Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Darwin Letter Friday

Man oh man, Charles had a passive-aggressive girlfriend!

This letter comes from "The Beagle Letters"

Charles had taken a liking to Fanny Owen through his Cambridge years, but as he departed on the Beagle voyage, well…

She dumped him.

Apparently he cared more about his beetle collection than about her. She wished she had given him a pin cushion for his instruments of death. She also refers to his collection as his beetle army. I know this is a long one, but it gets better and better (or bitter?) with the kicker being the last half and final salutation.

Try as I might, I can only read the italicized text as sarcasm. They’re hers, not mine.

From Fanny Owen to Charles Darwin:

2. Northernhay Place, Exeter


My dear Charles,

I have this evening heard from Caroline that you leave home the end of this week-and that you wish to have a good bye from me before you go. I had not the least idea you were to go so soon, for they told me it was the end of October you sailed, so I hoped and fully expected I should have been at home in time to see you- I cannot tell you how disappointed & vexed I am that that cannot be. Little did I think the last time I saw you at the poor old Forest, that it would be so long before we should meet again!! This horrid Devonshire-fool that I was to come here- I shall just get home when you are gone I dare say- My dear Charles I do hope you will enjoy yourself & be the happiest of the happy, I would give any thing to see you once more before you go, for it does make me melancholy to think the time you are to be away-& Heaven knows what may have become of all of us by this time two years. at all events we must be grown old & steady- the pleasant days, and fun we have had at the Forest can never come over again- how I wish I was there this week to have one last chat with you I cannot bear to think you are really going clear away, without my saying one good bye!!

But I must drop this subject for I find I am getting prosy & melancholy & that wont do- They tell me you were at Plymouth about 10 days ago & so was I, how very very unlucky we never met, do you go there again? if you should perhaps you may pass through Exeter- I shall leave it on the 6th with the Hunts- I believe not come home direct but go with them to pay some visits- if possible I shall shirk and get the Gov- to meet me at Leamington or Birmingham for I think it will be awful flat work, dowagering about with the Hunts to unknown parts- I am sure I have been dull enough all this summer- hope I have expiated allmy sins for a severe Penance I have had of it-I wont be taken alive again in that way when once I get home- Home sweet home you should hear me sing now-I assure you I do it feelingly -it would melt a heart of stone-or rather crack an ear drum of Iron to hear me-but here my powers have no scope I can never give vent to my feelings as I feel inclined-So poor old Williams is gone at last, a happy release for himself I should think-& certainly for every body related to him- a proper time being given up to becoming grief the awful ceremony will of course take place as soon as possible- how very provoking you should not be present-not even taste the long expected Plum Cake how vexed I am you are going it is too selvish of me to say so, for I am sure it will be the very thing to suit you- did you throw yourself on the Governor’s mercy, & confess your creditors, or what have you done? What a capital way of escaping ungentlemanlike Tailors &c- When you are far from the Land they may whistle for their cash for what you care! Well, dont be surprised if you hear I have taken Ship too and fled my duns- that joyful season Xmas is fast approaching- my heart sinks when I think of it-but there’s nothing like putting a good face on it- I shall do so as long as I can- Pray write to me one last Farewell my dear Charles & tell me all your plans & prospects-where you are to go to- & all about it? And tell me too if I shall look out for a nice little Wife for the Parsonage by the time you return.

tell me what you require and I will look about and get one in my eye by the time you want her-a proper knowledge of the Beetle tribe of course you require-bye the bye has your faithless Charlotte Salway bee_n_ twined off yet-I have heard nothing of her As for all your Sisters I think they are gone crazy or sulky or sleepy or something for not one line have I had from any of them these two months-they treat me with the most marked contempt.- I was much amused at Plymouth there is so much worth seeing- Mount Edgecombe I dare say you saw-it is a beautiful Place.- I went on board the Adelaide and all over it-so can fancy you in your little Cabin-and I assure you you will not be forgotten, I shall often long to have you to laugh with and scold out of the Painting room- I wish I had made your Pincushions they might have been useful-and occasionally in taking out an instrument of death for a Beetle you would have called to mind the Manufacturer of the useful article -but it cant be helped now- this letter is most prosy, & duller than letter ever was before-but I cant help it you must take the will for the deed – write to me 2 Northernhay Place= I must now conclude-can only add-I most sincerely wish you every amusement & happiness possible- but only wish most heartily you were not going quite so soon that we might have one more talk & laugh first- but it is not to be- so good bye my dear Charles

Believe me always yours most sincerely and affecty | F O-

Burn this before you sail for pitys sake

Wait a second, he didn’t even say goodbye to her? Is she accusing him of skipping out on creditors?

Dang. Maybe all that seasickness that followed was some sort of cosmic reckoning.

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