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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Susan Darwin   [6 September 1831]

17, Spring Gardens


My dear Susan

Again I am going to trouble you. I suspect, if I keep on at this rate, you will sincerely wish me at Terra de Fuego or any other Terra, but England.— First I will give my commissions.— Tell Nancy to make me soon 12 instead of 8 shirts: Tell Edward to send me up in my carpet bag, (he can slip the key in the bag tied to some string) my slippers, a pair of lightish walking shoes.—My Spanish books: my new microscope (about 6 inches long & 3 or 4 deep),1 which must have cotton stuffed inside: my geological compass.—my Father knows that: A little book, if I have got it in bedroom, Taxidermy:2 ask my Father if he thinks there would be any objection to my taking Arsenic for a little time, as my hands are not quite well—& I have always observed, that if I once get them well & change my manner of living about same time they will generally remain well.— What is the dose?— Tell Edward my gun is dirty: What is Erasmus direction, tell me if you think there is time to write & to receive an answer before I start: as I should like particularly to know what he thinks about it. I suppose you do not know Sir J. Macintosh direction?—

I write all this as if it was settled but it is not more than it was.—excepting that from Cap. FitzRoy wishing me so much to go, & from his kindness I feel a predestination I shall start.— I spent a very pleasant evening with him yesterday: he must be more than 23 old. he is of a slight figure, & a dark but handsome edition of Mr. Kynaston.—& according to my notions preeminently good manners: He is all for Economy excepting on one point, viz fire arms he recommends me strongly to get a case of pistols like his which cost 60£!!, & never to go on shore anywhere without loaded ones.— & he is doubting about a rifle.— he says I cannot appreciate the luxury of fresh meat here.— Of course I shall buy nothing till every thing is settled: but I work all day long at my lists, putting in & striking out articles.— This is the first really cheerful day I have spent since I received the letter, & it all is owing to the sort of involuntary confidence I place in my beau ideal of a Captain.—

We stop at Teneriffe. His object is to stop at as many places as possible. he takes out 20 Chronometers & it will be a “sin” not to settle the longitudes:3 he tells me to get it down on writing at ye Admiralty that I have the free choice to leave, as soon & wherever I like:4 I daresay you expect I shall turn back at the Madeira: if I have a morsel of stomach left, I wont give up.— Excuse my so often troubling & writing, the one is of great utility, the other a great amusement to me.— Most likely I shall write tomorrow

Love to my Father.— Dearest Susan | C. Darwin

Answer by return of post

As my instruments want altering send my things by the Oxonian, ye same night


See letter from [J. M. Herbert], [early May 1831], n. 3. The dimensions are close to those of the box of the Cary microscope at Down House (6.2 inches by 2.8 inches), which suggests that CD may have taken that instrument with him on the voyage. But, if so, it was not his only one. Another, also at Down House, bearing the name ‘Bancks & Son, 119 New Bond Street’, is, in the opinion of Professor Phillip Sloan, based on measurements of the focal lengths, the main one utilised by CD on board the Beagle (Phillip Sloan, personal communication). There is further evidence in the letter to W. D. Fox, 23 May 1833 that CD had the Bancks microscope on board. See also letter to J. S. Henslow, 28 [September 1831], n. 1.
Swainson 1822 (viii + 72 pp.) fits this description, but no copy has been found in CD’s library, nor has any mention of it, or of any other work on taxidermy, been found in his Beagle notes.
A memorandum from Captain Beaufort dated 11 November 1831 contains detailed instructions for chronometric observations to be made during the Beagle voyage in order to establish longitudes, such as that of Rio de Janeiro, about which authorities were in conflict (Narrative 2: 24–40). Eventually twenty-two chronometers were taken. See Narrative Appendix, p. 325 for a list with Robert FitzRoy’s rating of their performance.
No such statement has been found, though CD’s Beagle letters make it clear that he felt free to leave whenever he chose.


Narrative: Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. [Edited by Robert FitzRoy.] 3 vols. and appendix. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Swainson, William. 1822. The naturalist’s guide for collecting and preserving subjects of natural history and botany … particularly shells. London.


Orders clothing, books, and other supplies for the voyage, to be sent to him in London.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Susan Elizabeth Darwin
Sent from
London, Spring Gardens, 17
C.H 6 SE 1831 X
Source of text
DAR 223
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 119,” accessed on 16 July 2024,

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