The Life and Letters of Darwin, Vol. 1 by Sir Francis Darwin - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
[My father's Cambridge life comprises the time between the Lent Term, 1828, when he came up as a Freshman, and the end of the May Term, 1831, when he took his degree and left the University.
It appears from the College books, that my father "admissus est pensionarius minor sub Magistro Shaw" on October 15, 1827. He did not come into residence till the Lent Term, 1828, so that, although he passed his examination in due season, he was unable to take his degree at the usual time,--the beginning of the Lent Term, 1831. In such a case a man usually took his degree before Ash-Wednesday, when he was called "Baccalaureus ad Diem Cinerum," and ranked with the B.A.'s of the year. My father's name, however, occurs in the list of Bachelors "ad Baptistam," or those admitted between AshWednesday and St. John Baptist's Day (June 24th); ("On Tuesday last Charles Darwin, of Christ's College, was admitted B.A."--"Cambridge Chronicle", Friday, April 29, 1831.) he therefore took rank among the Bachelors of 1832.
He "kept" for a term or two in lodgings, over Bacon the tobacconist's; not, however, over the shop in the Market Place, now so well known to Cambridge men, but in Sidney Street. For the rest of his time he had pleasant rooms on the south side of the first court of Christ's. (The rooms are on the first floor, on the west side of the middle staircase. A medallion (given by my brother) has recently been let into the wall of the sitting-room.)
What determined the choice of this college for his brother Erasmus and himself I have no means of knowing. Erasmus the elder, their grandfather, had been at St. John's, and this college might have been reasonably selected for them, being connected with Shrewsbury School. But the life of an under-graduate at St. John's seems, in those days, to have been a troubled one, if I may judge from the fact that a relative of mine migrated thence to Christ's to escape the harassing discipline of the place. A story told by Mr. Herbert illustrates the same state of things:--
"In the beginning of the October Term of 1830, an incident occurred which was attended with somewhat disagreeable, though ludicrous consequences to myself. Darwin asked me to take a long walk with him in the Fens, to search for some natural objects he was desirous of having. After a very long, fatiguing day's work, we dined together, late in the evening, at his rooms in Christ's College; and as soon as our dinner was over we threw ourselves into easy chairs and fell sound asleep. I was first to awake, about three in the morning, when, having looked at my watch, and knowing the strict rule of St. John's, which required men in statu pupillari to come into college before midnight, I rushed homeward at the utmost speed, in fear of the consequences, but hoping that the Dean would accept the excuse as sufficient when I told him the real facts. He, however, was inexorable, and refused to receive my explanations, or any evidence I could bring; and although during my undergraduateship I had never been reported for coming late into College, now, when I was a hard-working B.A., and had five or six pupils, he sentenced me to confinement to the College walls for the rest of the term. Darwin's indignation knew no bounds, and the stupid injustice and tyranny of the Dean raised not only a perfect ferment among my friends, but was the subject of expostulation from some of the leading members of the University."
My father seems to have found no difficulty in living at peace with all men in and out of office at Lady Margaret's other foundation. The impression of a contemporary of my father's is that Christ's in their day was a pleasant, fairly quiet college, with some tendency towards "horsiness"; many of the men made a custom of going to Newmarket during the races, though betting was not a regular practice. In this they were by no means discouraged by the Senior Tutor, Mr. Shaw, who was himself generally to be seen on the Heath on these occasions. There was a somewhat high proportion of FellowCommoners,--eight or nine, to sixty or seventy Pensioners, and this would indicate that it was not an unpleasant college for men with money to spend and with no great love of strict discipline.
The way in which the service was conducted in chapel shows that the Dean, at least, was not over zealous. I have heard my father tell how at evening chapel the Dean used to read alternate verses of the Psalms, without making even a pretence of waiting for the congregation to take their share. And when the Lesson was a lengthy one, he would rise and go on with the Canticles after the scholar had read fifteen or twenty verses.
It is curious that my father often spoke of his Cambridge life as if it had been so much time wasted, forgetting that, although the set studies of the place were barren enough for him, he yet gained in the highest degree the best advantages of a University life--the contact with men and an opportunity for his mind to grow vigorously. It is true that he valued at its highest the advantages which he gained from associating with Professor Henslow and some others, but he seemed to consider this as a chance outcome of his life at Cambridge, not an advantage for which Alma Mater could claim any credit. One of my father's Cambridge friends was the late Mr. J.M. Herbert, County Court Judge for South Wales, from whom I was fortunate enough to obtain some notes which help us to gain an idea of how my father impressed his contemporaries. Mr. Herbert writes: "I think it was in the spring of 1828 that I first met Darwin, either at my cousin Whitley's rooms in St. John's, or at the rooms of some other of his old Shrewsbury schoolfellows, with many of whom I was on terms of great intimacy. But it certainly was in the summer of that year that our acquaintance ripened into intimacy, when we happened to be together at Barmouth, for the Long Vacation, reading with private tutors,--he with Batterton of St. John's, his Classical and Mathematical Tutor, and I with Yate of St. John's."
The intercourse between them practically ceased in 1831, when my father said goodbye to Herbert at Cambridge, on starting on his "Beagle" voyage. I once met Mr. Herbert, then almost an old man, and I was much struck by the evident warmth and freshness of the affection with which he remembered my father. The notes from which I quote end with this warm-hearted eulogium: "It would be idle for me to speak of his vast intellectual powers...but I cannot end this cursory and rambling sketch without testifying, and I doubt not all his surviving college friends would concur with me, that he was the most genial, warm-hearted, generous, and affectionate of friends; that his sympathies were with all that was good and true; and that he had a cordial hatred for everything false, or vile, or cruel, or mean, or dishonourable. He was not only great, but pre- eminently good, and just, and loveable."
Two anecdotes told by Mr. Herbert show that my father's feeling for suffering, whether of man or beast, was as strong in him as a young man as it was in later years: "Before he left Cambridge he told me that he had made up his mind not to shoot any more; that he had had two days' shooting at his friend's, Mr. Owen of Woodhouse; and that on the second day, when going over some of the ground they had beaten on the day before, he picked up a bird not quite dead, but lingering from a shot it had received on the previous day; and that it had made and left such a painful impression on his mind, that he could not reconcile it to his conscience to continue to derive pleasure from a sport which inflicted such cruel suffering."
To realise the strength of the feeling that led to this resolve, we must remember how passionate was his love of sport. We must recall the boy shooting his first snipe ('Recollections.'), and trembling with excitement so that he could hardly reload his gun. Or think of such a sentence as, "Upon my soul, it is only about a fortnight to the 'First,' then if there is a bliss on earth that is it." (Letter from C. Darwin to W.D. Fox.)Another anecdote told by Mr. Herbert illustrates again his tenderness of heart:--
"When at Barmouth he and I went to an exhibition of 'learned dogs.' In the middle of the entertainment one of the dogs failed in performing the trick his master told him to do. On the man reproving him, the dog put on a most piteous expression, as if in fear of the whip. Darwin seeing it, asked me to leave with him, saying, 'Come along, I can't stand this any longer; how those poor dogs must have been licked.'"
It is curious that the same feeling recurred to my father more than fifty years afterwards, on seeing some performing dogs at the Westminster Aquarium; on this occasion he was reassured by the manager telling him that the dogs were taught more by reward than by punishment. Mr. Herbert goes on:--"It stirred one's inmost depth of feeling to hear him descant upon, and groan over, the horrors of the slave-trade, or the cruelties to which the suffering Poles were subjected at Warsaw...These, and other like proofs have left on my mind the conviction that a more humane or tender-hearted man never lived."
His old college friends agree in speaking with affectionate warmth of his pleasant, genial temper as a young man. From what they have been able to tell me, I gain the impression of a young man overflowing with animal spirits--leading a varied healthy life--not overindustrious in the set of studies of the place, but full of other pursuits, which were followed with a rejoicing enthusiasm. Entomology, riding, shooting in the fens, suppers and card-playing, music at King's Chapel, engravings at the Fitzwilliam Museum, walks with Professor Henslow--all combined to fill up a happy life. He seems to have infected others with his enthusiasm. Mr. Herbert relates how, during the same Barmouth summer, he was pressed into the service of "the science"--as my father called collecting beetles. They took their daily walks together among the hills behind Barmouth, or boated in the Mawddach estuary, or sailed to Sarn Badrig to land there at low water, or went flyfishing in the Cors-y-gedol lakes. "On these occasions Darwin entomologized most industriously, picking up creatures as he walked along, and bagging everything which seemed worthy of being pursued, or of further examination. And very soon he armed me with a bottle of alcohol, in which I had to drop any beetle which struck me as not of a common kind. I performed this duty with some diligence in my constitutional walks; but alas! my powers of discrimination seldom enabled me to secure a prize--the usual result, on his examining the contents of my bottle, being an exclamation, 'Well, old Cherbury' (No doubt in allusion to the title of Lord Herbert of Cherbury.) (the nickname he gave me, and by which he usually addressed me), 'none of these will do.'" Again, the Rev. T. Butler, who was one of the Barmouth reading-party in 1828, says: "He inoculated me with a taste for Botany which has stuck by me all my life."
