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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Caroline Darwin    25–6 April [1832]

Botofogo Bay

April 25th

My dear Caroline

I had sealed up the first letter, all ready to be sent off during my absence: but no good opportunity occurred so it & this will go together.— I take the opportunity of Maccormick returning to England, being invalided, ie. being disagreeable to the Captain & Wickham.— He is no loss.—1 Derbyshire2 is also discharged the survice, from his own desire not choosing his conduct which has been bad about money matters to be investigated.—

All this has been a long parenthesis.— My expedition lasted 15 days, most of which were ones of uncommon fatigue; I suppose for a civilized country travelling could not be worse.— the greatest difficulty in getting any thing to eat, & not undressing for the five first days.— I was very unwell for two days, & the misery of riding in a scorching sun for about 10 hours was extreme.— My horror of being left utterly destitute in a Venda will be better than any schoolmaster to make me learn Spanish, as soon as we get into those countries.— On the other side, there was a great interest & novelty in seeing the manner of living amongst the Brazilians, which rare of opportunity of doing during a few days in which I resided at a Fazenda, that is one of the most interior cleared estates.— Their habits of life were quite patriarchal.— Forest, & flowers & birds, I saw in great perfection, & the pleasure of beholding them is infinite.— I advice you to get an French engraving, Le Foret du Bresil: it is most true & clever.— This letter will be odds & ends, as really I have scarcely time for writing.— I send in a packet, my commonplace Journal.— I have taken a fit of disgust with it & want to get it out of my sight, any of you that like may read it.— a great deal is absolutely childish: Remember however this, that it is written solely to make me remember this voyage, & that it is not a record of facts but of my thoughts.— & in excuse recollect how tired I generally am when writing it.—

Earl & myself are now living in this most retired & beautiful spot.— I trust to spend a most delightful fortnight.— I have begun however with a bad omen.— whilst landing the boat was swamped; a heavy sea knocked me head over heels & filled the boat.— I never shall forget my agony, seeing all my useful books, papers,—instruments microscopes &c &c gun rifle all floating in the Salt Water: every thing is a little injured, but not much: I must harden myself to many such calamities.— It is very lucky I have such nice lodgings as the ship is turned inside out, a large party of the officers have gone up the river in the cutter.— I came just too late for this cruize.— I believe King is coming to live here: he is the most perfect, pleasant boy I ever met with & is my chief companion.— Wickham is a fine fellow.—& we are very good friends.— which in a selfish way is no common advantage.— And now for the Captain, as I daresay you feel some interest in him.— As far as I can judge: he is a very extraordinary person.— I never before came across a man whom I could fancy being a Napoleon or a Nelson.— I should not call him clever, yet I feel convinced nothing is too great or too high for him.— His ascendacy over every-body is quite curious: the extent to which every officer & man feels the slightest rebuke or praise would have been, before seeing him incomprehensible: It is very amusing to see all hands hauling at a rope they not supposing him on deck, & then observe the effect, when he utters a syllable: it is like a string of dray horses, when the waggoner gives one of his aweful smacks.— His candor & sincerity are to me unparralleled: & using his own words his “vanity & petulance” are nearly so.— I have felt the effects of the latter: but the bringing into play the former ones so forcibly makes one hardly regret them.— His greatest fault as a companion is his austere silence: produced from excessive thinking: his many good qualities are great & numerous: altogether he is the strongest marked character I ever fell in with.

Be sure you mention the receiving of my journal, as anyhow to me it will of considerable future interest as it an exact record of all my first impressions, & such a set of vivid ones they have been, must make this period of my life always one of interest to myself.— If you will speak quite sincerely,—I should be glad to have your criticisms. Only recollect the above mentioned apologies.—

I like this sort of life very much: I can laugh at the miseries of even Brazilian travelling.— I must except one morning when I did not get my breakfast till one oclock having ridden many miles over glaring sand.— Generally one is obliged to wait two hours before you can get anything to eat, be the time what it may.— Although I like this knocking about.—I find I steadily have a distant prospect of a very quiet parsonage, & I can see it even through a grove of Palms.—

Friday. The Captain has just paid us a visit & taken me to the Ministers, where I dine on Monday & meet the very few gentlemen there are in the place.— He has communicated to me an important piece of news; the Beagle on the 7th of March,3 sails back to Bahia.— The reason is a most unexpected difference is found in the Longitudes it is a thing of great importance, & the Captain has written to the Admiralty accordingly.—4 Most likely, I shall live quietly here, it will cost a little, but I am quite delighted at the thought of enjoying a little more of the Tropics: I am sorry the first part of this letter has already been sent to the Tyne: I must tell you for your instruction that the Captain says, Miss Austens novels are on every body table, which solely means the Jerseys Londonderrys &c.—

You shall hear from me again from Rio, how I wish I could do the same from you.—

Remember me most affectionately to every body, & to my Father, Susan & Catherine & Erasmus.— The latter must not forget to write to me.— I would write to each of you.—only it is in reality useless.— | Good bye & good night to all of you | Yours ever affectionately | Charles Darwin *S 2

April 26th Rio de Janeiro


Robert McCormick stated his reason for leaving as follows: ‘Having found myself in a false position on board a small and very uncomfortable vessel, and very much disappointed in my expectations of carrying out my natural history pursuits, every obstacle having been placed in the way of my getting on shore and making collections, I got permission from the admiral in command of the station here to be superseded and allowed a passage home in H.M.S. Tyne.’ (McCormick 1884, 2: 222). Benjamin Bynoe, the Assistant Surgeon, served as Surgeon for the remainder of the voyage.
Alexander Derbishire, Mate of the Beagle (Narrative 2: 19).
A mistake for ‘May’. The Beagle sailed for Bahia on 10 May (see ‘Beaglediary, p. 60).
Narrative 2: 75: ‘As I found that a difference, exceeding four miles of longitude, existed between the meridian distance from Bahia to Rio, determined by the French expedition under Baron Roussin, and that measured by the Beagle; yet was unable to detect any mistake or oversight on my part; I resolved to return to Bahia, and ascertain whether the Beagle’s measurement was incorrect.’ Robert FitzRoy’s measurement between Bahia and Rio was confirmed ‘even to a second of time’ (ibid., p. 78).


McCormick, Robert. 1884. Voyages of discovery in the Arctic and Antarctic seas, and round the world. 2 vols. London.

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.


His trip to the interior was full of interest, but exhausting physically. Expects to stay at least a fortnight at Botofogo, because the Beagle returns to Bahia to correct a difference in the longitude measurements. Writes of his companions, of FitzRoy, and of his journal – which he has sent home.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Darwin/Caroline Sarah (Caroline) Wedgwood
Sent from
Botofogo Bay
Source of text
DAR 223: 11
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 166,” accessed on 29 January 2023,

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