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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Josiah Wedgwood II to R. W. Darwin1   31 August 1831


31 August 1831

My dear Doctor

I feel the responsibility of your application to me on the offer that has been made to Charles as being weighty, but as you have desired Charles to consult me I cannot refuse to give the result of such consideration as I have been able to give it. Charles has put down what he conceives to be your principal objections & I think the best course I can take will be to state what occurs to me upon each of them.

1— I should not think that it would be in any degree disreputable to his character as a clergyman. I should on the contrary think the offer honorable to him, and the pursuit of Natural History, though certainly not professional, is very suitable to a Clergyman

2— I hardly know how to meet this objection, but he would have definite objects upon which to employ himself and might acquire and strengthen, habits of application, and I should think would be as likely to do so in any way in which he is likely to pass the next two years at home.

3. The notion did not occur to me in reading the letters & on reading them again with that object in my mind I see no ground for it.

4. I cannot conceive that the Admiralty would send out a bad vessel on such a service. As to objections to the expedition, they will differ in each mans case & nothing would, I think, be inferred in Charles’s case if it were known that others had objected.

5— You are a much better judge of Charles’s character than I can be. If, on comparing this mode of spending the next two years, with the way in which he will probably spend them if he does not accept this offer, you think him more likely to be rendered unsteady & unable to settle, it is undoubtedly a weighty objection— Is it not the case that sailors are prone to settle in domestic and quiet habits.

6— I can form no opinion on this further than that, if appointed by the Admiralty, he will have a claim to be as well accommodated as the vessel will allow.

7— If I saw Charles now absorbed in professional studies I should probably think it would not be advisable to interrupt them, but this is not, and I think will not be, the case with him. His present pursuit of knowledge is in the same track as he would have to follow in the expedition.

8— The undertaking would be useless as regards his profession, but looking upon him as a man of enlarged curiosity, it affords him such an opportunity of seeing men and things as happens to few.

You will bear in mind that I have had very little time for consideration & that you & Charles are the persons who must decide.

I am | My dear Doctor | Affectionately yours | Josiah Wedgwood


The letter was enclosed with letter to R. W. Darwin, 31 August [1831]. After the salutation CD wrote ‘Read this last’. CD’s account of the events up to 1 September, written on 16 December 1831, reads as follows: ‘I immediately said I would go; but the next morning finding my Father so much averse to the whole plan, I wrote to Mr Peacock to refuse his offer. On the last day of August I went to Maer, where everything soon bore a different appearance. I found every member of the family so strongly on my side, that I determined to make another effort. In the evening I drew up a list of my Father’s objections, to which Uncle Jos wrote his opinion & answer. This we sent off to Shrewsbury early the next morning & I went out shooting. About 10 o’clock Uncle Jos sent me a message to say he intended going to Shrewsbury & offering to take me with him. When we arrived there, all things were settled, & my Father most kindly gave his consent.’ (‘Beagle’ diary, p. 3).


‘Beagle’ diary: Charles Darwin’s Beagle diary. Edited by Richard Darwin Keynes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1988.


States his views on each of RWD’s objections to the Beagle venture. JW’s overall position is favourable to CD’s acceptance of the offer.

Letter details

Letter no.
Josiah Wedgwood, II
Robert Waring Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 97(ser.2): 6–8
Physical description
5pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 109,” accessed on 23 January 2021,

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