The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 68 of 188

Charles Darwin to W.D. Fox.

17 Spring Gardens (and here I shall remain till I start)
[September 19, 1831].

My dear Fox,

I returned from my expedition to see the Beagle at Plymouth on Saturday, and found your most welcome letter on my table. It is quite ridiculous what a very long period these last twenty days have appeared to me, certainly much more than as many weeks on ordinary occasions; this will account for my not recollecting how much I told you of my plans.

But on the whole it is a grand and fortunate opportunity; there will be so many things to interest me–fine scenery and an endless occupation and amusement in the different branches of Natural History; then again navigation and meteorology will amuse me on the voyage, joined to the grand requisite of there being a pleasant set of officers, and, as far as I can judge, this is certain. On the other hand there is very considerable risk to one’s life and health, and the leaving for so very long a time so many people whom I dearly love, is oftentimes a feeling so painful that it requires all my resolution to overcome it. But everything is now settled, and before the 20th of October I trust to be on the broad sea. My objection to the vessel is its smallness, which cramps one so for room for packing my own body and all my cases, etc., etc. As to its safety, I hope the Admiralty are the best judges; to a landsman’s eye she looks very small. She is a ten-gun three-masted brig, but, I believe, an excellent vessel. So much for my future plans, and now for my present. I go tonight by the mail to Cambridge, and from thence, after settling my affairs, proceed to Shrewsbury (most likely on Friday 23rd, or perhaps before); there I shall stay a few days, and be in London by the 1st of October, and start for Plymouth on the 9th.

And now for the principal part of my letter. I do not know how to tell you how very kind I feel your offer of coming to see me before I leave England. Indeed I should like it very much; but I must tell you decidedly that I shall have very little time to spare, and that little time will be almost spoilt by my having so much to think about; and secondly, I can hardly think it worth your while to leave your parish for such a cause. But I shall never forget such generous kindness. Now I know you will act just as you think right; but do not come up for my sake. Any time is the same for me. I think from this letter you will know as much of my plans as I do myself, and will judge accordingly the where and when to write to me. Every now and then I have moments of glorious enthusiasm, when I think of the date and cocoa-trees, the palms and ferns so lofty and beautiful, everything new, everything sublime. And if I live to see years in after life, how grand must such recollections be! Do you know Humboldt? (If you don’t, do so directly.) With what intense pleasure he appears always to look back on the days spent in the tropical countries. I hope when you next write to Osmaston, [you will] tell them my scheme, and give them my kindest regards and farewells.

Good-bye, my dear Fox,
Yours ever sincerely,
Chas. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to R. Fitz-Roy.

17 Spring Gardens [October 17? 1831].

Dear Fitz-Roy,

Very many thanks for your letter; it has made me most comfortable, for it would have been heart-breaking to have left anything quite behind, and I never should have thought of sending things by some other vessel. This letter will, I trust, accompany some talc. I read your letter without attending to the name. But I have now procured some from Jones, which appears very good, and I will send it this evening by the mail. You will be surprised at not seeing me propria persona instead of my handwriting. But I had just found out that the large steam-packet did not intend to sail on Sunday, and I was picturing to myself a small, dirty cabin, with the proportion of 39-40ths of the passengers very sick, when Mr. Earl came in and told me the Beagle would not sail till the beginning of November. This, of course, settled the point; so that I remain in London one week more. I shall then send heavy goods by steamer and start myself by the coach on Sunday evening.

Have you a good set of mountain barometers? Several great guns in the scientific world have told me some points in geology to ascertain which entirely depend on their relative height. If you have not a good stock, I will add one more to the list. I ought to be ashamed to trouble you so much, but will you send one line to inform me? I am daily becoming more anxious to be off, and, if I am so, you must be in a perfect fever. What a glorious day the 4th of November will be to me! My second life will then commence, and it shall be as a birthday for the rest of my life.

Believe me, dear Fitz-Roy,
Yours most sincerely,
Chas. Darwin.

Monday.–I hope I have not put you to much inconvenience by ordering the room in readiness.

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