The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 60 of 188

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.

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.

Believe me,
My dear Henslow,
Most truly yours,
George Peacock.

J.S. Henslow to C. Darwin.

Cambridge, August 24, 1831.

My dear Darwin,

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 Fitz-Roy 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.


  1. ScottS-M Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    ScottS-M wrote:

    Now this is the stuff I was waiting for. Before now was ok but a bit dry. Hopefully it starts picking up from here.

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