Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Darwin Letter Friday

From Lima, Darwin yearns for a roaring fire in merry old England, while looking forward to visiting the Galapagos Islands; chiefly for geological reasons.

To William Darwin Fox [9–12 August] 1835

July,1 1835

My dear Fox,

I have lately received two of your letters, one dated June2 & the other November 1834. (—They reached me however in an inverted order;—) I was very glad to receive a history of this the most important year in your life. Previously I had only heard the plain fact, that you were married.— You are a true Christian & return good for evil.—to send two such letters to so bad a Correspondent, as I have been. God bless you for writing so kindly & affectionately; if it is a pleasure to have friends in England, it is doubly so, to think & know that one is not forgotten, because absent.—

This voyage is terribly long.— I do so earnestly desire to return, yet I dare hardly look forward to the future, for I do not know what will become of me.— Your situation is above envy; I do not venture even to frame such happy visions.— To a person fit to take the office, the life of a Clergyman is a type of all that is respectable & happy: & if he is a Naturalist & has the “Diamond Beetle”, ave Maria; I do not know what to say.— You tempt me by talking of your fireside, whereas it is a sort of scene I never ought to think about—I saw the other day a vessel sail for England, it was quite dangerous to know, how easily I might turn deserter. As for an English lady, I have almost forgotten what she is.—something very angelic & good. As for the women in these countries they wear Caps & petticoats & a very few have pretty faces & then all is said.—

But if we are not wrecked on some unlucky reef, I will sit by that same fireside in Vale Cottage & tell some of the wonderful stories, which you seem to anticipate & I presume are not very ready to believe. Gracias a dios, the prospect of such times is rather shorter than formerly.—

From this most wretched “city of the Kings” we sail in a fortnight, from thence to Guyaquil — Galapagos — Marquesas — Society Isd., &c &c.—4 I look forward to the Galapagos, with more interest than any other part of the voyage.— They abound with active Volcanoes & I should hope contain Tertiary strata.— I am glad to hear you have some thoughts of beginning geology.— I hope you will, there is so much larger a field for thought, than in the other branches of Nat: History.— I am become a zealous disciple of Mr Lyells views, as known in his admirable book.— Geologizing in S. America, I am tempted to carry parts to a greater extent, even than he does. Geology is a capital science to begin, as it requires nothing but a little reading, thinking & hammering.— I have a considerable body of notes together; but it is a constant subject of perplexity to me, whether they are of sufficient value, for all the time I have spent about them, or whether animals would not have been of more certain value.—

I have lately had a long ride from Valparaiso to Copiapò; in the Northern half the country is frightfully desert, & the sole source of interest was in the Geology. The scarcity of fossil shells is very inconvenient, as it will render any comparison of the formations with those of Europe nearly impossible. The Andes, at the period when Ammonites lived, (which corresponds to the secondary rocks) must have been chain of Volcanic Islands, from which copious streams of lava were poured forth & subsequently covered with Conglomerates. Such beds form the Cordilleras of Chili.—

For the last months I have been shamefully negligent of all branches of Zoology; I hope to make up a little in the Pacifick; but all our future visits will indeed be flying ones.— The Captain talks about arriving in England September year. I doubt the possibility; but Heaven grant it may not be much after.— Will you write to me once again, soon after receiving this & direct to the C. of Good Hope, & in answer to it you will see me in Person; Till that joyful day arrives, I must wish you a long Farewell. I shall indeed be glad once again to see you & tell you how grateful I feel for your steady friendship.—God bless you. My very dear Fox.

Believe me, | Yours affectionately | Chas. Darwin—

Latest Comments

Have your say!