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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Darwin    2–6 April 1832

My dear Caroline.—

We are now about a hundred miles East of Rio, & tomorrow the 3d of April we expect to arrive at the capital of the Brazils.— My last letter was from Bahia, which place the Beagle sailed from on the 18th of last month.— On the whole I much enjoyed my first visit to S America.— I was however very unfortunate in being confined to my hammock for eight days by a prick on the knee, becoming much inflamed.— Bahia has one great disadvantage in being situated on so large a space: that it was impossible for us to walk but in one direction.— Luckily it was by far the most beautiful.— The scenery here chiefly owes its charms to the individual forms of the Vegetation: when this is united to lofty hills & a bold outline, I am quite sure the incapability of justly praising it, will be almost distressing.— I talk of enjoying Bahia, in order to be moderate: but this enjoyment, (weighted with 8 days confinement,) is well worth all the misery I endured between England & Teneriffe.— I am looking forward with great interest for letters, but with very little pleasure to answering them.— It is very odd, what a difficult job I find this same writing letters to be.— I suppose it is partly owing to my writing everything in my journal: but chiefly to the number of subjects; which is so bewildering that I am generally at a loss either how to begin or end a sentence. And this all hands must allow to be an objection.—

The mean temperature of Bahia was 80; being more accustomed to heat I suffered less from it there than at Praya, where mean temp was 73o.— The great difference of climate in the Tropics & colder zones consists in the higher temp: of the nights.— A mean of 84o for the whole year (at Guyara in Columbia) is the hottest place in the world.—1 so certainly I have experienced a very considerable degree.— To me it is most enjoyable: I had expected to wish for the cold thawing days, which you have lately been shivering under: no give me the regions of Palms & Oranges & away with frost & snow.— It requires a little additional energy to set about anything, & a good deal more to resist a siesta after dinner: When having so indulged one wakes bathed in perspiration, but with the skin as cool as a young child.—

We shall in all probability stay more than a month at Rio.— I have some thoughts, if I can find tolerably cheap lodgings of living in a beautiful village about 4 miles from this town.— It would be excellent for my collections & for knowing the Tropics. Moreover I shall escape cauking & painting & various other bedevilments which Wickham is planning.— One part of my life as Sailor (& I am becoming one, ie. knowing ropes & how to put the ship about &c) is unexpectedly pleasant; it is liking the bare living on blue water, I am the only person on the ship who wishes for long passages: but of course I cautiously bargain with æolus, when I pray to him, that with the winds he may keep the sea equally quiet.— Coming out of Bahia, my stomach was only just able to save its credit.— I will finish this letter full of Is Is Is when at Rio.—

Rio de Janeiro. April 5th.— I this morning received your letter of Decr 31 & Catherines of Feb 4th.— We lay to during last night, as the Captain was determined we should see the harbor of Rio & be ourselves seen in broard daylight.— The view is magnificent & will improve on acquaintance; it is at present rather too novel to behold Mountains as rugged as those of Wales, clothed in an evergreen vegetation, & the tops ornamented by the light form of the Palm.— The city, gaudy with its towers & Cathedrals is situated at the base of these hills, & command a vast bay, studded with men of war the flags of which bespeak every nation.—

We came, in first rate style, alongside the Admirals ship, & we, to their astonishment, took in every inch of canvass & then immediately set it again: A sounding ship doing such a perfect mæneuovre with such certainty & rapidity, is an event hitherto unknown in that class.— It is a great satisfaction to know that we are in such beautiful order & discipline.—2 In the midst of our Tactics the bundle of letters arrived.— “Send them below,” thundered Wickham “every fool is looking at them & neglecting his duty” In about an hour I succeded in getting mine, the sun was bright & the view resplendent; our little ship was working like a fish; so I said to myself, I will only just look at the signatures:, it would not do; I sent wood & water, Palms & Cathedrals to old Nick & away I rushed below; there to feast over the thrilling enjoyment of reading about you all: at first the contrast of home, vividly brought before ones eyes, makes the present more exciting; but the feeling is soon divided & then absorbed by the wish of seeing those who make all associations dear.—

