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Darwin Correspondence Project

To WDFox   [12–3] November 18321

Rio Plata.

November 1832

My dear Fox.—

I am going to take you at your word, & send you a very short letter sooner than none.— It may appear very odd to you, but I never found so much difficulty in writing letters, as at present.—

There is so much to say, or might be said, that I am quite overwhelmed & generally finish by saying very little.— After leaving Rio de Janeiro, we sailed to M: Video.—from whence we had a surveying cruize to the South.— (at Rio I wrote to you).— All this part of S America is wonderfully stupid; sand hillocks & undulating plains makes a poor change after mountains & vallies glowing with the rich vegetation of the Tropics.— At M: Video we had not heard from anybody for four month: & as you may suppose, like a Vulture I devoured yours & other letters. I was very sorry, my dear old Fox, to hear from yourself & home, that you had been so unwell; I trust that when you receive this you will be sitting, well & cheerful, by a blazing fireside.— Eheu Eheu how long will it be before I enjoy that pleasure.— In about a weeks time, we sail down the coast for the Falkland islands & then for Cape Horn. I suspect there will be some difference between this & an English fire side: it would all be very tolerable, if there was some moderate limit steadily to look forward to.— But the Captains plans enlarge as the time advances, & I see no end to the voyage.— We return from Cape Horn & winter in the Plata; from thence we go to the other side & coast up to Panama, & then our voyage may be said again to commence.—

During these last month, the only source of enjoyment, & it has been a large one, has been from Nat: History.— I have principally been lucky in Geology & amongst pelagic animals.— An old piece of ambition of mine has been gratified, viz finding the remains of large extinct animals I think some of them are new; I have teeth & fragments of about 7 kinds. Even this does not reconcile me to leaving the golden regions of ye Tropics.— My peep at these climates has quite spoiled me for any other; I must however except the English autumnal day, the clearness of the atmosphere of which will stand comparison with anything.— Poor dear old England. I hope my wanderings will not unfit me for a quiet life, & that in some future day, I may be fortunate enough to be qualified to become, like you a country Clergyman. And then we will work together at Nat. History, & I will tell such prodigious stories, as no Baron Monchausen ever did before.— But the Captain says if I indulge in such visions, as green fields & nice little wives &c &c, I shall certainly make a bolt.— So that I must remain contented with sandy plains & great Megatheriums:—

At this present moment we are beating against a dead foul wind, on our return from B. Ayres to M Video.— Buenos Ayres is a fine large city & has an Europæan appearance, with the exception of a few wild Gauchos, with their bright coloured ponchos, riding through the streets.— Do you know Heads book? it gives an excellent account of the manners of this country.—

I hope you will write to me again: & recollect that all details about yourself gain in interest instead of losing from the distance: S. America, by itself will be the best direction for the Beagle: I shall be very busy next week in packing specimens. Henslow most kindly has undertaken to receive them. It is one more to the many many obligations I owe to him.— I always consider it one of the luckiest days in my life, when you introduced me to him.— The friendship of such a man, is indeed worth gaining:— Good bye, dear Fox. God bless you & keep you as happy, as you deserve to be, & Write to me again.

Yours very affectionately, Chas Darwin.—


Dated from the time of the Beagle’s trip from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, according to ‘Beagle’ diary, p. 113.


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


Sketches the Beagle’s travels – Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, cruise to the south and return – and what the future holds. Writes with nostalgia of England and says he sees no end to the voyage.

He enjoys and has been lucky principally in geology and among pelagic animals; has found remains of large extinct animals.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Rio Plata
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 46a)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 189,” accessed on 29 July 2021,

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