The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 69 of 188

Charles Darwin to J.S. Henslow.

Devonport, November 15, 1831.

My dear Henslow,

The orders are come down from the Admiralty, and everything is finally settled. We positively sail the last day of this month, and I think before that time the vessel will be ready. She looks most beautiful, even a landsman must admire her. We all think her the most perfect vessel ever turned out of the Dockyard. One thing is certain, no vessel has been fitted out so expensively, and with so much care. Everything that can be made so is of mahogany, and nothing can exceed the neatness and beauty of all the accommodations. The instructions are very general, and leave a great deal to the Captain’s discretion and judgment, paying a substantial as well as a verbal compliment to him.

No vessel ever left England with such a set of Chronometers, viz., twenty-four, all very good ones. In short, everything is well, and I have only now to pray for the sickness to moderate its fierceness, and I shall do very well. Yet I should not call it one of the very best opportunities for natural history that has ever occurred. The absolute want of room is an evil that nothing can surmount. I think L. Jenyns did very wisely in not coming, that is judging from my own feelings, for I am sure if I had left college some few years, or been those years older, I never could have endured it. The officers (excepting the Captain) are like the freshest freshmen, that is in their manners, in everything else widely different. Remember me most kindly to him, and tell him if ever he dreams in the night of palm-trees, he may in the morning comfort himself with the assurance that the voyage would not have suited him.

I am much obliged for your advice, de Mathematicis. I suspect when I am struggling with a triangle, I shall often wish myself in your room, and as for those wicked sulky surds, I do not know what I shall do without you to conjure them. My time passes away very pleasantly. I know one or two pleasant people, foremost of whom is Mr. Thunder-and-lightning Harris (William Snow Harris, the Electrician.), whom I dare say you have heard of. My chief employment is to go on board the Beagle, and try to look as much like a sailor as I can. I have no evidence of having taken in man, woman or child.

I am going to ask you to do one more commission, and I trust it will be the last. When I was in Cambridge, I wrote to Mr. Ash, asking him to send my College account to my father, after having subtracted about 30 pounds for my furniture. This he has forgotten to do, and my father has paid the bill, and I want to have the furniture-money transmitted to my father. Perhaps you would be kind enough to speak to Mr. Ash. I have cost my father so much money, I am quite ashamed of myself.

I will write once again before sailing, and perhaps you will write to me before then.

Remember me to Professor Sedgwick and Mr. Peacock.

Believe me, yours affectionately,
Chas. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to J.S. Henslow.

Devonport, December 3, 1831.

My dear Henslow,

It is now late in the evening, and to-night I am going to sleep on board. On Monday we most certainly sail, so you may guess what a desperate state of confusion we are all in. If you were to hear the various exclamations of the officers, you would suppose we had scarcely had a week’s notice. I am just in the same way taken all aback, and in such a bustle I hardly know what to do. The number of things to be done is infinite. I look forward even to sea-sickness with something like satisfaction, anything must be better than this state of anxiety. I am very much obliged for your last kind and affectionate letter. I always like advice from you, and no one whom I have the luck to know is more capable of giving it than yourself. Recollect, when you write, that I am a sort of protege of yours, and that it is your bounden duty to lecture me.

I will now give you my direction; it is at first, Rio; but if you will send me a letter on the first Tuesday (when the packet sails) in February, directed to Monte Video, it will give me very great pleasure; I shall so much enjoy hearing a little Cambridge news. Poor dear old Alma Mater! I am a very worthy son in as far as affection goes. I have little more to write about…I cannot end this without telling you how cordially I feel grateful for the kindness you have shown me during my Cambridge life. Much of the pleasure and utility which I may have derived from it is owing to you. I long for the time when we shall again meet, and till then believe me, my dear Henslow,

Your affectionate and obliged friend,
Ch. Darwin.

Remember me most kindly to those who take any interest in me.

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