Archdeacon Watkins, another old college friend of my father's, remembers him unearthing beetles in the willows between Cambridge and Grantchester, and speaks of a certain beetle the remembrance of whose name is "Crux major." (Panagaeus crux-major.) How enthusiastically must my father have exulted over this beetle to have impressed its name on a companion so that he remembers it after half a century! Archdeacon Watkins goes on: "I do not forget the long and very interesting conversations that we had about Brazilian scenery and tropical vegetation of all sorts. Nor do I forget the way and the vehemence with which he rubbed his chin when he got excited on such subjects, and discoursed eloquently of lianas, orchids, etc."
He became intimate with Henslow, the Professor of Botany, and through him with some other older members of the University. "But," Mr. Herbert writes, "he always kept up the closest connection with the friends of his own standing; and at our frequent social gatherings--at breakfast, wine or supper parties--he was ever one of the most cheerful, the most popular, and the most welcome."
My father formed one of a club for dining once a week, called the Gourmet (Mr. Herbert mentions the name as 'The Glutton Club.') Club, the members, besides himself and Mr. Herbert (from whom I quote), being Whitley of St. John's, now Honorary Canon of Durham (Formerly Reader in Natural Philosophy at Durham University.); Heaviside of Sidney, now Canon of Norwich; Lovett Cameron of Trinity, now vicar of Shoreham; Blane of Trinity, who held a high post during the Crimean war; H. Lowe (Brother of Lord Sherbrooke.) (Now Sherbrooke) of Trinity Hall; and Watkins of Emmanuel, now Archdeacon of York. The origin of the club's name seems already to have become involved in obscurity. Mr. Herbert says that it was chosen in derision of another "set of men who called themselves by a long Greek name signifying 'fond of dainties,' but who falsified their claim to such a designation by their weekly practice of dining at some roadside inn, six miles from Cambridge, on mutton chops or beans and bacon." Another old member of the club tells me that the name arose because the members were given to making experiments on "birds and beasts which were before unknown to human palate." He says that hawk and bittern were tried, and that their zeal broke down over an old brown owl, "which was indescribable." At any rate, the meetings seemed to have been successful, and to have ended with "a game of mild vingt-et-un."
Mr. Herbert gives an amusing account of the musical examinations described by my father in his 'Recollections." Mr. Herbert speaks strongly of his love of music, and adds, "What gave him the greatest delight was some grand symphony or overture of Mozart's or Beethoven's, with their full harmonies.' On one occasion Herbert remembers "accompanying him to the afternoon service at King's, when we heard a very beautiful anthem. At the end of one of the parts, which was exceedingly impressive, he turned round to me and said, with a deep sigh, 'How's your backbone?'" He often spoke of a feeling of coldness or shivering in his back on hearing beautiful music.
Besides a love of music, he had certainly at this time a love of fine literature; and Mr. Cameron tells me that he used to read Shakespeare to my father in his rooms at Christ's, who took much pleasure in it. He also speaks of his "great liking for first-class line engravings, especially those of Raphael Morghen and Muller; and he spent hours in the Fitzwilliam Museum in looking over the prints in that collection."
My father's letters to Fox show how sorely oppressed he felt by the reading of an examination: "I am reading very hard, and have spirits for nothing. I actually have not stuck a beetle this term." His despair over mathematics must have been profound, when he expressed a hope that Fox's silence is due to "your being ten fathoms deep in the Mathematics; and if you are, God help you, for so am I, only with this difference, I stick fast in the mud at the bottom, and there I shall remain." Mr. Herbert says: "He had, I imagine, no natural turn for mathematics, and he gave up his mathematical reading before he had mastered the first part of Algebra, having had a special quarrel with Surds and the Binomial Theorem."
We get some evidence from his letters to Fox of my father's intention of going into the Church. "I am glad," he writes (March 18, 1829.), "to hear that you are reading divinity. I should like to know what books you are reading, and your opinions about them; you need not be afraid of preaching to me prematurely." Mr. Herbert's sketch shows how doubts arose in my father's mind as to the possibility of his taking Orders. He writes, "We had an earnest conversation about going into Holy Orders; and I remember his asking me, with reference to the question put by the Bishop in the ordination service, 'Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Spirit, etc.,' whether I could answer in the affirmative, and on my saying I could not, he said, 'Neither can I, and therefore I cannot take orders.'" This conversation appears to have taken place in 1829, and if so, the doubts here expressed must have been quieted, for in May 1830, he speaks of having some thoughts of reading divinity with Henslow.
The greater number of the following letters are addressed by my father to his cousin, William Darwin Fox. Mr. Fox's relationship to my father is shown in the pedigree given in Chapter I. The degree of kinship appears to have remained a problem to my father, as he signs himself in one letter "cousin/n to the power 2." Their friendship was, in fact, due to their being undergraduates together. My father's letters show clearly enough how genuine the friendship was. In after years, distance, large families, and ill-health on both sides, checked the intercourse; but a warm feeling of friendship remained. The correspondence was never quite dropped and continued till Mr. Fox's death in 1880. Mr. Fox took orders, and worked as a country clergyman until forced by ill-health to leave his living in Delamare Forest. His love of natural history remained strong, and he became a skilled fancier of many kinds of birds, etc. The index to 'Animals and Plants,' and my father's later correspondence, show how much help he received from his old College friend.]
CHARLES DARWIN TO J.M. HERBERT.
[September 14, 1828]. (The postmark being Derby seems to show that the letter was written from his cousin, W.D. Fox's house, Osmaston, near Derby.)
I am about to fulfil my promise of writing to you, but I am sorry to add there is a very selfish motive at the bottom. I am going to ask you a great favour, and you cannot imagine how much you will oblige me by procuring some more specimens of some insects which I dare say I can describe. In the first place, I must inform you that I have taken some of the rarest of the British Insects, and their being found near Barmouth, is quite unknown to the Entomological world: I think I shall write and inform some of the crack entomologists.
But now for business. SEVERAL more specimens, if you can procure them without much trouble, of the following insects:--The violet-black coloured beetle, found on Craig Storm (The top of the hill immediately behind Barmouth was called Craig-Storm, a hybrid Cambro-English word.), under stones, also a large smooth black one very like it; a bluish metallic- coloured dung-beetle, which is VERY common on the hill-sides; also, if you WOULD be so very kind as to cross the ferry, and you will find a great number under the stones on the waste land of a long, smooth, jet-black beetle (a great many of these); also, in the same situation, a very small pinkish insect, with black spots, with a curved thorax projecting beyond the head; also, upon the marshy land over the ferry, near the sea, under old sea-weed, stones, etc., you will find a small yellowish transparent beetle, with two or four blackish marks on the back. Under these stones there are two sorts, one much darker than the other; the lighter-coloured is that which I want. These last two insects are EXCESSIVELY RARE, and you will really EXTREMELY oblige me by taking all this trouble pretty soon. remember me most kindly to Butler, tell him of my success, and I dare say both of you will easily recognise these insects. I hope his caterpillars go on well. I think many of the Chrysalises are well worth keeping. I really am quite ashamed [of] so long a letter all about my own concerns; but do return good for evil, and send me a long account of all your proceedings.
In the first week I killed seventy-five head of game--a very contemptible number--but there are very few birds. I killed, however, a brace of black game. Since then I have been staying at the Fox's, near Derby; it is a very pleasant house, and the music meeting went off very well. I want to hear how Yates likes his gun, and what use he has made of it. If the bottle is not large you can buy another for me, and when you pass through Shrewsbury you can leave these treasures, and I hope, if you possibly can, you will stay a day or two with me, as I hope I need not say how glad I shall be to see you again. Fox remarked what deuced good- natured fellows your friends at Barmouth must be; and if I did not know how you and Butler were so, I would not think of giving you so much trouble.
Believe me, my dear Herbert, Yours, most sincerely,
Remember me to all friends.
"I waited till to-day for the chance of a letter, but I will wait no longer. I must most sincerely and cordially congratulate you on having finished all your labours. I think your place a VERY GOOD one considering by how much you have beaten many men who had the start of you in reading. I do so wish I were now in Cambridge (a very selfish wish, however, as I was not with you in all your troubles and misery), to join in all the glory and happiness, which dangers gone by can give. How we would talk, walk, and entomologise! Sappho should be the best of bitches, and Dash, of dogs: then should be 'peace on earth, good will to men,'--which, by the way, I always think the most perfect description of happiness that words can give."]CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Cambridge, Thursday [February 26, 1829]. My dear Fox,
When I arrived here on Tuesday I found to my great grief and surprise, a letter on my table which I had written to you about a fortnight ago, the stupid porter never took the trouble of getting the letter forwarded. I suppose you have been abusing me for a most ungrateful wretch; but I am sure you will pity me now, as nothing is so vexatious as having written a letter in vain.
