skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Susan Darwin   14 July – 7 August [1832]

[At sea; Monte Video]

My dear Susan

As in all probability we shall stay but a short time at M Video.—I take the opportunity of an idle evening at sea to begin a letter.— We are now (July 14th) about 300 miles from Rio: to day for the first time we have a fair wind:—before this calms & light contrary winds were only disturbed by squalls & gales.— For a week I suffered much from sickness, but am now nearly well again.— Every body is full of eagerness to commence our real work.— After laying in fresh water at M Video, we sail for Rio Negro.— Comparatively near as this is to the civilized world, yet the whole coast & interior country is totally unknown.— Falcners account,1 inaccurate as it must be, is the only one.— I expect grand things in Natural History, but if that fails, the whole world, I suppose, does not produce so much game in any one spot.— I believe the Captain will proceed many miles up the river & I trust I shall be of the party.— I cannot imagine anything more interesting: the only thing unpropitious is the ferocity of the Indians.— But I would sooner go with the Captain with 10 men than with anybody else with 20.— He is so very prudent & watchful, as long as possible & so resolutely brave when pushed to it.—

As far as we are able to guess—the following is the rough outline for the future.— After coast of Patagonia return to M Video, & then proceed to Terra del & settle the Fuegians. Back to M Video— Afterwards to Valparayso.— From which point one more cruize will be to the South(?) & after that the wide world is open to us.— Even the prospect of walking, where European never before has, hardly recompenses for leaving the glorious regions of the Tropics; already is the change of weather perceptible.— Every one has put on cloth cloathes & preparing for still greater extremes our beards are all sprouting.— my face at presents looks of about the same tint as a half washed chimney sweeper.— With my pistols in my belt & geological hammer in hand, shall I not look like a grand barbarian?— Before leaving Rio we heard the news of Ld Greys minority, & are all most anxious to see how it will end.— It is not very likely that we shall receive letters before our return from the South: this will be a sad disappointment to me, as I there expect answer to my Bahia letter: for this gives to a correspondence an appearance of closer connection.—

I do not think I have ever given you an account of how the day passes.— We breakfast at eight oclock.— The invariable maxim is; to throw away all politeness.—that is never to wait for each other & bolt off the minute one has done eating, &c. At sea, when the weather is calm, I work at marine animals, with which the whole ocean abounds.— if there is any sea up.—I am either sick or contrive to read some voyage or Travels.— At one we dine. You shore-going people are lamentably mistaken, about the manner of living on board.— We have never yet (nor shall we) dined off salt meat.— Rice & Peas & Calavanses are excellent vegetables & with good bread, who could want more? Judge Alderson could not be more temperate, as nothing but water comes on the table.— At 5 we have tea.—

The Midshipmens birth have all their meals an hour before us, & the Gunroom an hour afterwards.

July 30th.— Monte Video.— The packet will arrive here in a few days, so that I will make another attempt to fill my letter.— We arrived here on the 26th. after a long & disagreeable passage.— The weather has been too heavy or too light.— I expect the further we proceed South, the more uncomfortable I shall find sea-life.— It was quite curious how much I felt the change of climate.— The thermometer has scarcely ever been below 50o, but yet with thick clothes I could not make myself warm.— Wherever we go, there is sure to be some disturbance.— as we passed the Frigate, she made signals to us.— “Clear for action” “& prepare to cover our boats”. When shortly afterwards a heavy force in boats with Carronades ready mounted, passed by us to go to the Mole.— This merely turned out to be a substantial argument to convince the inhabitants they must not plunder British property.— I have only had one good walk on the turf plains, which one has so often read about.— There is something very delightful in the free expanse, where nothing guides or bounds your walk.— Yet I am disappointed in them, & as far as regards scenery, imagination could not paint anything m⁠⟨⁠ore⁠⟩⁠ dull & uninteresting.— How different from the Brazilan forest, where I could sit for hours together & find every minute fresh objects of admiration.— We certainly sail before another packet arrives from England. I am sorry for it. I quite long to hear from you after you have received a letter from me.— I cannot thank you all too much for writing so regularly to me.— The very regularity of time is a satisfaction, as it prevents unreasonable expectation.— My main object, Natural History goes on very well, & I certainly have taken many animals &c which would be interesting to Naturalists.— Independent of this satisfaction, I have begun so many branches, previously new to me; that even already I long to be in England to commence an attack upon several obscure little individuals.— I am going to draw 25£, which will make altogether since leaving England, 80£.— out of this at least Twenty has not been wasted, in as much as it has been spent about my collection.— For the next two months even with my ingenuity, I do not think I shall be able to spend a penny.—

