skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. D. Fox   15 February 1836

Hobart Town.— Van Diemen’s land—

February 15th. 1836

My dear Fox

On our arrival at Sydney, we all on board the Beagle were bitterly disappointed in not finding a single letter.— For the first occasion, the Beagle was before her appointed time; & hence the cause of our grief. I daresay otherwise I should have received a letter from you.— It is now a long time since I heard any news.— the last was, from home, of Mrs Fox’s ill health.— You have had much to endure in your own bodily suffering & if to this is superadded unhappiness from another & deeper source you will indeed have a heavy burthen to support.— But I sincerely hope, my dear Fox, I am croaking about calamities, which have passed away & that you are as happy as you ought to be from the bright picture you drew in your last letter.—

I presume you heard from me at Lima; since that period time has hung rather heavily on hand.— Not that the present is absolutely disagreeable, but I cannot refrain from thinking of the future.— I am sure, if a long voyage may have some injurious tendencies to a person’s character, it has the one good one of teaching him to appreciate & dearly love his friends & relations—

Now that the object of our voyage is reduced simply to Chronometrical Measurements, a large portion of our time is spent in making passages.— This is to me, so much existence obliterated from the page of life.— I hate every wave of the ocean, with a fervor, which you, who have only seen the green waters of the shore, can never understand. It appears to me, I am not singular in this hatred.— I believe there are very few contented Sailors.— They are caught young & broken in before they have reached years of discretion. Those who are employed, sigh after the delights of the shore, & those on shore, complain they are forgotten & overlooked: All think themselves hardly used, that they are not sooner promoted, I thank my good stars I was not born a Sailor.— I will take good care no one shall shall ever persuade me again to volunteer as Philosopher (my accustomed title) even to a line of Battle Ship.— Not but what I am very glad I have come on the expedition; but only that I am still gladder it is drawing to a close.— I have had little opportunity, for some time past of doing anything in Natural History.— I draw up very imperfect sketches of the Geology of all the places, to which we pay flying visits; but they cannot be of much use.1 Leaving America, all connected & therefore interesting, series of observations have come to an end.— I look forward with a comical mixture of dread & satisfaction to the amount of work, which remains for me in England. I suppose my chief ⁠⟨⁠place⁠⟩⁠ of residence will at first be Cambridge & then London.— The latter, I fear, will in every respect turn out most convenient. I grieve to think of it; for a good walk in the true country is the greatest delight, which I can imagine.— I shall find the different societies of the greatest use; judging from occassional glimpses of their periodical reports &c, there appears to be a rapidly growing zeal for Nat: Hist.— F. Hope informs me, he has put my name down as a member of the Entomological Soc:— I do not know, whether you are one.— Formerly, when collecting at Cambridge, how very useful such a central Society would have been to us Beetle Capturers. The banks of the Cam, the Willow trees, Panagæus Crux Major & Badister, which was not cephalotes, all form parts of one picture in my mind. To this day, Panagæus is to me a sacred genus.— I look at the Orange Cross, as the emblem of Entomological Knighthood. At Sydney I took a fine species, & long did I look at it, as compared to any other insect.— Poor little Albert Way, I wonder, what has become of him. I wish I could think he was well.—

I do not understand where you are now residing, in the last letters from home, (which was several months ago) nothing was mentioned. Probably I shall not receive another letter, before reaching England, if it turns out so, there will be then a space of 18 months,2 of the events of which I shall be entirely ignorant.— God grant they may not be unfortunate.— I think it will be on a September night when we shall first make the Lizard lights. On such an occassion I feel it will be quite necessary to commit some act of uncommon folly & extravagance. School boys are quite right in breaking the binding of their books at the end of the half year & likewise Man of Wars men, when they throw guineas into the sea or light their tobacco pipes with Pound notes, to testify their joy.— The time is now so short, before, I trust, we shall meet, that I feel it is almost useless to describe imperfectly, what we shall have opportunities of talking over. Visiting Australia, which one day will rise the Empress of the South, was interesting. It has given me a grand idea of the power & efficiency of the English nation. To see Colonies which in age, bear the proportion of tens of years to hundreds, so far outstepping in Civilization those of S. America, is really most astonishing.— Although full of wonder & & admiration at this Spectacle, I should be very loth to emigrate. The moral state of the lower orders is of course detestable; the society of the higher is rancorously divided by party feelings & the country itself is not to me pleasing. But with respect to money-making it is a very paradise to the Worshippers of Mammon.— It is an undisputed fact that there are Emancipists now living worth 15,000! pounds per annum.—

After touching at King Georges Sound we proceed to the Isle of France.— It will clearly be necessary to procure a small stock of sentiment on the occassion; Imagine what a fine opportunity for writing love letters.— Oh that I had a sweet Virginia to send an inspired Epistle to.—3 A person not in love will have no right to wander amongst the glowing bewitching scenes.— I am writing most glorious nonsense, so that I had better wish you good night, although at this present moment you probably are just awaking on a cold frosty morning. We are on opposite sides of the World & everything is topsy turvy: but I thank Heaven, my memory is in its right place & I can bring close to me, the faces of many of my friends.

Farewell, my dear Fox, till that day arrives, when we shall really once again shake hands. God bless you.— | Your affectionate friend | Chas. Darwin.


For an account of CD’s geological observations while in Tasmania, see Banks 1971.
In the event, CD received letters at the Cape of Good Hope, after thirteen months without one, and at Bahia, Brazil (see letters to Catherine Darwin, 3 June 1836 and to Susan Darwin, 4 August [1836]).
A reference to Jacques Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie (1787).


Banks, M. R. 1971. A Darwin manuscript on Hobart Town. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 105: 5–19.


Finds the voyage tedious at present.

Expects that the different scientific societies will be of the greatest use to his work in London when he returns home.

Gives some impressions of Australia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Darwin Fox
Sent from
Hobart Town, Van Dieman’s Land
Source of text
Christ’s College Library, Cambridge (MS 53 Fox 48)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 299,” accessed on 25 July 2024,

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