Last Thursday I left Shrewsbury for London, and stayed there till Tuesday, on which I came down here by the 'Times.' The first two days I spent entirely with Mr. Hope (Founder of the Chair of Zoology at Oxford.), and did little else but talk about and look at insects; his collection is most magnificent, and he himself is the most generous of entomologists; he has given me about 160 new species, and actually often wanted to give me the rarest insects of which he had only two specimens. He made many civil speeches, and hoped you will call on him some time with me, whenever we should happen to be in London. He greatly compliments our exertions in Entomology, and says we have taken a wonderfully great number of good insects. On Sunday I spent the day with Holland, who lent me a horse to ride in the Park with.
On Monday evening I drank tea with Stephens (J.F. Stephens, author of 'A Manual of British Coleoptera,' 1839, and other works.); his cabinet is more magnificent than the most zealous entomologist could dream of; he appears to be a very good-humoured pleasant little man. Whilst in town I went to the Royal Institution, Linnean Society, and Zoological Gardens, and many other places where naturalists are gregarious. If you had been with me, I think London would be a very delightful place; as things were, it was much pleasanter than I could have supposed such a dreary wilderness of houses to be.
I shot whilst in Shrewsbury a Dundiver (female Goosander, as I suppose you know). Shaw has stuffed it, and when I have an opportunity I will send it to Osmaston. There have been shot also five Waxen Chatterers, three of which Shaw has for sale; would you like to purchase a specimen? I have not yet thanked you for your last very long and agreeable letter. It would have been still more agreeable had it contained the joyful intelligence that you were coming up here; my two solitary breakfasts have already made me aware how very very much I shall miss you....
My dear old Fox, Most sincerely yours, C. DARWIN.
"I am leading a quiet everyday sort of a life; a little of Gibbon's History in the morning, and a good deal of "Van John" in the evening; this, with an occasional ride with Simcox and constitutional with Whitley, makes up the regular routine of my days. I see a good deal both of Herbert and Whitley, and the more I see of them increases every day the respect I have for their excellent understandings and dispositions. They have been giving some very gay parties, nearly sixty men there both evenings."]CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Christ's College [Cambridge], April 1 . My dear Fox,
In your letter to Holden you are pleased to observe "that of all the blackguards you ever met with I am the greatest." Upon this observation I shall make no remarks, excepting that I must give you all due credit for acting on it most rigidly. And now I should like to know in what one particular are you less of a blackguard than I am? You idle old wretch, why have you not answered my last letter, which I am sure I forwarded to Clifton nearly three weeks ago? If I was not really very anxious to hear what you are doing, I should have allowed you to remain till you thought it worth while to treat me like a gentleman. And now having vented my spleen in scolding you, and having told you, what you must know, how very much and how anxiously I want to hear how you and your family are getting on at Clifton, the purport of this letter is finished. If you did but know how often I think of you, and how often I regret your absence, I am sure I should have heard from you long enough ago.
I find Cambridge rather stupid, and as I know scarcely any one that walks, and this joined with my lips not being quite so well, has reduced me to a sort of hybernation...I have caught Mr. Harbour letting -- have the first pick of the beetles; accordingly we have made our final adieus, my part in the affecting scene consisted in telling him he was a d--d rascal, and signifying I should kick him down the stairs if ever he appeared in my rooms again. It seemed altogether mightily to surprise the young gentleman. I have no news to tell you; indeed, when a correspondence has been broken off like ours has been, it is difficult to make the first start again. Last night there was a terrible fire at Linton, eleven miles from Cambridge. Seeing the reflection so plainly in the sky, Hall, Woodyeare, Turner, and myself thought we would ride and see it. We set out at half- past nine, and rode like incarnate devils there, and did not return till two in the morning. Altogether it was a most awful sight. I cannot conclude without telling you, that of all the blackguards I ever met with, you are the greatest and the best.C. DARWIN. CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. [Cambridge, Thursday, April 23, 1829.] My dear Fox,
I have delayed answering your last letter for these few days, as I thought that under such melancholy circumstances my writing to you would be probably only giving you trouble. This morning I received a letter from Catherine informing me of that event (The death of Fox's sister, Mrs. Bristowe.), which, indeed, from your letter, I had hardly dared to hope would have happened otherwise. I feel most sincerely and deeply for you and all your family; but at the same time, as far as any one can, by his own good principles and religion, be supported under such a misfortune, you, I am assured, will know where to look for such support. And after so pure and holy a comfort as the Bible affords, I am equally assured how useless the sympathy of all friends must appear, although it be as heartfelt and sincere, as I hope you believe me capable of feeling. At such a time of deep distress I will say nothing more, excepting that I trust your father and Mrs. Fox bear this blow as well as, under such circumstances, can be hoped for.I am afraid it will be a long time, my dear Fox, before we meet; till then, believe me at all times, Yours most affectionately, CHARLES DARWIN. CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Shrewsbury, Friday [July 4, 1829]. My dear Fox,
I should have written to you before only that whilst our expedition lasted I was too much engaged, and the conclusion was so unfortunate, that I was too unhappy to write to you till this week's quiet at home. The thoughts of Woodhouse next week has at last given me courage to relate my unfortunate case.
I started from this place about a fortnight ago to take an entomological trip with Mr. Hope through all North Wales; and Barmouth was our first destination. The two first days I went on pretty well, taking several good insects; but for the rest of that week my lips became suddenly so bad (Probably with eczema, from which he often suffered.), and I myself not very well, that I was unable to leave the room, and on the Monday I retreated with grief and sorrow back again to Shrewsbury. The first two days I took some good insects...But the days that I was unable to go out, Mr. Hope did wonders...and to-day I have received another parcel of insects from him, such Colymbetes, such Carabi, and such magnificent Elaters (two species of the bright scarlet sort). I am sure you will properly sympathise with my unfortunate situation: I am determined I will go over the same ground that he does before autumn comes, and if working hard will procure insects I will bring home a glorious stock....
My dear Fox,
Yours most sincerely, CHAS. DARWIN.
I am going to Maer next week in order to entomologise, and shall stay there a week, and for the rest of this summer I intend to lead a perfectly idle and wandering life...You see I am much in the same state that you are, with this difference, you make good resolutions and never keep them; I never make them, so cannot keep them; it is all very well writing in this manner, but I must read for my Little-go. Graham smiled and bowed so very civilly, when he told me that he was one of the six appointed to make the examination stricter, and that they were determined this would make it a very different thing from any previous examination, that from all this I am sure it will be the very devil to pay amongst all idle men and entomologists. Erasmus, we expect home in a few weeks' time: he intends passing next winter in Paris. Be sure you order the two lists of insects published by Stephens, one printed on both sides, and the other only on one; you will find them very useful in many points of view.
Dear old Fox, yours, C. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Christ's College, Thursday [October 16, 1829].
I am afraid you will be very angry with me for not having written during the Music Meeting, but really I was worked so hard that I had no time; I arrived here on Monday and found my rooms in dreadful confusion, as they have been taking up the floor, and you may suppose that I have had plenty to do for these two days. The Music Meeting (At Birmingham.) was the most glorious thing I ever experienced; and as for Malibran, words cannot praise her enough, she is quite the most charming person I ever saw. We had extracts out of several of the best operas, acted in character, and you cannot imagine how very superior it made the concerts to any I ever heard before. J. de Begnis (De Begnis's Christian name was Giuseppe.) acted 'Il Fanatico' in character; being dressed up an extraordinary figure gives a much greater effect to his acting. He kept the whole theatre in roars of laughter. I liked Madame Blasis very much, but nothing will do after Malibran, who sung some comic songs, and [a] person's heart must have been made of stone not to have lost it to her. I lodged very near the Wedgwoods, and lived entirely with them, which was very pleasant, and had you been there it would have been quite perfect. It knocked me up most dreadfully, and I will never attempt again to do two things the same day.... CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. [Cambridge] Thursday [March, 1830]. My dear Fox,
I am through my Little-Go!!! I am too much exalted to humble myself by apologising for not having written before. But I assure you before I went in, and when my nerves were in a shattered and weak condition, your injured person often rose before my eyes and taunted me with my idleness. But I am through, through, through. I could write the whole sheet full with this delightful word. I went in yesterday, and have just heard the joyful news. I shall not know for a week which class I am in. The whole examination is carried on in a different system. It has one grand advantage--being over in one day. They are rather strict, and ask a wonderful number of questions.
And now I want to know something about your plans; of course you intend coming up here: what fun we will have together; what beetles we will catch; it will do my heart good to go once more together to some of our old haunts. I have two very promising pupils in Entomology, and we will make regular campaigns into the Fens. Heaven protect the beetles and Mr. Jenyns, for we won't leave him a pair in the whole country. My new Cabinet is come down, and a gay little affair it is.
