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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Catherine Darwin   May–June [1832]

Botofogo Bay, Rio de Janeiro


My dear Catherine

I have now altogether received three letters; your & Carolines together which latter I have answered & also sent my Journal by the Tyne, which was returning to England.— Susans (& one from Mr Owen) I received May 3d.— The Beagle has not yet returned; so I am living quietly here & throughily enjoying so rare an opportunity of seeing the country & collecting in every branch of Nat. History.— I have just been rereading all your nice affectionate letters, & in consequence I have summoned resolution to begin a letter.— I am so wearied of writing letters & telling the same story; that if I stumble through this; it is almost more than I expect.— I have sent a list of commissions for poor Erasmus to execute; directed to Whyndam club tell my Father I am afraid some of them are expensive: but he cannot imagine the value such things are in a country, where even a watch never yet has been manufactured.— I am very glad to hear the hot-house is going on well; how when I return I shall enjoy seeing some of my old friends again.— do get a Banana plant, they are easily reared & the foliage is wonderfully beautiful.— I have not yet ceased marvelling at all the marriages: as for Maer & Woodhouse, they might as well be shut up. I received a very kind letter from Mr. Owen & Fanny.— The former contained the warmest expressions of friendship to my Father.— (This letter will be odds & ends).— I suppose by this time you see how uncertain ship-letters must always be.— When we get to the South & have a 5 month cruize without seeing an homeward bound sail, together with the chances both before & after, the time might be almost indefinite between two of my letters.— The Admirals secretary here was under Cap: Maling; who seems to have had a great deal of duty, at a very precarious time: the secretary says that Mrs Maling entirely managed the political part.—1

June 6th.— The Beagle has returned from Bahia & brought most calamitous news.— a large party of our officers & 2 sailors before leaving Rio went a party in the Cutter for snipe shooting up the bay.— Most of them were slightly attacked with fever: but the two men & poor little Musters were seized violently & died in a few days.2 The latter & one man were buried at Bahia.— The poor little fellow only two days before his illness heard of his mothers death.— What numbers snipe-shooting has killed, & how rapidly they drop off.— The Beagle will stay another 14 days at least & then we sail for Monte Video touching I hope at St Catherines.— She is getting in beautiful order; increased our compliment, got a new gun: put up boarding nettings, & rigged sweeps.—& now there is not a pirate a float, whom we care for & a thousand savages together, would be harmless.—

I have written letters to Charlotte, Mr. Owen, Fox, & Henslow Herbert I mention it; being always anxious, when it is possible to know whether my letters have arrived safely.— I received a nice long one from Caroline, dated Maer.—& directed to Mr. Darwin, HMS.— Am I a ship? or is his Majesty ship Beagle a dog? that you stick a the before it.— One would suppose she did not know the Jib boom from the Taffrill.—to see her direct in such a manner.— (odds & ends as I before said) Capt. Harding, brother of Mrs. Hunt second Capt of the Warspite, is here & is very civil to me.— He sent to me to say he had 800 men under his command, & that I might have a boat for an hour or week, as I choose.— One of our officers lives at Falmouth, he gives the following direction for letters.— there are two packets sail every month one for Rio the other touching at Rio proceeds to M Video.— This one sails the Friday after the 3d Tuesday in the Month & is of course the best way of sending my monthly letter.— The letter ought to be in a day before the Friday.— Whenever you should in doubt about direction, put, South American station.— Till I tell you stick to Monte Video You cannot imagine anything more calmly & delightfully than these weeks have passed by.— there never was a greater piece of good luck that the Beagle returning to Bahia.— Give my best love to Marianne & thank her for her postscript; & tell her to remember me most kindly to Dr. Parker.— Remember me to all friends, especially Major Bayley & the Eytons.— tell Tom to keep his courage up for the Canaries, or Madeira would be very feasible. I drew 40£ (mentioned in my last letter) & I am afraid I shall be forced to draw 10£ more.— I really am very sorry.—but 12 weeks here instead of 4 has been a great increase.— My loudgings & board only cost 22 shillings per week.—

I ashamed to send so uninteresting a letter; but it will be to you unintelligible, how difficult I find writing letters.— At latter end of this month (June) we sail for M. Video.— Our first course will be I believe down the coast to Rio Negro, where there is a small settlement of Spaniards.— Our next will be to where man has never yet been; (that is as far as is known.)— How glad I am, the Beagle does not carry a years provisions; formerly it was like going into the grave for that time.— Living with the Captain, is a great advantage, in having what society there is, at my command.— I am only one in the ship who is regularly asked to the Admirals, Chargé d’affaires & other great men.—

With my very best love to every one. dear Katty | Yours most affectionately | Chas. Darwin


See Keynes 1979, pp. 55–6 (Narrative 2: 76–7) for Robert FitzRoy’s account of the deaths.


Keynes, Richard Darwin, ed. 1979. The Beagle record. Selections from the original pictorial records and written accounts of the voyage of HMS Beagle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Vols. 1,9,10]

Narrative: Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. [Edited by Robert FitzRoy.] 3 vols. and appendix. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.


Lists letters received and those sent; comments on family happenings.

The Beagle is back [from Bahia]; two sailors and "little [Charles] Musters" died of fever. In 14 days they sail for Montevideo, then to Rio Negro, then on to where no man is known to have been before.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Emily Catherine (Catherine) Darwin/Emily Catherine (Catherine) Langton
Sent from
Botofogo Bay
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 169,” accessed on 2 October 2022,

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