The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 61 of 188

G. Peacock to C. Darwin.


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,
George Peacock.

Charles Darwin to J.S. Henslow.

Shrewsbury, Tuesday [August 30?, 1831].

My dear Sir,

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,
Ch. Darwin.

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.

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