And now for the time--I think I shall go for a few days to town to hear an opera and see Mr. Hope; not to mention my brother also, whom I should have no objection to see. If I go pretty soon, you can come afterwards, but if you will settle your plans definitely, I will arrange mine, so send me a letter by return of post. And I charge you let it be favourable-that is to say, come directly. Holden has been ordained, and drove the Coach out on the Monday. I do not think he is looking very well. Chapman wants you and myself to pay him a visit when you come up, and begs to be remembered to you. You must excuse this short letter, as I have no end more to send off by this day's post. I long to see you again, and till then,
My dear good old Fox, Yours most sincerely, CHARLES DARWIN.[In August he was in North Wales and wrote to Fox:--
"I have been intending to write every hour for the last fortnight, but REALLY have had no time. I left Shrewsbury this day fortnight ago, and have since that time been working from morning to night in catching fish or beetles. This is literally the first idle day I have had to myself; for on the rainy days I go fishing, on the good ones entomologising. You may recollect that for the fortnight previous to all this, you told me not to write, so that I hope I have made out some sort of defence for not having sooner answered your two long and very agreeable letters."]CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. [Cambridge, November 5, 1830.] My dear Fox,
I have so little time at present, and am so disgusted by reading that I have not the heart to write to anybody. I have only written once home since I came up. This must excuse me for not having answered your three letters, for which I am really very much obliged...
I have not stuck an insect this term, and scarcely opened a case. If I had time I would have sent you the insects which I have so long promised; but really I have not spirits or time to do anything. Reading makes me quite desperate; the plague of getting up all my subjects is next thing to intolerable. Henslow is my tutor, and a most ADMIRABLE one he makes; the hour with him is the pleasantest in the whole day. I think he is quite the most perfect man I ever met with. I have been to some very pleasant parties there this term. His good-nature is unbounded.
I am sure you will be sorry to hear poor old Whitley's father is dead. In a worldly point of view it is of great consequence to him, as it will prevent him going to the Bar for some time.--(Be sure answer this:) What did you pay for the iron hoop you had made in Shrewsbury? Because I do not mean to pay the whole of the Cambridge man's bill. You need not trouble yourself about the Phallus, as I have bought up both species. I have heard men say that Henslow has some curious religious opinions. I never perceived anything of it, have you? I am very glad to hear, after all your delays, you have heard of a curacy where you may read all the commandments without endangering your throat. I am also still more glad to hear that your mother continues steadily to improve. I do trust that you will have no further cause for uneasiness. With every wish for your happiness, my dear old Fox,Believe me yours most sincerely, CHARLES DARWIN. CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. Cambridge, Sunday, January 23, 1831. My dear Fox,
I do hope you will excuse my not writing before I took my degree. I felt a quite inexplicable aversion to write to anybody. But now I do most heartily congratulate you upon passing your examination, and hope you find your curacy comfortable. If it is my last shilling (I have not many), I will come and pay you a visit.
I do not know why the degree should make one so miserable, both before and afterwards. I recollect you were sufficiently wretched before, and I can assure [you] I am now, and what makes it the more ridiculous is, I know not what about. I believe it is a beautiful provision of nature to make one regret the less leaving so pleasant a place as Cambridge; and amongst all its pleasures--I say it for once and for all--none so great as my friendship with you. I sent you a newspaper yesterday, in which you will see what a good place [10th] I have got in the Poll. As for Christ's, did you ever see such a college for producing Captains and Apostles? (The "Captain" is at the head of the "Poll": the "Apostles" are the last twelve in the Mathematical Tripos.) There are no men either at Emmanuel or Christ's plucked. Cameron is gulfed, together with other three Trinity scholars! My plans are not at all settled. I think I shall keep this term, and then go and economise at Shrewsbury, return and take my degree.
A man may be excused for writing so much about himself when he has just passed the examination; so you must excuse [me]. And on the same principle do you write a letter brimful of yourself and plans. I want to know something about your examination. Tell me about the state of your nerves; what books you got up, and how perfect. I take an interest about that sort of thing, as the time will come when I must suffer. Your tutor, Thompson, begged to be remembered to you, and so does Whitley. If you will answer this, I will send as many stupid answers as you can desire.Believe me, dear Fox, CHAS. DARWIN.
The Appointment To The 'Beagle'
[In a letter addressed to Captain Fitz-Roy, before the "Beagle" sailed, my father wrote, "What a glorious day the 4th of November (The "Beagle" did not however make her final and successful start until December 27.) will be to me--my second life will then commence, and it shall be as a birthday for the rest of my life."
The circumstances which led to this second birth--so much more important than my father then imagined--are connected with his Cambridge life, but may be more appropriately told in the present chapter. Foremost in the chain of circumstances which lead to his appointment to the "Beagle", was my father's friendship with Professor Henslow. He wrote in a pocket-book or diary, which contain a brief record of dates, etc., throughout his life:--"1831. CHRISTMAS.--Passed my examination for B.A. degree and kept the two following terms.
"During these months lived much with Professor Henslow, often dining with him and walking with him; became slightly acquainted with several of the learned men in Cambridge, which much quickened the zeal which dinner parties and hunting had not destroyed.
"In the spring paid Mr. Dawes a visit with Ramsay and Kirby, and talked over an excursion to Teneriffe. In the spring Henslow persuaded me to think of Geology, and introduced me to Sedgwick. During Midsummer geologised a little in Shropshire.
"AUGUST.--Went on Geological tour (Mentioned by Sedgwick in his preface to Salter's 'Catalogue of Cambrian and Silurian Fossils,' 1873.) by Llangollen, Ruthin, Conway, Bangor, and Capel Curig, where I left Professor Sedgwick, and crossed the mountain to Barmouth."
In a letter to Fox (May, 1831), my father writes:--"I am very busy...and see a great deal of Henslow, whom I do not know whether I love or respect most." His feeling for this admirable man is finely expressed in a letter which he wrote to Rev. L. Blomefield (then Rev. L. Jenyns), when the latter was engaged in his 'Memoir of Professor Henslow' (published 1862). The passage ('Memoir of the Rev. John Stevens Henslow, M.A.,' by the Rev. Leonard Jenyns. 8vo. London, 1862, page 51.) has been made use of in the first of the memorial notices written for 'Nature,' and Mr. Romanes points out that my father, "while describing the character of another, is unconsciously giving a most accurate description of his own":--
"I went to Cambridge early in the year 1828, and soon became acquainted, through some of my brother entomologists, with Professor Henslow, for all who cared for any branch of natural history were equally encouraged by him. Nothing could be more simple, cordial, and unpretending than the encouragement which he afforded to all young naturalists. I soon became intimate with him, for he had a remarkable power of making the young feel completely at ease with him; though we were all awe-struck with the amount of his knowledge. Before I saw him, I heard one young man sum up his attainments by simply saying that he knew everything. When I reflect how immediately we felt at perfect ease with a man older, and in every way so immensely our superior, I think it was as much owing to the transparent sincerity of his character as to his kindness of heart; and, perhaps, even still more, to a highly remarkable absence in him of all self- consciousness. One perceived at once that he never thought of his own varied knowledge or clear intellect, but solely on the subject in hand. Another charm, which must have struck every one, was that his manner to old and distinguished persons and to the youngest student was exactly the same: and to all he showed the same winning courtesy. He would receive with interest the most trifling observation in any branch of natural history; and however absurd a blunder one might make, he pointed it out so clearly and kindly, that one left him no way disheartened, but only determined to be more accurate the next time. In short, no man could be better formed to win the entire confidence of the young, and to encourage them in their pursuits.
"His lectures on Botany were universally popular, and as clear as daylight. So popular were they, that several of the older members of the University attended successive courses. Once every week he kept open house in the evening, and all who cared for natural history attended these parties, which, by thus favouring inter-communication, did the same good in Cambridge, in a very pleasant manner, as the Scientific Societies do in London. At these parties many of the most distinguished members of the University occasionally attended; and when only a few were present, I have listened to the great men of those days, conversing on all sorts of subjects, with the most varied and brilliant powers. This was no small advantage to some of the younger men, as it stimulated their mental activity and ambition. Two or three times in each session he took excursions with his botanical class; either a long walk to the habitat of some rare plant, or in a barge down the river to the fens, or in coaches to some more distant place, as to Gamlingay, to see the wild lily of the valley, and to catch on the heath the rare natter-jack. These excursions have left a delightful impression on my mind. He was, on such occasions, in as good spirits as a boy, and laughed as heartily as a boy at the misadventures of those who chased the splendid swallow-tail butterflies across the broken and treacherous fens. He used to pause every now and then to lecture on some plant or other object; and something he could tell us on every insect, shell, or fossil collected, for he had attended to every branch of natural history. After our day's work we used to dine at some inn or house, and most jovial we then were. I believe all who joined these excursions will agree with me that they have left an enduring impression of delight on our minds.
"As time passed on at Cambridge I became very intimate with Professor Henslow, and his kindness was unbounded; he continually asked me to his house, and allowed me to accompany him in his walks. He talked on all subjects, including his deep sense of religion, and was entirely open. I own more than I can express to this excellent man...