I have just received intelligence we sail tomorrow for Buenos Ayres.— The Captain has heard some news about an old chart of the coast & he thinks it of sufficient importance to go there.— I am glad of it, the more places the merrier: when one is about one cannot see too many.— At last I shall deliver the letter to Mr Hughes from Mrs. Haycock.—2 The packet calls here on Wednesday so I leave this letter to be forwarded.—

Give my love to all at dear old Shrewsbury.— & dear old Granny I am & always shall be yours | very affectionately | Chas Darwin *S 2

July 31st.—— | Monte Video

Monte Video | August 7th.— I have procured my letter again in order to write some more.— We run up to Buenos Ayres, where a Guard Ship fired a shot close to us. This we took up as a great insult, & if our guns had been ready we should have returned it with interest.— We immediately made sail & returned here.— The Captain reported the circumstance to the frigate Druid lying at the Mount, & she has gone up to Buenos Ayres & obtained ample satisfaction for the insult offered to us.—: Quarantine for the cholera was the excuse!.— We all thought we should at last be able to spend a quiet week, but alas the very morning after anchoring, a serious mutiny in some black troops endangered the safety of the town.— We immediately armed & manned all our boats, & at the request of the inhabitants, occupied the principal fort.—3 It was something new to me to walk with Pistols & Cutlass through the streets of a Town.— It has all ended in smoke But the consequence is very disagreeable to us, since from the troubled state of country we cannot walk in the country.— The Packet will not sail yet for a week.— And now for a bit of business, in my letter to Erasmus, I tell him Lieut: Blanchard will transact the shipping of my Box.— We have just heard the news he has broke & gone to America.— I hope Erasmus enquired at the London agent.—Mrs Palsgrave No 3, Lyons Inn, Strand. If so he will have heard of this. If not a letter had better be sent to Falmouth I trust they are not lost.— What a loss it will be to me.— If they are regained there must be some means of forwarding them to M Video.— I am very sorry for all this trouble.— | Yours affectionately.— | Chas Darwin

On the 17th we start for the Rio Negro.— Adieu.—


Falkner 1774. No CD copy has been found; the copy used during the voyage was probably FitzRoy’s.
Charles Hughes, with Rodger, Breed & Co., Buenos Aires (note in CD’s field notebook no. 1.12, Down House). Mrs John Hiram Haycock, mother of Edward Haycock, a prominent Shropshire architect (Hobbs 1960).
On 5 August 1832, in Montevideo, Captain FitzRoy’s assistance was requested to preserve order in the town against some mutinous black troops. ‘The Beagle’s crew were not on shore more than twenty-four hours, and were not called upon to act in any way’ (Narrative 2: 95). CD was one of the fifty men involved, but he returned to the Beagle that night, as he ‘had a bad headache’ (‘Beagle’ diary, pp. 86–7).


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

Falkner, Thomas. 1774. A description of Patagonia, and the adjoining parts of South America. Hereford. Facsimile reprint with introduction and notes by Arthur E. S. Neumann, 1935. Chicago: Armann and Armann.

Hobbs, John L. 1960. The Haycocks changed the face of Shrewsbury. The Shropshire Magazine (February 1960): 17–18.

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.


Regrets leaving the tropics, despite interest in a land where Europeans have never been. They have experienced political turmoil at Montevideo. Natural history going well.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Sent from
At sea and Montevideo
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 177,” accessed on 19 May 2022,

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