It is seldom that one individual has the power giving to another such a sum of pleasure, as you this day have granted me.— I know not whether the conviction of being loved, be more delightful or the corresponding one of loving in return.— I ought for I have experienced them both in excess.— With yours I received a letter from Charlotte, talking of parsonages in pretty countries & other celestial views.— I cannot fail to admire such a short sailor-like “splicing” match.— The style seems prevalent, Fanny seems to have done the business in a ride.— Well it may be all very delightful to those concerned, but as I like unmarried woman better than those in the blessed state, I vote it a bore: by the fates, at this pace I have no chance for the parsonage: I direct of course to you as Miss Darwin.— I own I am curious to know to whom I am writing.— Susan I suppose bears the honors of being Mrs J Price.— I want to write to Charlotte—& how & where to direct; I dont know: it positively is an inconvenient fashion this marrying: Maer wont be half the place it was, & as for Woodhouse, if Fanny was not perhaps at this time Mrs Biddulp, I would say poor dear Fanny till I fell to sleep.— I feel much inclined to philosophize but I am at a loss what to think or say; whilst really melting with tenderness I cry my dearest Fanny why I demand, should I distinctly see the sunny flower garden at Maer; on the other hand, but I find that my thought & feelings & sentences are in such a maze, that between crying & laughing I wish you all good night.—

April 6th..— A merchant in this town3 is going to visit a large estate, about 150 miles in the country.— He has allowed me to accompany him.— On the 8th we start & do not return for a fortnight.— It is an uncommon & most excellent opportunity,—and I shall thus see, what has been so long my ambition, virgin forest uncut by man & tenanted by wild beasts.— You will all be terrified at the thought of my combating with Alligators & Jaguars in the wilds of the Brazils: The expedition is really quite a safe one, else I will wager my life, my host & companion, would not venture on it.— I believe a packet will sail before I return if so this letter will go.— I will of course write again from Rio.— When I return I shall live in a cottage at the village of Botofogo: Earl & King will be my companions; I look forward to living there as an Elysium,— The house & garden is overwhelmed by flowers & is situated close to a retired lake, or rather loch, as it is connected with the sea, but landlocked by lofty hills.— I suppose we shall be here for 5 weeks: & then to Monte Video which will be my direction for a very long time.— With your nice letters, I received a most kind & affectionate one from Henslow.— It is not impossible I shall have occassion to draw for some money.— Most certainly this is the most expensive place we shall perhaps ever again visit.— My time i⁠⟨⁠s so⁠⟩⁠ very much occupied, that my letters must ⁠⟨⁠do⁠⟩⁠ for the whole family.— Before leaving Rio I shall send a begging letter for some books (the (enjoyment of which is immense) & instruments.

I have had a great deal of plague in getting my passport: a revolution is expected tomorrow which made it more difficult.— I am very sleepy & hot. So my dearest Caroline & all of you | Good bye.— Yrs very affectionately | Chas. Darwin

My love to every body who cares for me.— I hope I shall hear from Mr Owen (& Fanny).— His so kindly talking of me I value more than almost anybody.—


CD may have been thinking of Alexander von Humboldt’s statement that La Guayra, Venezuela (now La Guaira), with a temperature at noon of 26.2o ‘is one of the hottest places on earth’ (Humboldt 1814–29, 1: 378).
Philip Gidley King remembered the event many years later as follows: ‘Though Mr. Darwin knew little or nothing of nautical matters he one day volunteered his services to the First Lieutenant. The occasion was when the ship first entered Rio Janeiro. It was decided to make a display of smartness in shortening sail before the numerous Men-of-War at the anchorage … Mr Darwin was told off to hold to a main-royal sheet in each hand and a top-mast studding-tack in his teeth. At the order “Shorten sail” he was to let go and clap on to any rope he saw was short handed— this he did and enjoyed the fun of it often afterwards remarking “the feat could not have been performed without him”.’ (Notes made for John Murray’s new edition (1890) of Journal of researches. Copy in DAR 106/7 (ser. 3): 16).


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

Humboldt, Alexander von. 1814–29. Personal narrative of travels to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent, during the years 1799–1804. By Alexander de Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland. Translated into English by Helen Maria Williams. 7 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; J. Murray; H. Colburn.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.


CD’s enjoyment of the beauty of the tropics is worth all the misery of seasickness. His mail gave him great pleasure. For two weeks he will visit a large estate in the country, and on return live at Botofogo for some weeks, collecting and learning to know the tropics.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Darwin/Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Wedgwood
Sent from
100 miles east of Rio
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 164,” accessed on 15 July 2024,

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