"During the years when I associated so much with Professor Henslow, I never once saw his temper even ruffled. He never took an ill-natured view of any one's character, though very far from blind to the foibles of others. It always struck me that his mind could not be even touched by any paltry feeling of vanity, envy, or jealousy. With all this equability of temper and remarkable benevolence, there was no insipidity of character. A man must have been blind not to have perceived that beneath this placid exterior there was a vigorous and determined will. When principle came into play, no power on earth could have turned him one hair's-breadth..."Reflecting over his character with gratitude and reverence, his moral attributes rise, as they should do in the highest character, in pre- eminence over his intellect." In a letter to Rev. L. Blomefield (Jenyns), May 24, 1862, my father wrote with the same feelings that he had expressed in his letters thirty years before:--
"I thank you most sincerely for your kind present of your Memoir of Henslow. I have read about half, and it has interested me much. I do not think that I could have venerated him more than I did; but your book has even exalted his character in my eyes. From turning over the pages of the latter half, I should think your account would be invaluable to any clergyman who wished to follow poor dear Henslow's noble example. What an admirable man he was."
The geological work mentioned in the quotation from my father's pocket-book was doubtless of importance as giving him some practical experience, and perhaps of more importance in helping to give him some confidence in himself. In July of the same year, 1831, he was "working like a tiger" at Geology, and trying to make a map of Shropshire, but not finding it "as easy as I expected."In writing to Henslow about the same time, he gives some account of his work:--
"I should have written to you some time ago, only I was determined to wait for the clinometer, and I am very glad to say I think it will answer admirably. I put all the tables in my bedroom at every conceivable angle and direction. I will venture to say I have measured them as accurately as any geologist going could do...I have been working at so many things that I have not got on much with geology. I suspect the first expedition I take, clinometer and hammer in hand, will send me back very little wiser and a good deal more puzzled than when I started. As yet I have only indulged in hypotheses, but they are such powerful ones that I suppose, if they were put into action for but one day, the world would come to an end."
He was evidently most keen to get to work with Sedgwick, for he wrote to Henslow: "I have not heard from Professor Sedgwick, so I am afraid he will not pay the Severn formations a visit. I hope and trust you did your best to urge him."My father has given in his Recollections some account of this Tour.
There too we read of the projected excursion to the Canaries, of which slight mention occurs in letters to Fox and Henslow.
In April 1831 he writes to Fox: "At present I talk, think, and dream of a scheme I have almost hatched of going to the Canary Islands. I have long had a wish of seeing tropical scenery and vegetation, and, according to Humboldt, Teneriffe is a very pretty specimen." And again in May: "As for my Canary scheme, it is rash of you to ask questions; my other friends most sincerely wish me there, I plague them so with talking about tropical scenery, etc. Eyton will go next summer, and I am learning Spanish."
Later on in the summer the scheme took more definite form, and the date seems to have been fixed for June, 1832. He got information in London about passage-money, and in July was working at Spanish and calling Fox "un grandisimo lebron," in proof of his knowledge of the language; which, however, he found "intensely stupid." But even then he seems to have had some doubts about his companions' zeal, for he writes to Henslow (July 27, 1831): "I hope you continue to fan your Canary ardour. I read and re-read Humboldt; do you do the same? I am sure nothing will prevent us seeing the Great Dragon Tree."
Geological work and Teneriffe dreams carried him through the summer, till on returning from Barmouth for the sacred 1st of September, he received the offer of appointment as Naturalist to the "Beagle".The following extract from the pocket-book will be a help in reading the letters:-- "Returned to Shrewsbury at end of August. Refused offer of voyage. "September.--Went to Maer, returned with Uncle Jos. to Shrewsbury, thence to Cambridge. London. "11th.--Went with Captain Fitz-Roy in steamer to Plymouth to see the "Beagle". "22nd.--Returned to Shrewsbury, passing through Cambridge. "October 2nd.--Took leave of my home. Stayed in London. "24th--Reached Plymouth. "October and November.--These months very miserable. "December 10th.--Sailed, but were obliged to put back. "21st.--Put to sea again, and were driven back. "27th.--Sailed from England on our Circumnavigation." GEORGE PEACOCK (Formerly Dean of Ely, and Lowndean Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge.) TO J.S. HENSLOW. 7 Suffolk Street, Pall Mall East. [1831.] My dear Henslow,
Captain Fitz-Roy is going out to survey the southern coast of Tierra del Fuego, and afterwards to visit many of the South Sea Islands, and to return by the Indian Archipelago. The vessel is fitted out expressly for scientific purposes, combined with the survey; it will furnish, therefore, a rare opportunity for a naturalist, and it would be a great misfortune that it should be lost.
An offer has been made to me to recommend a proper person to go out as a naturalist with this expedition; he will be treated with every consideration. The Captain is a young man of very pleasing manners (a nephew of the Duke of Grafton), of great zeal in his profession, and who is very highly spoken of; if Leonard Jenyns could go, what treasures he might bring home with him, as the ship would be placed at his disposal whenever his inquiries made it necessary or desirable. In the absence of so accomplished a naturalist, is there any person whom you could strongly recommend? he must be such a person as would do credit to our recommendation. Do think of this subject, it would be a serious loss to the cause of natural science if this fine opportunity was lost.... The ship sails about the end of September. Write immediately, and tell me what can be done.
My dear Henslow,
Most truly yours,
Before I enter upon the immediate business of this letter, let us condole together upon the loss of our inestimable friend poor Ramsay, of whose death you have undoubtedly heard long before this.
I will not now dwell upon this painful subject, as I shall hope to see you shortly, fully expecting that you will eagerly catch at the offer which is likely to be made you of a trip to Tierra del Fuego, and home by the East Indies. I have been asked by Peacock, who will read and forward this to you from London, to recommend him a Naturalist as companion to Captain Fitz-Roy, employed by Government to survey the southern extremity of America. I have stated that I consider you to be the best qualified person I know of who is likely to undertake such a situation. I state this not in the supposition of your being a FINISHED naturalist, but as amply qualified for collecting, observing, and noting, anything worthy to be noted in Natural History. Peacock has the appointment at his disposal, and if he cannot find a man willing to take the office, the opportunity will probably be lost. Captain Fitz-Roy wants a man (I understand) more as a companion than a mere collector, and would not take any one, however good a naturalist, who was not recommended to him likewise as a GENTLEMAN. Particulars of salary, etc., I know nothing. The voyage is to last two years, and if you take plenty of books with you, anything you please may be done. You will have ample opportunities at command. In short, I suppose there never was a finer chance for a man of zeal and spirit; Captain FitzRoy is a young man. What I wish you to do is instantly to come and consult with Peacock (at No. 7 Suffolk Street, Pall Mall East, or else at the University Club), and learn further particulars. Don't put on any modest doubts or fears about your disqualifications, for I assure you I think you are the very man they are in search of; so conceive yourself to be tapped on the shoulder by your bum-bailiff and affectionate friend,J.S. HENSLOW. The expedition is to sail on 25th September (at earliest), so there is no time to be lost. G. PEACOCK TO C. DARWIN. [1831.] My dear Sir,
I received Henslow's letter last night too late to forward it to you by the post; a circumstance which I do not regret, as it has given me an opportunity of seeing Captain Beaufort at the Admiralty (the Hydrographer), and of stating to him the offer which I have to make to you. He entirely approves of it, and you may consider the situation as at your absolute disposal. I trust that you will accept it, as it is an opportunity which should not be lost, and I look forward with great interest to the benefit which our collections of Natural History may receive from your labours.The circumstances are these;--
Captain Fitz-Roy (a nephew of the Duke of Grafton) sails at the end of September, in a ship to survey, in the first instance, the South Coast of Tierra del Fuego, afterwards to visit the South Sea Islands, and to return by the Indian Archipelago to England. The expedition is entirely for scientific purposes, and the ship will generally wait your leisure for researches in Natural History, etc. Captain Fitz-Roy is a public-spirited and zealous officer, of delightful manners, and greatly beloved by all his brother officers. He went with Captain Beechey (For 'Beechey' read 'King.' I do not find the name Fitz-Roy in the list of Beechey's officers. The Fuegians were brought back from Captain King's voyage.), and spent 1500 pounds in bringing over and educating at his own charge three natives of Patagonia. He engages at his own expense an artist at 200 pounds a year to go with him. You may be sure, therefore, of having a very pleasant companion, who will enter heartily into all your views.
The ship sails about the end of September, and you must lose no time in making known your acceptance to Captain Beaufort, Admiralty Hydrographer. I have had a good deal of correspondence about this matter [with Henslow?], who feels, in common with myself, the greatest anxiety that you should go. I hope that no other arrangements are likely to interfere with it.
The Admiralty are not disposed to give a salary, though they will furnish you with an official appointment, and every accommodation. If a salary should be required, however, I am inclined to think that it would be granted.
Believe me, my dear Sir, Very truly yours,
Mr. Peacock's letter arrived on Saturday, and I received it late yesterday evening. As far as my own mind is concerned, I should, I think CERTAINLY, most gladly have accepted the opportunity which you so kindly have offered me. But my father, although he does not decidedly refuse me, gives such strong advice against going, that I should not be comfortable if I did not follow it.
My father's objections are these: the unfitting me to settle down as a Clergyman, my little habit of seafaring, THE SHORTNESS OF THE TIME, and the chance of my not suiting Captain Fitz-Roy. It is certainly a very serious objection, the very short time for all my preparations, as not only body but mind wants making up for such an undertaking. But if it had not been for my father I would have taken all risks. What was the reason that a Naturalist was not long ago fixed upon? I am very much obliged for the trouble you have had about it; there certainly could not have been a better opportunity....
