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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Darwin   23 [October 1833]

Buenos Ayres

September 23d.—1

My dear Caroline

A vessel will sail in an hours time to Liverpool, & I will write as much as I can.— I have just returned from an adventurous tour.— I think I mentioned my intention of starting to the Northern parts of this Province.— I by chance procured Capt. Head’s peon & arrived after a rapid gallop at St. Fe about 300 miles to the North— it was an interesting ride & good opportunity of seeing the real sea-like Pampas. at St Fe I was most unfortunately, rather unwell, so as to be unable to ride.— I crossed over to the Bajada the Capital of Entre Rios & there staid some days, but finding so much time lost I was obliged to embark on board a vessel down the Parana— This immense river, with its islands full of Tigers & Capinchos,2 is so very great, as to appear only like an oblong lake.— When we arrived near Buenos Ayres, I left the vessel with the intention of riding into town.— The minute I landed I was almost a prisoner, for the city is closely blockaded by a furious cut-throat set of rebels.— By riding about (at a ruinous expence) amongst the different generals, I at last obtained leave to go on foot without passport into the city: I was thus obliged to leave my Peon & luggage behind; but I may thank kind providence I am here with an entire throat.— Such a set of misfortunes I have had this month, never before happened to poor mortal. My servant (Covington by name & most invaluable I find him) was sent to the Estancia of the Merchants whose house I am staying in.— he the other day nearly lost his life in a quicksand & my gun completely.—

We now here the house is ransacked (& probably his clothes all stolen!) Communication with the country is absolutely cut off, he cannot come into town, & the Beagle before long sails to the South.— Here is a pretty series of misfortunes, & there are plenty of smaller ones to fill up the gaps.—

I drew a bill a month ago for 80£. I am very sorry to say I shall be obliged from these great unexpected misfortunes to draw another one.— After my Fathers first great growl is over, he must recollect we shall be now 8 months to the South, where as last time I can neither spend or draw money.—the only security, I can give which will be trusted.—

Independent of all these uncommon mortifications & my illness at St Fe preventing my return by the Rio Uruguay, through a most interesting Geo- logical country.—the tour answered well.— It is quite magnificent when I consider I have ridden nearly 800 miles in a North & South direction & the greater part through country most imperfectly known.—

We are in a pretty state in this nice city.— they think nothing of cutting the throats of 30 prisoners, whom they happened to take the other day:—and they are right; for what is it, to quietly stabbing all the Indian women above 20 years old or younger if ugly.— Oh these Creoles are such a detestably mean unprincipled set of men, as I hope this world does not contain the like.— There literally is only one Gentleman in Buenos Ayres, the English Minister.— He is has writt〈en〉 to or〈der〉 the Beagle up.— But we sail under such particular instructions I know not whether the Captain will come.— If he does all will be right about Covington.—otherwise I shall be obliged to send some small vessel or boat to smuggle him off the Coast.—3

In fact I am in a pretty pickle.— I wish the confounded revolution gentlemen would, like Kilkenny Cats, fight till nothing but the tails are left.— Some of the good people expect the town to be plundered.— Which will a very amusing episode to me.—

dear Caroline. Yours Chas. Darwin

I will write again.—

I sent home by the Capt: Beaufort about 2 or 3 months ago—some more of my journal. Be sure acknowledge it, & in more than one letter.


‘September 23d.—’ was written by CD. ‘September’ has been deleted and ‘October 1833’ inserted, in what appears to be another hand, to correct CD’s error.
Jaguars (Spanish ‘tigres’) and capybaras.
See ‘Beagle’ diary, p. 191: ‘These disturbances caused me much inconvenience; my servant was outside, I was obliged to bribe a man to smuggle him in through the belligerents. His clothese, my riding gear, collections from St Fe were outside, with no possibility of obtaining them. I was, however, lucky in having them all sent to me at M. Video.’ See also letter from Edward Lumb, 13 November 1833.


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


Describes his trip to north of Santa Fé, his illness, and return by boat to Buenos Aires – which he found in the throes of a revolution. Covington is cut off from the town, which some expect to be plundered.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Sarah Darwin/Caroline Sarah Wedgwood
Sent from
Buenos Ayres
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 222,” accessed on 29 March 2020,

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