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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Darwin   27 December 1835

Bay of Islands.— New Zealand.

Decemb 27th. 1835.—

My dear Caroline,

My last letter was written from the Galapagos,1 since which time I have had no opportunity of sending another. A Whaling Ship is now going direct to London & I gladly take the chance of a fine rainy Sunday evening of telling you how we are getting on.— You will see we have passed the Meridian of the Antipodes & are now on the right side of the world. For the last year, I have been wishing to return & have uttered my wishes in no gentle murmurs; But now I feel inclined to keep up one steady deep growl from morning to night.— I count & recount every stage in the journey homewards & an hour lost is reckoned of more consequence, than a week formerly. There is no more Geology, but plenty of sea-sickness; hitherto the pleasures & pains have balanced each other; of the latter there is yet an abundance, but the pleasures have all moved forwards & have reached Shrewsbury some eight months before I shall.—

If I can grumble in this style, now that I am sitting, after a very comfortable dinner of fresh pork & potatoes, quietly in my cabin, think how aimiable I must be when the Ship in a gloomy day is pitching her bows against a head Sea. Think, & pity me.— But everything is tolerable, when I recollect that this day eight months I probably shall be sitting by your fireside.— After leaving the Galapagos, that land of Craters, we enjoyed the prospect, which some people are pleased to term sublime, of the boundless ocean for five & twenty entire days. At Tahiti, we staid 10 days, & admired all the charms of this almost classical Island.— The kind simple manners of the half civilized natives are in harmony with the wild, & beautiful scenery.—

I made a little excursion of three days into the central mountains. At night we slept under a little house, made by my companions from the leaves of the wild Banana.— The woods cannot of course be compared to the forests of Brazil; but their kindred beauty was sufficient to awaken those most vivid impressions made in the early parts of this voyage.— I would not exchange the memory of the first six months, not for five times the length of anticipated pleasures.—

I hope & trust Charlotte will be enthusiastic about Tropical scenery, how I shall enjoy, hearing from her own lips, all her travels. I do not clearly understand from your last letters, whether she has actually gone to Rio, or only intended doing so.—

But I must return to Tahiti, which charming as it is, is stupid when I think about all of you.— The Captain & all on board (whose opinions are worth anything) have come to a very decided conclusion on the high merit of the Missionaries.— Ten days no doubt is a short time to observe any fact with accuracy, but I am sure we have seen that much good has been done & scarcely anyone pretends that harm has ever been effected. It was a striking thing to behold my guides in the mountain, before laying themselves down to sleep, fall on their knees & utter with apparent sincerity a prayer in their native tongue. In every respect we were delighted with Tahiti, & add ourselves as one more to the list of the admirers of the Queen of the Islands.—

Again we consumed three long weeks in crossing the Sea to New Zealand, where we shall stay about 10 days.— I am disappointed in New Zealand, both in the country & in its inhabitants. After the Tahitians, the natives, appear savages. The Missionaries have done much in improving their moral character & still more in teaching them the arts of civilization. It is something ⁠⟨⁠to⁠⟩⁠ boast of, that Europæans may here, amongst men who, so lately were the most ferocious savages probably on the face of the earth, walk with as much safety as in England. We are quite indignant with Earle’s book, beside extreme injustice it shows ingratitude.—2 Those very missionaries, who are accused of coldness, I know without doubt that they always treated him with far more civility, than his open licentiousness could have given reason to expect.— I walked to a country mission, 15 miles distant & spent as merry & pleasant an evening with these austere men, as ever I did in my life time.3

I have written thus much about the Missionaries, as I thought it would be a subject, which would interest you.— I am looking forward with more pleasure to seeing Sydney, than to any other part of the voyage.— our stay there will be very short, only a fortnight; I hope however to be able to take a ride some way into the country.— From Sydney, we proceed to King George’s sound & so on as formerly planned. Be sure, not to forget to have a letter at Plymouth on or rather before the 1st. of August.

Daylight is failing me, so I will wish you good bye,—how strange it is, to think, that perhaps at this very second Nancy is making a vain effort to rouse you all from your slumbers on a cold frosty morning.— How glad I shall be, when I can say, like that good old Quarter Master, who entering the Channel, on a gloomy November morning, exclaimed, “Ah here there are none of those d— —d blue skys”

I forgot to mention, that by a string of extraordinary chances, the day before finally leaving the Galapagos, I received your letter of March. I am almost afraid, that at Sydney, we shall be too soon for our instructions respecting letters.

Give my most affectionate love to my Father, Erasmus Marianne & all of you. Goodbye my dear Caroline | Your’s | C. Darwin

I have written to Charlotte. I also enclose a letter for Fanny will you forward it— I do not myself know the present direction.— I have also written to Sarah


No letter by CD from the Galápagos has been found.
Earle 1832, pp. 58–60.
Six months later, on finding strong feelings at Cape Town against missionaries, Robert FitzRoy and CD wrote a defence of their work (see Collected papers 1: 19–38).


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Earle, Augustus. 1832. A narrative of a nine months’ residence in New Zealand, in 1827; together with a journal of a residence in Tristan d’Acunha. London.


At sea 25 days from Galapagos to Tahiti, where they stayed ten days. It was delightful. Then three weeks to New Zealand, where they will be for ten days.

Convinced of high merit of missionaries.

Dislikes Augustus Earle’s book.

Letter details

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

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 289,” accessed on 26 March 2023,

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