My trip with Sedgwick answered most perfectly. I did not hear of poor Mr. Ramsay's loss till a few days before your letter. I have been lucky hitherto in never losing any person for whom I had any esteem or affection. My acquaintance, although very short, was sufficient to give me those feelings in a great degree. I can hardly make myself believe he is no more. He was the finest character I ever knew.
Yours most sincerely, My dear Sir,
I have written to Mr. Peacock, and I mentioned that I have asked you to send one line in the chance of his not getting my letter. I have also asked him to communicate with Captain Fitz-Roy. Even if I was to go, my father disliking would take away all energy, and I should want a good stock of that. Again I must thank you, it adds a little to the heavy but pleasant load of gratitude which I owe to you.
I am afraid I am going to make you again very uncomfortable. But, upon consideration, I think you will excuse me once again, stating my opinions on the offer of the voyage. My excuse and reason is the different way all the Wedgwoods view the subject from what you and my sisters do.
I have given Uncle Jos (Josiah Wedgwood.) what I fervently trust is an accurate and full list of your objections, and he is kind enough to give his opinions on all. The list and his answers will be enclosed. But may I beg of you one favour, it will be doing me the greatest kindness, if you will send me a decided answer, yes or no? If the latter, I should be most ungrateful if I did not implicitly yield to your better judgment, and to the kindest indulgence you have shown me all through my life; and you may rely upon it I will never mention the subject again. If your answer should be yes; I will go directly to Henslow and consult deliberately with him, and then come to Shrewsbury.
The danger appears to me and all the Wedgwoods not great. The expense cannot be serious, and the time I do not think, anyhow, would be more thrown away then if I stayed at home. But pray do not consider that I am so bent on going that I would for one SINGLE MOMENT hesitate, if you thought that after a short period you should continue uncomfortable.
I must again state I cannot think it would unfit me hereafter for a steady life. I do hope this letter will not give you much uneasiness. I send it by the car to-morrow morning; if you make up your mind directly will you send me an answer on the following day by the same means? If this letter should not find you at home, I hope you will answer as soon as you conveniently can.I do not know what to say about Uncle Jos' kindness; I never can forget how he interests himself about me.
Believe me, my dear father, Your affectionate son, CHARLES DARWIN.[Here follows the list of objections which are referred to in the following letter:-- 1. Disreputable to my character as a Clergyman hereafter. 2. A wild scheme. 3. That they must have offered to many others before me the place of Naturalist. 4. And from its not being accepted there must be some serious objection to the vessel or expedition. 5. That I should never settle down to a steady life hereafter. 6. That my accommodations would be most uncomfortable. 7. That you [i.e. Dr. Darwin] should consider it as again changing my profession. 8. That it would be a useless undertaking.]
JOSIAH WEDGWOOD TO R.W. DARWIN. Maer, August 31, 1831.
[Read this last.] (In C. Darwin's writing.)
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, and 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 honourable 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 as 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; and 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 man's case, and 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 and 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, and that you and Charles are the persons who must decide.
My dear Doctor,
Affectionately yours, JOSIAH WEDGWOOD.
As a letter would not have gone yesterday, I put off writing till to-day. I had rather a wearisome journey, but got into Cambridge very fresh. The whole of yesterday I spent with Henslow, thinking of what is to be done, and that I find is a great deal. By great good luck I know a man of the name of Wood, nephew of Lord Londonderry. He is a great friend of Captain Fitz-Roy, and has written to him about me. I heard a part of Captain Fitz- Roy's letter, dated some time ago, in which he says: "I have a right good set of officers, and most of my men have been there before." It seems he has been there for the last few years; he was then second in command with the same vessel that he has now chosen. He is only twenty-three years old, but [has] seen a deal of service, and won the gold medal at Portsmouth. The Admiralty say his maps are most perfect. He had choice of two vessels, and he chose the smallest. Henslow will give me letters to all travellers in town whom he thinks may assist me.
Peacock has sole appointment of Naturalist. The first person offered was Leonard Jenyns, who was so near accepting it that he packed up his clothes. But having [a] living, he did not think it right to leave it--to the great regret of all his family. Henslow himself was not very far from accepting it, for Mrs. Henslow most generously, and without being asked, gave her consent; but she looked so miserable that Henslow at once settled the point....
I am afraid there will be a good deal of expense at first. Henslow is much against taking many things; it is [the] mistake all young travellers fall into. I write as if it was settled, but Henslow tells me BY NO MEANS to make up my mind till I have had long conversations with Captains Beaufort and Fitz-Roy. Good-bye. You will hear from me constantly. Direct 17 Spring Gardens. TELL NOBODY in Shropshire yet. Be sure not.C. DARWIN. I was so tired that evening I was in Shrewsbury that I thanked none of you for your kindness half so much as I felt. Love to my father. The reason I don't want people told in Shropshire: in case I should not go, it will make it more flat.
CHARLES DARWIN TO MISS S. DARWIN. 17 Spring Gardens, Monday
[September 5, 1831].
I have so little time to spare that I have none to waste in re-writing letters, so that you must excuse my bringing up the other with me and altering it. The last letter was written in the morning. In [the] middle of [the] day, Wood received a letter from Captain FitzRoy, which I must say was MOST straightforward and GENTLEMANLIKE, but so much against my going, that I immediately gave up the scheme; and Henslow did the same, saying that he thought Peacock had acted VERY WRONG in misrepresenting things so much.
I scarcely thought of going to town, but here I am; and now for more details, and much more promising ones. Captain Fitz-Roy is [in] town, and I have seen him; it is no use attempting to praise him as much as I feel inclined to do, for you would not believe me. One thing I am certain, nothing could be more open and kind than he was to me. It seems he had promised to take a friend with him, who is in office and cannot go, and he only received the letter five minutes before I came in; and this makes things much better for me, as want of room was one of Fitz-Roy's greatest objections. He offers me to go share in everything in his cabin if I like to come, and every sort of accommodation that I can have, but they will not be numerous. He says nothing would be so miserable for him as having me with him if I was uncomfortable, as in a small vessel we must be thrown together, and thought it his duty to state everything in the worst point of view. I think I shall go on Sunday to Plymouth to see the vessel.
There is something most extremely attractive in his manners and way of coming straight to the point. If I live with him, he says I must live poorly--no wine, and the plainest dinners. The scheme is not certainly so good as Peacock describes. Captain Fitz-Roy advises me not [to] make up my mind quite yet, but that, seriously, he thinks it will have much more pleasure than pain for me. The vessel does not sail till the 10th of October. It contains sixty men, five or six officers, etc., but is a small vessel. It will probably be out nearly three years. I shall pay to the mess the same as [the] Captain does himself, 30 pounds per annum; and Fitz- Roy says if I spend, including my outfitting, 500 pounds, it will be beyond the extreme. But now for still worse news. The round the world is not CERTAIN, but the chance most excellent. Till that point is decided, I will not be so. And you may believe, after the many changes I have made, that nothing but my reason shall decide me.
Fitz-Roy says the stormy sea is exaggerated; that if I do not choose to remain with them, I can at any time get home to England, so many vessels sail that way, and that during bad weather (probably two months), if I like I shall be left in some healthy, safe and nice country; that I shall always have assistance; that he has many books, all instruments, guns, at my service; that the fewer and cheaper clothes I take the better. The manner of proceeding will just suit me. They anchor the ship, and then remain for a fortnight at a place. I have made Captain Beaufort perfectly understand me. He says if I start and do not go round the world, I shall have good reason to think myself deceived. I am to call the day after to-morrow, and, if possible, to receive more certain instructions. The want of room is decidedly the most serious objection; but Captain Fitz-Roy (probably owing to Wood's letter) seems determined to make me [as] comfortable as he possibly can. I like his manner of proceeding. He asked me at once, "Shall you bear being told that I want the cabin to myself--when I want to be alone? If we treat each other this way, I hope we shall suit; if not, probably we should wish each other at the devil."
We stop a week at [the] Madeira Islands, and shall see most of [the] big cities in South America. Captain Beaufort is drawing up the track through the South Sea. I am writing in [a] great hurry; I do not know whether you take interest enough to excuse treble postage. I hope I am judging reasonably, and not through prejudice, about Captain Fitz-Roy; if so, I am sure we shall suit. I dine with him to-day. I could write [a] great deal more if I thought you liked it, and I had at present time. There is indeed a tide in the affairs of man, and I have experienced it, and I had ENTIRELY given it up till one to-day.
Gloria in excelsis is the most moderate beginning I can think of. Things are more prosperous than I should have thought possible. Captain Fitz-Roy is everything that is delightful. If I was to praise half so much as I feel inclined, you would say it was absurd, only once seeing him. I think he really wishes to have me. He offers me to mess with him, and he will take care I have such room as is possible. But about the cases he says I must limit myself; but then he thinks like a sailor about size. Captain Beaufort says I shall be upon the Boards, and then it will only cost me like other officers. Ship sails 10th of October. Spends a week at Madeira Islands; and then Rio de Janeiro. They all think most extremely probable, home by the Indian archipelago; but till that is decided, I will not be so.What has induced Captain Fitz-Roy to take a better view of the case is, that Mr. Chester, who was going as a friend, cannot go, so that I shall have his place in every respect. Captain Fitz-Roy has [a] good stock of books, many of which were in my list, and rifles, etc., so that the outfit will be much less expensive than I supposed.
