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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Arthur Mellersh   30 November [1862]1

16 Queens Terrace | St. Johns Wood | London. N.W.

Nov. 30.

My dear Darwin,

I am going out to be Captain of the Forte Flagship to Admiral Warren on the E. Coast of S. America, and You think there is anything I can do for You in the fossil way I shall be happy to do it if you will tell me.2 Sulivan was telling me that there is a bed of fossil bones at the Gallegos which he wished to examine but had not an opportunity, if any small vessel of the squadron should be going down there I may be able to procure some if You think them worth having—3 I should be much obliged if You would tell me the right name of those fine birds which are found in Patagonia something like a guinea fowl, of which I shot the only specimen obtained, and only preserved the head and legs.4 A large landed proprietor in Sussex who has a large enclosed tract of heath has promised to endeavour to naturalize them if I will send some over which I shall endeavour to do, and as a lady who formerly lived at Montevideo told me that she kept some tame and that they did well I hope to get them home alive. I hope your indisposition was only temporary the night we passed at your house, but I was sorry to leave you poorly after passing such a pleasant evening.5 I saw Admiral FitzRoy on Friday, who was finishing his book as he told me, and looked worn as if he had been closely confined to his work.6 I leave England in a few days and if you think it worth while to write I shall be here until Thursday—

Hoping some day to meet you again I am my dear Darwin with compliments to Mrs. Darwin, Yours very truly | A. Mellersh


The year is established by reference to Mellersh’s appointment to HMS Forte (see n. 2, below).
Mellersh, who had been a junior officer on HMS Beagle during its surveying voyage of 1831–6, was appointed on 12 November 1862 to the command of HMS Forte, flagship of Richard Laird Warren, the British navy’s commander-in-chief on the south-east coast of America (Navy list, January 1863).
Bartholomew James Sulivan provided CD with an account of his fossil find at Rio Gallegos, Patagonia, in 1845 (see Correspondence vol. 3, letter from B. J. Sulivan, 13 January – 12 February 1845).
The reference has not been identified; however, Mellersh probably refers to a member of the Tinamidae, three species of which CD mentioned as having been abandoned on the plains of Patagonia in Journal of researches, p. 131. See also Zoology 3: 119–20.
Mellersh dined with CD at Down House on 21 October 1862, in company with Sulivan and John Clements Wickham, also former shipmates from HMS Beagle (see ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II)). Following the meal, CD was so ill that he was unable to ‘wish them goodbye next morning’ (see letter to John Lubbock, 23 October [1862]).
FitzRoy 1863. Robert FitzRoy commanded HMS Beagle during the surveying voyage of 1831–6, when Mellersh and CD were on board.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

FitzRoy, Robert. 1863. The weather book. A manual of practical meteorology. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green.

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.

Navy list: The navy list. London: John Murray; Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 1815–1900.

Zoology: The zoology of the voyage of HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. 5 pts. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1838–43.


He is going to S. America as captain of a ship. Offers to bring back fossils for CD and B. J. Sulivan.

He is going to domesticate the Patagonian bird "something like a guinea fowl" in Sussex. He shot the only Beagle specimen.

Letter details

Letter no.
Arthur Mellersh
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
St John’s Wood
Source of text
DAR 171.1: 145
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3836,” accessed on 20 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10