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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. S. MacLeay   29 May 1839

12 Upper Gower St

May 29th.—1839

My dear Macleay

The bearer of this letter, Syms Covington, is a young man, who accompanied me, as servant in the voyage of H.M.S Beagle, round the world.— I have the highest opinion of him and have had means of ascertaining his character. He has saved a little money, and has determined to leave our old world for your new and flourishing one. He means to turn his hand to anything for a few years, and hopes ultimately to become a landowner.— I have perfect confidence in his scrupulous honesty, and as he has been constantly trusted by me with money during the last eight years, I have had opportunities of knowing this.— I should esteem it, a very great personal favour, if you, or any of your family, could give him employment, or put him in the way of obtaining it. I do not hesitate to say, anyone would find him a most useful assistant as a clerk, and I am sure he would soon learn to undertake affairs of considerable trust.— He would, however, much prefer, beginning as a labourer, rather than remain idle.— The only drawback to his advancement is the misfortune of a slight degree of deafness.— During my voyage he shot & prepared nearly all the specimens I brought home, and therefore I venture to hope, that you, who aided me so essentially in publishing their descriptions,1 will be the more ready to lend him a helping hand, or a little advice (in case he should want it) how to become a good Australian citizen.—2 You probably would not object assisting (if no other way occurs to you) by a statement that I am a person whose character might be trusted.—

I learned some time since through Andrew Smith (whose health remains, I fear, very precarious, though somewhat improved) of your having arrived safely at Rio.— I hope your voyage ended prosperously, and I trust your homeward voyage to old England will take place before very long.—

Pray excuse me troubling you, and believe me dear Macleay | Yours mosttruly | Charles Darwin

P.S. I have told Covington, in case you should not be in Sydney to ask any member of your family to open this, as I feel sure you will excuse this liberty.— I have given him a letter to Captain King.—


Before emigrating to Australia, MacLeay had urged CD to bring out the Zoology (see letter to Leonard Jenyns, 10 April [1837]).
Covington settled as postmaster at Pambula, Twofold Bay, New South Wales. He died there in 1861. A brief account of his life, with CD’s letters, has been compiled by B. J. Ferguson (Ferguson 1971).


Ferguson, B. J. 1971. Syms Covington of Pambula, assistant to Charles Darwin on the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world 1831 to 1836. Bega, New South Wales: Imlay District Historical Society.

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.


Introduces Syms Covington and recommends him for employment in Australia.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Sharp Macleay
Sent from
London, Upper Gower St, 12
Source of text
Linnean Society of London
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 513,” accessed on 26 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2