The vessel will be out three years. I do not object so that my father does not. On Wednesday I have another interview with Captain Beaufort, and on Sunday most likely go with Captain Fitz-Roy to Plymouth. So I hope you will keep on thinking on the subject, and just keep memoranda of what may strike you. I will call most probably on Mr. Burchell and introduce myself. I am in lodgings at 17 Spring Gardens. You cannot imagine anything more pleasant, kind, and open than Captain Fitz-Roy's manners were to me. I am sure it will be my fault if we do not suit.
What changes I have had. Till one to-day I was building castles in the air about hunting foxes the Shropshire, now llamas in South America.
There is indeed a tide in the affairs of men. If you see Mr. Wood, remember me very kindly to him.
My dear Henslow,
Your most sincere friend, CHAS. DARWIN.
CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX. 17 Spring Gardens, London,
September 6, 1831.
Your letter gave me great pleasure. You cannot imagine how much your former letter annoyed and hurt me. (He had misunderstood a letter of Fox's as implying a charge of falsehood.) But, thank heaven, I firmly believe that it was my OWN ENTIRE fault in so interpreting your letter. I lost a friend the other day, and I doubt whether the moral death (as I then wickedly supposed) of our friendship did not grieve me as much as the real and sudden death of poor Ramsay. We have known each other too long to need, I trust, any more explanations. But I will mention just one thing-- that on my death-bed, I think I could say I never uttered one insincere (which at the time I did not fully feel) expression about my regard for you. One thing more--the sending IMMEDIATELY the insects, on my honour, was an unfortunate coincidence. I forgot how you naturally would take them. When you look at them now, I hope no unkindly feelings will rise in your mind, and that you will believe that you have always had in me a sincere, and I will add, an obliged friend. The very many pleasant minutes that we spent together in Cambridge rose like departed spirits in judgment against me. May we have many more such, will be one of my last wishes in leaving England. God bless you, dear old Fox. May you always be happy.Yours truly, CHAS. DARWIN. I have left your letter behind, so do not know whether I direct right.
CHARLES DARWIN TO MISS SUSAN DARWIN. 17 Spring Gardens, Tuesday,
[September 6, 1831.]
Again I am going to trouble you. I suspect, if I keep on at this rate, you will sincerely wish me at Tierra del Fuego, or any other Terra, but England. First I will give my commissions. Tell Nancy to make me some twelve instead of eight 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 six inches long and three or four deep), which must have cotton stuffed inside; my geological compass; my father knows that; a little book, if I have got it in my bedroom-'Taxidermy.' 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, and I have always observed that if I once get them well, and change my manner of living about the same time, they will generally remain well. What is the dose? Tell Edward my gun is dirty. What is Erasmus's direction? Tell me if you think there is time to write and 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. Mackintosh's direction?
I write all this as if it was settled, but it is not more than it was, excepting that from Captain Fitz-Roy wishing me so much to go, and from his kindness, I feel a predestination I shall start. I spent a very pleasant evening with him yesterday. He must be more than twenty-three years old; he is of a slight figure, and a dark but handsome edition of Mr. Kynaston, and, according to my notions, pre-eminently 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 pounds!! and never to go on shore anywhere without loaded ones, and he is doubting about a rifle; he says I cannot appreciate the luxury of fresh meat here. Of course I shall buy nothing till everything is settled; but I work all day long at my lists, putting in and striking out articles. This is the first really cheerful day I have spent since I received the letter, and 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 twenty chronometers, and it will be a "sin" not to settle the longitude. He tells me to get it down in writing at the Admiralty that I have the free choice to leave as soon and whenever I like. I dare say you expect I shall turn back at the Madeira; if I have a morsel of stomach left, I won't give up. Excuse my so often troubling and writing: the one is of great utility, the other a great amusement to me. Most likely I shall write to-morrow. Answer by return of post. Love to my father, dearest Susan.C. DARWIN. As my instruments want altering, send my things by the 'Oxonian' the same night. CHARLES DARWIN TO MISS SUSAN DARWIN. London, Friday Morning, September 9, 1831. My dear Susan,
I have just received the parcel. I suppose it was not delivered yesterday owing to the Coronation. I am very much obliged to my father, and everybody else. Everything is done quite right. I suppose by this time you have received my letter written next day, and I hope will send off the things. My affairs remain in statu quo. Captain Beaufort says I am on the books for victuals, and he thinks I shall have no difficulty about my collections when I come home. But he is too deep a fish for me to make him out. The only thing that now prevents me finally making up my mind, is the want of certainty about the South Sea Islands; although morally I have no doubt we should go there whether or no it is put in the instructions. Captain Fitz-Roy says I do good by plaguing Captain Beaufort, it stirs him up with a long pole. Captain Fitz-Roy says he is sure he has interest enough (particularly if this Administration is not everlasting--I shall soon turn Tory!), anyhow, even when out, to get the ship ordered home by whatever track he likes. From what Wood says, I presume the Dukes of Grafton and Richmond interest themselves about him. By the way, Wood has been of the greatest use to me; and I am sure his personal introduction of me inclined Captain Fitz-Roy to have me.
To explain things from the very beginning: Captain Fitz-Roy first wished to have a Naturalist, and then he seems to have taken a sudden horror of the chances of having somebody he should not like on board the vessel. He confesses his letter to Cambridge was to throw cold water on the scheme. I don't think we shall quarrel about politics, although Wood (as might be expected from a Londonderry) solemnly warned Fitz-Roy that I was a Whig. Captain Fitz-Roy was before Uncle Jos., he said, "now your friends will tell you a sea-captain is the greatest brute on the face of the creation. I do not know how to help you in this case, except by hoping you will give me a trial." How one does change! I actually now wish the voyage was longer before we touch land. I feel my blood run cold at the quantity I have to do. Everybody seems ready to assist me. The Zoological want to make me a corresponding member. All this I can construct without crossing the Equator. But one friend is quite invaluable, viz., a Mr. Yarrell, a stationer, and excellent naturalist. (William Yarrell, well-known for his 'History of British Birds' and 'History of British Fishes,' was born in 1784. He inherited from his father a newsagent's business, to which he steadily adhered up to his death, "in his 73rd year." He was a man of a thoroughly amiable and honourable character, and was a valued office-bearer of several of the learned Societies.) He goes to the shops with me and bullies about prices (not that I yet buy): hang me if I give 60 pounds for pistols.
Yesterday all the shops were shut, so that I could do nothing; and I was child enough to give 1 pound 1 shilling for an excellent seat to see the Procession. (The Coronation of William IV.) And it certainly was very well worth seeing. I was surprised that any quantity of gold could make a long row of people quite glitter. It was like only what one sees in picture-books of Eastern processions. The King looked very well, and seemed popular, but there was very little enthusiasm; so little that I can hardly think there will be a coronation this time fifty years.
The Life Guards pleased me as much as anything--they are quite magnificent; and it is beautiful to see them clear a crowd. You think that they must kill a score at least, and apparently they really hurt nobody, but most deucedly frighten them. Whenever a crowd was so dense that the people were forced off the causeway, one of these six-feet gentlemen, on a black horse, rode straight at the place, making his horse rear very high, and fall on the thickest spot. You would suppose men were made of sponge to see them shrink away.
In the evening there was an illumination, and much grander than the one on the Reform Bill. All the principal streets were crowded just like a race- ground. Carriages generally being six abreast, and I will venture to say not going one mile an hour. The Duke of Northumberland learnt a lesson last time, for his house was very grand; much more so than the other great nobility, and in much better taste; every window in his house was full of straight lines of brilliant lights, and from their extreme regularity and number had a beautiful effect. The paucity of invention was very striking, crowns, anchors, and "W.R.'s" were repeated in endless succession. The prettiest were gas-pipes with small holes; they were almost painfully brilliant. I have written so much about the Coronation, that I think you will have no occasion to read the "Morning Herald".
