigrant’s guide; or, ten years’ practical experience in Australia. London.

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


Pleased to hear that SC is prospering.

News of FitzRoy, Sulivan and J. L. Stokes.

The Crimean War is badly mismanaged, but Englishmen are behaving nobly.

Wishes he knew what to do with his boys.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Syms Covington
Sent from
Source of text
Sydney Mail, 9 August 1884, pp. 254–5

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1637,” accessed on 27 November 2021,

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