The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 64 of 188

Charles Darwin to Miss S. Darwin.

17 Spring Gardens, Monday
[September 5, 1831].

I have so little time to spare that I have none to waste in re-writing letters, so that you must excuse my bringing up the other with me and altering it. The last letter was written in the morning. In [the] middle of [the] day, Wood received a letter from Captain Fitz-Roy, which I must say was most straightforward and gentlemanlike, but so much against my going, that I immediately gave up the scheme; and Henslow did the same, saying that he thought Peacock had acted very wrong in misrepresenting things so much.

I scarcely thought of going to town, but here I am; and now for more details, and much more promising ones. Captain Fitz-Roy is [in] town, and I have seen him; it is no use attempting to praise him as much as I feel inclined to do, for you would not believe me. One thing I am certain, nothing could be more open and kind than he was to me. It seems he had promised to take a friend with him, who is in office and cannot go, and he only received the letter five minutes before I came in; and this makes things much better for me, as want of room was one of Fitz-Roy’s greatest objections. He offers me to go share in everything in his cabin if I like to come, and every sort of accommodation that I can have, but they will not be numerous. He says nothing would be so miserable for him as having me with him if I was uncomfortable, as in a small vessel we must be thrown together, and thought it his duty to state everything in the worst point of view. I think I shall go on Sunday to Plymouth to see the vessel.

There is something most extremely attractive in his manners and way of coming straight to the point. If I live with him, he says I must live poorly–no wine, and the plainest dinners. The scheme is not certainly so good as Peacock describes. Captain Fitz-Roy advises me not [to] make up my mind quite yet, but that, seriously, he thinks it will have much more pleasure than pain for me. The vessel does not sail till the 10th of October. It contains sixty men, five or six officers, etc., but is a small vessel. It will probably be out nearly three years. I shall pay to the mess the same as [the] Captain does himself, 30 pounds per annum; and Fitz-Roy says if I spend, including my outfitting, 500 pounds, it will be beyond the extreme. But now for still worse news. The round the world is not certain, but the chance most excellent. Till that point is decided, I will not be so. And you may believe, after the many changes I have made, that nothing but my reason shall decide me.

Fitz-Roy says the stormy sea is exaggerated; that if I do not choose to remain with them, I can at any time get home to England, so many vessels sail that way, and that during bad weather (probably two months), if I like I shall be left in some healthy, safe and nice country; that I shall always have assistance; that he has many books, all instruments, guns, at my service; that the fewer and cheaper clothes I take the better. The manner of proceeding will just suit me. They anchor the ship, and then remain for a fortnight at a place. I have made Captain Beaufort perfectly understand me. He says if I start and do not go round the world, I shall have good reason to think myself deceived. I am to call the day after to-morrow, and, if possible, to receive more certain instructions. The want of room is decidedly the most serious objection; but Captain Fitz-Roy (probably owing to Wood’s letter) seems determined to make me [as] comfortable as he possibly can. I like his manner of proceeding. He asked me at once, “Shall you bear being told that I want the cabin to myself–when I want to be alone? If we treat each other this way, I hope we shall suit; if not, probably we should wish each other at the devil.”

We stop a week at [the] Madeira Islands, and shall see most of [the] big cities in South America. Captain Beaufort is drawing up the track through the South Sea. I am writing in [a] great hurry; I do not know whether you take interest enough to excuse treble postage. I hope I am judging reasonably, and not through prejudice, about Captain Fitz-Roy; if so, I am sure we shall suit. I dine with him to-day. I could write [a] great deal more if I thought you liked it, and I had at present time. There is indeed a tide in the affairs of man, and I have experienced it, and I had entirely given it up till one to-day.

Love to my father. Dearest Susan, good-bye.

Ch. Darwin.

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