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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Darwin   13 October 1834


October 13th. 1834.

My dear Caroline

I have been unwell & in bed for the last fortnight, & am now only able to sit up for a short time. As I want occupation I will try & fill this letter.— Returning from my excursion into the country I staid a few days at some Goldmines & whilst there I drank some Chichi a very weak, sour new made wine, this half poisoned me, I staid till I thought I was well; but my first days ride, which was a long one again disordered my stomach, & afterwards I could not get well; I quite lost my appetite & became very weak. I had a long distance to travel & I suffered very much; at last I arrived here quite exhausted. But Bynoe with a good deal of Calomel & rest has nearly put me right again & I am now only a little feeble.— I consider myself very lucky in having reached this place, without having tried it, I should have thought it not possible; a man has a great deal more strength in him, when he is unwell, than he is aware of. If it had not been for this accident, my ride would have been very pleasant. I made a circuit, taking in St Iago. I set out by the valley of Aconcagua I had some capital scrambling about the mountains. I slept two nights near the summit of the Bell of Quillota. This is the highest mountain out of the chain of the Andes, being 4700 ft high.1 The view was very interesting, as it afforded a complete map of the Cordilleras & Chili.— From here I paid a visit to a Cornish miner who is working some mines in a ravine in the very Andes. I throughily enjoyed rambling about, hammer in hand, the bases of these great giants, as independently as I would the mountains in Wales. I reached the Snow but found it quite impossible to penetrate any higher.— I now struck down to the South, to St Iago the gay Capital of Chili.— I spent a very pleasant week there, receiving unbounded hospitality from the few English merchants who reside there.— Corfield was there also & we lived together at an inn.— St Iago is built on a plain; the basin of a former inland sea; the perfect levelness of this plain is contrasted in a strange & picturesque manner with great, snow topped mountains, which surround it.— From St Iago I proceeded to S. Fernando about 40 leagues to the South.— Every one in the city talked so much about the robbers & murderers, I was persuaded to take another man with me, this added very much to the expense; & now I do not think it was necessary. Altogether it has been the most expensive excursion, I ever made, & in return I have seen scarcely enough of the Geology to repay it.— I was however lucky in getting a good many fossil shells from the modern formation of Chili.—

On my road to S. Fernando, I had some more hammering at the Andes, as I staid a few days at the hot springs of Cauquenes, situated in one of the valleys.— From S. Fernando I cut across the country to the coast & then returned, as I have said very miserable to Corfields house here at Valparaiso. You will be sorry to hear, the Schooner, the Adventure is sold; the Captain received no sort of encouragement from the Admiralty & he found the expense ⁠⟨⁠of⁠⟩⁠ so large a vessel so immense he determined at once to ⁠⟨⁠give⁠⟩⁠ her up.—2 We are now in the same state as when we left England with Wickham for 1st Lieut, which part of the business anyhow is a good job.— we shall all be very badly off for room; & I shall have trouble enough with stowing my collections. It is in every point of view a grievous affair in our little world; a sad tumbling down for some of the officers, from 1st. Lieut of the Schooner to the miserable midshipmans birth.—& many similar degradations.— It is necessary also to leave our little painter, Martens, to wander about ye world.—3 Thank Heavens, however, the Captain positively asserts that this change shall not prolong the voyage.—that in less than 2 years we shall be at New S. Wales.—

I find being sick at stomach inclines one also to be home-sick. In about a fortnight the Beagle proceeds down the coast, touches at Concepcion & Valdivia & sets to work behind Chiloe. I suspect we shall pay T del Fuego another visit; but of this good Lord deliver us: it is kept very secret, lest the men should desert; every one so hates the confounded country. Our voyage sounded much more delightful in the instructions, than it really is; in fact it is a survey of S. America, & return by the C. of Good Hope instead of C. Horn. We shall see nothing of any country, excepting S. America. But I ought not to grumble, for the voyage is for this very reason, I believe, much better for my pursuits, although not nearly so agreeable as a tour.— I will write again before sailing. I am however at present deeply in debt with letters. I received shortly since a very kind long one from Mr Owen, which I will shortly answer.— Letter writing is a task, which I throughly dislike.— I do not mean writing to home: but to any body else, for really after such interval I have nothing to tell but my own history, & that is very tedious.—

I have picked up one very odd correspondent, it is Mr Fox the Minister at Rio. (it is the Mr Fox, who in one of Lord Byrons letters is said to be so altered after an illness that his oldest Creditors would not know him)

I forgot to thank Susan for her letter of May & Catherine for her pithy message “We do not write” because Mr Owen does.— I must previously have acknowledged your long letter for the foregoing month.—

We are all here in great anxiety to hear some political news. A Ship sailed from Liverpool just after Ld Greys resignation & we cannot guess who will succeed him.—4

Give my best love to my Father & all of you & Believe me my very dear Caroline | Yours affectionately | Charles Darwin.—


Robert FitzRoy in Narrative Appendix, p. 303 records the height as 6200 feet. CD changed his figure to 6400 feet in Journal of researches, p. 312.
In Narrative 2: 361–2, FitzRoy wrote: ‘At this time I was made to feel and endure a bitter disappointment; the mortification it caused preyed deeply, and the regret is still vivid. I found that it would be impossible for me to maintain the Adventure much longer: my own means had been taxed, even to involving myself in difficulties, and as the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty did not think it proper to give me any assistance, I saw that all my cherished hopes of examining many groups of islands in the Pacific, besides making a complete survey of the Chilian and Peruvian shores, must utterly fail. I had asked to be allowed to bear twenty additional seamen on the Beagle’s books, whose pay and provisions would then be provided by Government, being willing to defray every other expense myself; but even this was refused. As soon as my mind was made up, after a most painful struggle, I discharged the Adventure’s crew, took the officers back to the Beagle, and sold the vessel.’
‘Mr Martens, the artist, has been obliged from want of room to leave the Beagle’ (‘Beagle’ diary, p. 249). Conrad Martens emigrated to Australia, where CD visited him in 1836.
Lord Melbourne succeeded Lord Grey.


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

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.

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.


Became ill two weeks before on his return from Santiago after an interesting trip and some geology – though snow kept him out of the Andes. FitzRoy has had to sell the schooner; he was discouraged by the Admiralty, and the expense was too much for him to bear personally.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Darwin/Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Wedgwood
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 259,” accessed on 18 July 2024,

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