skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Catherine Darwin   8 November 1834


November 8th. 1834

My dear Catherine

My last letter was rather a gloomy one, for I was not very well when I wrote it— Now everything is as bright as sunshine. I am quite well again after being a second time in bed for a fortnight. Capt FitzRoy very generously has delayed the Ship 10 days on my account & without at the time telling me for what reason.— We have had some strange proceedings on board the Beagle, but which have ended most capitally for all hands.— Capt FitzRoy has for the last two months, been working extremely hard & at same time constantly annoyed by interruptions from officers of other ships: the selling the Schooner & its consequences were very vexatious: the cold manner the Admiralty (solely I believe because he is a Tory) have treated him, & a thousand other &c &c has made him very thin & unwell, This was accompanied by a morbid depression of spirits, & a loss of all decision & resolution The Captain was afraid that his mind was becoming deranged (being aware of his heredetary predisposition). all that Bynoe could say, that it was merely the effect of bodily health & exhaustion after such application, would not do; he invalided & Wickham was appointed to the command. By the instructions Wickham could only finish the survey of the Southern part & would then have been obliged to return direct to England.— The grief on board the Beagle about the Captains decision was universal & deeply felt.— One great source of his annoyment, was the feeling it impossible to fulfil the whole instructions; from his state of mind, it never occurred to him, that the very instructions order him to do as much of West coast, as he has time for & then proceed across the Pacific. Wickham (very disinterestedly, giving up his own promotion) urged this most strongly, stating that when he took the command, nothing should induce him to go to T. del Fuego again; & then asked the Captain, what would be gained by his resignation Why not do the more useful part & return, as commanded by the Pacific. The Captain, at last, to every ones joy consented & the resignation was withdrawn.—

Hurra Hurra it is fixed the Beagle shall not go one mile South of C. Tres Montes (about 200 miles South of Chiloe) & from that point to Valparaiso will be finished in about five months.— We shall examine the Chonos archipelago, entirely unknown & the curious inland sea behind Chiloe.— For me it is glorious C. T. Montes is the most Southern point where there is much geological interest, as there the modern beds end.— The Captain then talks of crossing the Pacific; but I think we shall persuade him to finish the coast of Peru: where the climate is delightful, the country hideously sterile but abounding with the highest interest to a Geologist. For the first time since leaving England I now see a clear & not so distant prospect of returning to you all: crossing the Pacific & from Sydney home will not take much time.—

As soon as the Captain invalided, I at once determined to leave the Beagle; but it was quite absurd, what a revolution in five minutes was effected in all my feelings. I have long been grieved & most sorry at the interminable length of the voyage (although I never would have quitted it).—but the minute it was all over, I could not make up my mind to return, I could not give up all the geological castles in the air, which I had been building for the last two years.— One whole night I tried to think over the pleasure of seeing Shrewsbury again, but the barren, plains of Peru gained the day. I made the following scheme. (I know you will abuse me, & perhaps if I had put it in execution my Father would have sent a mandamus after me), it was to examine the Cordilleras of Chili during this summer & in the winter go from Port to Port on the coast of Peru to Lima returning this time next year to Valparaiso, cross the Cordilleras to B. Ayres & take ship to England.— Would this not have been a fine excursion & in 16 months I should have been with you all. To have endured T. del F. & not seen the Pacific would have been miserable: As things are at present, they are perfect; the intended completion of small parts of the survey of S.W coast would have possessed no interest & the Coast is in fact frightfully dangerous, & the climate worse than about C. Horn.— When we are once at sea, I am sure the Captain will be all right again; he has already regained his cool inflexible manner, which he had quite lost.—

I go on board tomorrow; I have been for the last six weeks in Corfields house. You cannot imagine what a kind friend I have found him.— He is universally liked & respected by the Natives & Foreigners.— Several Chileno Signoritas are very obligingly anxious to become the Signoras of this house.— Tell my Father, I have kept my promise of being extravagant in Chili. I have drawn a bill of 100£ (Had it not better be notified to Mr Robarts & Co?).1 50£ goes to the Captain for ensuing year & 30 I take to sea for the small ports; so that bonâ fide I have not spent 180 during these last four months.— I hope not to draw another bill for 6 months. All the foregoing particulars were only settled yesterday: it has done me more good that a pint of Medicin; & I have not been so happy for the last year.— If it had not been for my illness, these four months in Chili, would have been very pleasant: I have had ill luck however in only one little earthquake having happened.— I was lying in bed, when there was a party at dinner, in the house; on a sudden I heard such a hubbub in the dining room; without a word being spoken, it was devil take the hind most who should get out first: at the same moment I felt my bed slightly vibrate in a lateral direction. The party were old stagers & heard, the noise, which always precedes a shock; & no old Stager looks at an earthquake with philosophical eyes.

Till you hear again, you may direct to Valparaiso. If however, it can be managed, far the best & cheapest mode is to get somebody in Liverpool to receive your letters & send them by the first ship, which sails for this port.— I shall thus receive them, very likely two months earlier than by the regular post. In this case they must be directed to the care of R. Corfield Esqre.—

I have written to Erasmus (directing Whyndam Club) to ask him to execute for me a commission.— if he is not London I daresay Hensleigh Wedgwood would be kind enough to do it, getting the letter to read from the Club.—

Good bye to you all, you will not have another letter for some time.—2 My dear Catherine. Your affectionately | Chas. Darwin

My best love to my Father & all of you.— Love to Nancy.—


The banking house of Robarts, Curtis & Co., 15 Lombard St, London.
CD sailed for Chiloé in the Beagle on 10 November and did not return until 11 March 1835.


CD has recovered from his illness.

Fatigue and depression had almost decided Captain FitzRoy to turn over his command, but he was dissuaded.

Beagle will now go no further south than Cape Tres Montes and will finish survey in five months.

CD experiences his first earthquake.

Letter details

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 262,” accessed on 16 May 2022,

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