The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 62 of 188

Charles Darwin to R.W. Darwin.

[Maer] August 31, [1831].

My dear Father,

I am afraid I am going to make you again very uncomfortable. But, upon consideration, I think you will excuse me once again, stating my opinions on the offer of the voyage. My excuse and reason is the different way all the Wedgwoods view the subject from what you and my sisters do.

I have given Uncle Jos (Josiah Wedgwood.) what I fervently trust is an accurate and full list of your objections, and he is kind enough to give his opinions on all. The list and his answers will be enclosed. But may I beg of you one favour, it will be doing me the greatest kindness, if you will send me a decided answer, yes or no? If the latter, I should be most ungrateful if I did not implicitly yield to your better judgment, and to the kindest indulgence you have shown me all through my life; and you may rely upon it I will never mention the subject again. If your answer should be yes; I will go directly to Henslow and consult deliberately with him, and then come to Shrewsbury.

The danger appears to me and all the Wedgwoods not great. The expense cannot be serious, and the time I do not think, anyhow, would be more thrown away then if I stayed at home. But pray do not consider that I am so bent on going that I would for one single moment hesitate, if you thought that after a short period you should continue uncomfortable.

I must again state I cannot think it would unfit me hereafter for a steady life. I do hope this letter will not give you much uneasiness. I send it by the car to-morrow morning; if you make up your mind directly will you send me an answer on the following day by the same means? If this letter should not find you at home, I hope you will answer as soon as you conveniently can.

I do not know what to say about Uncle Jos’ kindness; I never can forget how he interests himself about me.

Believe me, my dear father,
Your affectionate son,
Charles Darwin.

[Here follows the list of objections which are referred to in the following letter:–

  1. Disreputable to my character as a Clergyman hereafter.
  2. A wild scheme.
  3. That they must have offered to many others before me the place of Naturalist.
  4. And from its not being accepted there must be some serious objection to the vessel or expedition.
  5. That I should never settle down to a steady life hereafter.
  6. That my accommodations would be most uncomfortable.
  7. That you [i.e. Dr. Darwin] should consider it as again changing my profession.
  8. That it would be a useless undertaking.


Josiah Wedgwood to R.W. Darwin.

Maer, August 31, 1831.
[Read this last.] (In C. Darwin’s writing.)

My dear Doctor,

I feel the responsibility of your application to me on the offer that has been made to Charles as being weighty, but as you have desired Charles to consult me, I cannot refuse to give the result of such consideration as I have been able to [give?] it.

Charles has put down what he conceives to be your principal objections, and I think the best course I can take will be to state what occurs to me upon each of them.

  1. I should not think that it would be in any degree disreputable to his character as a Clergyman. I should on the contrary think the offer honourable to him; and the pursuit of Natural History, though certainly not professional, is very suitable to a clergyman.
  2. I hardly know how to meet this objection, but he would have definite objects upon which to employ himself, and might acquire and strengthen habits of application, and I should think would be as likely to do so as in any way in which he is likely to pass the next two years at home.
  3. The notion did not occur to me in reading the letters; and on reading them again with that object in my mind I see no ground for it.
  4. I cannot conceive that the Admiralty would send out a bad vessel on such a service. As to objections to the expedition, they will differ in each man’s case, and nothing would, I think, be inferred in Charles’s case, if it were known that others had objected.
  5. You are a much better judge of Charles’s character than I can be. If on comparing this mode of spending the next two years with the way in which he will probably spend them, if he does not accept this offer, you think him more likely to be rendered unsteady and unable to settle, it is undoubtedly a weighty objection. Is it not the case that sailors are prone to settle in domestic and quiet habits?
  6. I can form no opinion on this further than that if appointed by the Admiralty he will have a claim to be as well accommodated as the vessel will allow.
  7. If I saw Charles now absorbed in professional studies I should probably think it would not be advisable to interrupt them; but this is not, and, I think, will not be the case with him. His present pursuit of knowledge is in the same track as he would have to follow in the expedition.
  8. The undertaking would be useless as regards his profession, but looking upon him as a man of enlarged curiosity, it affords him such an opportunity of seeing men and things as happens to few.

You will bear in mind that I have had very little time for consideration, and that you and Charles are the persons who must decide.

I am,
My dear Doctor,
Affectionately yours,
Josiah Wedgwood.


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

    ScottS-M wrote:

    Pretty funny to think how close Darwin was to not going.

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