Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Darwin Letter Friday

177 years ago this weekend, Darwin received a bundle of letters from a ship in the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. Correspondence such as these sustained his spirit during his long Beagle voyage. By this point, his former girlfriend Fanny seems to have gone and married already; poor Charles.

To Caroline Darwin, 5 April 1832

My dear Caroline.—

Rio de Janeiro. April 5th.— I this morning received your letter of Decr 31 & Catherines of Feb 4th.— We lay to during last night, as the Captain was determined we should see the harbor of Rio & be ourselves seen in broard daylight.— The view is magnificent & will improve on acquaintance; it is at present rather too novel to behold Mountains as rugged as those of Wales, clothed in an evergreen vegetation, & the tops ornamented by the light form of the Palm.— The city, gaudy with its towers & Cathedrals is situated at the base of these hills, & command a vast bay, studded with men of war the flags of which bespeak every nation.— We came, in first rate style, alongside the Admirals ship, & we, to their astonishment, took in every inch of canvass & then immediately set it again: A sounding ship doing such a perfect mæneuovre with such certainty & rapidity, is an event hitherto unknown in that class.— It is a great satisfaction to know that we are in such beautiful order & discipline.—2 In the midst of our Tactics the bundle of letters arrived.— “Send them below,” thundered Wickham “every fool is looking at them & neglecting his duty” In about an hour I succeded in getting mine, the sun was bright & the view resplendent; our little ship was working like a fish; so I said to myself, I will only just look at the signatures:, it would not do; I sent wood & water, Palms & Cathedrals to old Nick & away I rushed below; there to feast over the thrilling enjoyment of reading about you all: at first the contrast of home, vividly brought before ones eyes, makes the present more exciting; but the feeling is soon divided & then absorbed by the wish of seeing those who make all associations dear.—

It is seldom that one individual has the power giving to another such a sum of pleasure, as you this day have granted me.— I know not whether the conviction of being loved, be more delightful or the corresponding one of loving in return.— I ought for I have experienced them both in excess.— With yours I received a letter from Charlotte, talking of parsonages in pretty countries & other celestial views.—I cannot fail to admire such a short sailor-like “splicing” match.—The style seems prevalent, Fanny seems to have done the business in a ride.—Well it may be all very delightful to those concerned, but as I like unmarried woman better than those in the blessed state, I vote it a bore: by the fates, at this pace I have no chance for the parsonage: I direct of course to you as Miss Darwin.— I own I am curious to know to whom I am writing.— Susan I suppose bears the honors of being Mrs J Price.— I want to write to Charlotte—& how & where to direct; I dont know: it positively is an inconvenient fashion this marrying: Maer wont be half the place it was, & as forWoodhouse, if Fanny was not perhaps at this time Mrs Biddulp, I would say poor dear Fanny till I fell to sleep.— I feel much inclined to philosophize but I am at a loss what to think or say; whilst really melting with tenderness I cry my dearest Fanny why I demand, should I distinctly see the sunny flower garden at Maer; on the other hand, but I find that my thought & feelings & sentences are in such a maze, that between crying & laughing I wish you all good night.—


This letter comes to us from The Beagle Letters

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