For about the first time in my life I find London very pleasant; hurry, bustle, and noise are all in unison with my feelings. And I have plenty to do in spare moments. I work at Astronomy, as I suppose it would astound a sailor if one did not know how to find Latitude and Longitude. I am now going to Captain Fitz-Roy, and will keep [this] letter open till evening for anything that may occur. I will give you one proof of Fitz-Roy being a good officer--all the officers are the same as before; two-thirds of his crew and [the] eight marines who went before all offered to come again, so the service cannot be so very bad. The Admiralty have just issued orders for a large stock of canister-meat and lemonjuice, etc. etc. I have just returned from spending a long day with Captain Fitz-Roy, driving about in his gig, and shopping. This letter is too late for to-day's post. You may consider it settled that I go. Yet there is room for change if any untoward accident should happen; this I can see no reason to expect. I feel convinced nothing else will alter my wish of going. I have begun to order things. I have procured a case of good strong pistols and an excellent rifle for 50 pounds, there is a saving; a good telescope, with compass, 5 pounds, and these are nearly the only expensive instruments I shall want. Captain FitzRoy has everything. I never saw so (what I should call, he says not) extravagant a man, as regards himself, but as economical towards me. How he did order things! His fire-arms will cost 400 pounds at least. I found the carpet bag when I arrived all right, and much obliged. I do not think I shall take any arsenic; shall send partridges to Mr. Yarrell; much obliged. Ask Edward to BARGAIN WITH Clemson to make for my gun--TWO SPARE hammers or cocks, two main-springs, two sere-springs, four nipples or plugs--I mean one for each barrel, except nipples, of which there must be two for each, all of excellent quality, and set about them immediately; tell Edward to make inquiries about prices. I go on Sunday per packet to Plymouth, shall stay one or two days, then return, and hope to find a letter from you; a few days in London; then Cambridge, Shrewsbury, London, Plymouth, Madeira, is my route. It is a great bore my writing so much about the Coronation; I could fill another sheet. I have just been with Captain King, Fitz-Roy's senior officer last expedition; he thinks that the expedition will suit me. Unasked, he said Fitz-Roy's temper was perfect. He sends his own son with him as midshipman. The key of my microscope was forgotten; it is of no consequence. Love to all.
CHAS. DARWIN. CHARLES DARWIN TO W.D. FOX.
17 Spring Gardens (and here I shall remain till I start) [September 19, 1831].
I returned from my expedition to see the "Beagle" at Plymouth on Saturday, and found your most welcome letter on my table. It is quite ridiculous what a very long period these last twenty days have appeared to me, certainly much more than as many weeks on ordinary occasions; this will account for my not recollecting how much I told you of my plans....
But on the whole it is a grand and fortunate opportunity; there will be so many things to interest me--fine scenery and an endless occupation and amusement in the different branches of Natural History; then again navigation and meteorology will amuse me on the voyage, joined to the grand requisite of there being a pleasant set of officers, and, as far as I can judge, this is certain. On the other hand there is very considerable risk to one's life and health, and the leaving for so very long a time so many people whom I dearly love, is oftentimes a feeling so painful that it requires all my resolution to overcome it. But everything is now settled, and before the 20th of October I trust to be on the broad sea. My objection to the vessel is its smallness, which cramps one so for room for packing my own body and all my cases, etc., etc. As to its safety, I hope the Admiralty are the best judges; to a landsman's eye she looks very small. She is a ten-gun threemasted brig, but, I believe, an excellent vessel. So much for my future plans, and now for my present. I go to- night by the mail to Cambridge, and from thence, after settling my affairs, proceed to Shrewsbury (most likely on Friday 23rd, or perhaps before); there I shall stay a few days, and be in London by the 1st of October, and start for Plymouth on the 9th.
And now for the principal part of my letter. I do not know how to tell you how very kind I feel your offer of coming to see me before I leave England. Indeed I should like it very much; but I must tell you decidedly that I shall have very little time to spare, and that little time will be almost spoilt by my having so much to think about; and secondly, I can hardly think it worth your while to leave your parish for such a cause. But I shall never forget such generous kindness. Now I know you will act just as you think right; but do not come up for my sake. Any time is the same for me. I think from this letter you will know as much of my plans as I do myself, and will judge accordingly the where and when to write to me. Every now and then I have moments of glorious enthusiasm, when I think of the date and cocoa-trees, the palms and ferns so lofty and beautiful, everything new, everything sublime. And if I live to see years in after life, how grand must such recollections be! Do you know Humboldt? (If you don't, do so directly.) With what intense pleasure he appears always to look back on the days spent in the tropical countries. I hope when you next write to Osmaston, [you will] tell them my scheme, and give them my kindest regards and farewells.
Good-bye, my dear Fox, Yours ever sincerely, CHAS. DARWIN.
Very many thanks for your letter; it has made me most comfortable, for it would have been heart-breaking to have left anything quite behind, and I never should have thought of sending things by some other vessel. This letter will, I trust, accompany some talc. I read your letter without attending to the name. But I have now procured some from Jones, which appears very good, and I will send it this evening by the mail. You will be surprised at not seeing me propria persona instead of my handwriting. But I had just found out that the large steam-packet did not intend to sail on Sunday, and I was picturing to myself a small, dirty cabin, with the proportion of 39-40ths of the passengers very sick, when Mr. Earl came in and told me the "Beagle" would not sail till the beginning of November. This, of course, settled the point; so that I remain in London one week more. I shall then send heavy goods by steamer and start myself by the coach on Sunday evening.
Have you a good set of mountain barometers? Several great guns in the scientific world have told me some points in geology to ascertain which entirely depend on their relative height. If you have not a good stock, I will add one more to the list. I ought to be ashamed to trouble you so much, but will you SEND ONE LINE to inform me? I am daily becoming more anxious to be off, and, if I am so, you must be in a perfect fever. What a glorious day the 4th of November will be to me! My second life will then commence, and it shall be as a birthday for the rest of my life.
Believe me, dear Fitz-Roy, Yours most sincerely, CHAS. DARWIN.MONDAY.--I hope I have not put you to much inconvenience by ordering the room in readiness. CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. Devonport, November 15, 1831. My dear Henslow,
The orders are come down from the Admiralty, and everything is finally settled. We positively sail the last day of this month, and I think before that time the vessel will be ready. She looks most beautiful, even a landsman must admire her. WE all think her the most perfect vessel ever turned out of the Dockyard. One thing is certain, no vessel has been fitted out so expensively, and with so much care. Everything that can be made so is of mahogany, and nothing can exceed the neatness and beauty of all the accommodations. The instructions are very general, and leave a great deal to the Captain's discretion and judgment, paying a substantial as well as a verbal compliment to him....
No vessel ever left England with such a set of Chronometers, viz., twenty- four, all very good ones. In short, everything is well, and I have only now to pray for the sickness to moderate its fierceness, and I shall do very well. Yet I should not call it one of the very best opportunities for natural history that has ever occurred. The absolute want of room is an evil that nothing can surmount. I think L. Jenyns did very wisely in not coming, that is judging from my own feelings, for I am sure if I had left college some few years, or been those years older, I NEVER could have endured it. The officers (excepting the Captain) are like the freshest freshmen, that is in their manners, in everything else widely different. Remember me most kindly to him, and tell him if ever he dreams in the night of palmtrees, he may in the morning comfort himself with the assurance that the voyage would not have suited him.
I am much obliged for your advice, de Mathematicis. I suspect when I am struggling with a triangle, I shall often wish myself in your room, and as for those wicked sulky surds, I do not know what I shall do without you to conjure them. My time passes away very pleasantly. I know one or two pleasant people, foremost of whom is Mr. Thunder-andlightning Harris (William Snow Harris, the Electrician.), whom I dare say you have heard of. My chief employment is to go on board the "Beagle", and try to look as much like a sailor as I can. I have no evidence of having taken in man, woman or child.
I am going to ask you to do one more commission, and I trust it will be the last. When I was in Cambridge, I wrote to Mr. Ash, asking him to send my College account to my father, after having subtracted about 30 pounds for my furniture. This he has forgotten to do, and my father has paid the bill, and I want to have the furniture-money transmitted to my father. Perhaps you would be kind enough to speak to Mr. Ash. I have cost my father so much money, I am quite ashamed of myself.I will write once again before sailing, and perhaps you will write to me before then. Remember me to Professor Sedgwick and Mr. Peacock. Believe me, yours affectionately, CHAS. DARWIN. CHARLES DARWIN TO J.S. HENSLOW. Devonport, December 3, 1831.
My dear Henslow, It is now late in the evening, and to-night I am going to sleep on board. On Monday we most certainly sail, so you may guess what a desperate state of confusion we are all in. If you were to hear the various exclamations of the officers, you would suppose we had scarcely had a week's notice. I am just in the same way taken all ABACK, and in such a bustle I hardly know what to do. The number of things to be done is infinite. I look forward even to sea-sickness with something like satisfaction, anything must be better than this state of anxiety. I am very much obliged for your last kind and affectionate letter. I always like advice from you, and no one whom I have the luck to know is more capable of giving it than yourself. Recollect, when you write, that I am a sort of protege of yours, and that it is your bounden duty to lecture me.
I will now give you my direction; it is at first, Rio; but if you will send me a letter on the first Tuesday (when the packet sails) in February, directed to Monte Video, it will give me very great pleasure; I shall so much enjoy hearing a little Cambridge news. Poor dear old Alma Mater! I am a very worthy son in as far as affection goes. I have little more to write about...I cannot end this without telling you how cordially I feel grateful for the kindness you have shown me during my Cambridge life. Much of the pleasure and utility which I may have derived from it is owing to you. I long for the time when we shall again meet, and till then believe me, my dear Henslow,Your affectionate and obliged friend, CH. DARWIN. Remember me most kindly to those who take any interest in me.