The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 75 of 188

Charles Darwin to W.D. Fox.

Botofogo Bay, near Rio de Janeiro,
May, 1832.

My dear Fox,

I have delayed writing to you and all my other friends till I arrived here and had some little spare time. My mind has been, since leaving England, in a perfect hurricane of delight and astonishment, and to this hour scarcely a minute has passed in idleness…

At St. Jago my natural history and most delightful labours commenced. During the three weeks I collected a host of marine animals, and enjoyed many a good geological walk. Touching at some islands, we sailed to Bahia, and from thence to Rio, where I have already been some weeks. My collections go on admirably in almost every branch. As for insects, I trust I shall send a host of undescribed species to England. I believe they have no small ones in the collections, and here this morning I have taken minute Hydropori, Noterus, Colymbetes, Hydrophilus, Hydrobius, Gromius, etc., etc., as specimens of fresh-water beetles. I am entirely occupied with land animals, as the beach is only sand. Spiders and the adjoining tribes have perhaps given me, from their novelty, the most pleasure. I think I have already taken several new genera.

But Geology carries the day: it is like the pleasure of gambling. Speculating, on first arriving, what the rocks may be, I often mentally cry out 3 to 1 tertiary against primitive; but the latter have hitherto won all the bets. So much for the grand end of my voyage; in other respects things are equally flourishing. My life, when at sea, is so quiet, that to a person who can employ himself, nothing can be pleasanter; the beauty of the sky and brilliancy of the ocean together make a picture. But when on shore, and wandering in the sublime forests, surrounded by views more gorgeous than even Claude ever imagined, I enjoy a delight which none but those who have experienced it can understand. If it is to be done, it must be by studying Humboldt. At our ancient snug breakfasts, at Cambridge, I little thought that the wide Atlantic would ever separate us; but it is a rare privilege that with the body, the feelings and memory are not divided. On the contrary, the pleasantest scenes in my life, many of which have been in Cambridge, rise from the contrast of the present, the more vividly in my imagination. Do you think any diamond beetle will ever give me so much pleasure as our old friend crux major?…It is one of my most constant amusements to draw pictures of the past; and in them I often see you and poor little Fran. Oh, Lord, and then old Dash, poor thing! Do you recollect how you all tormented me about his beautiful tail?

…Think when you are picking insects off a hawthorn-hedge on a fine May day (wretchedly cold, I have no doubt), think of me collecting amongst pine-apples and orange-trees; whilst staining your fingers with dirty blackberries, think and be envious of ripe oranges. This is a proper piece of bravado, for I would walk through many a mile of sleet, snow, or rain to shake you by the hand. My dear old Fox, God bless you. Believe me,

Yours affectionately,
Chas. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to J.S. Henslow.

Rio de Janeiro, May 18, 1832.

My dear Henslow,

Till arriving at Teneriffe (we did not touch at Madeira) I was scarcely out of my hammock, and really suffered more than you can well imagine from such a cause. At Santa Cruz, whilst looking amongst the clouds for the Peak, and repeating to myself Humboldt’s sublime descriptions, it was announced we must perform twelve days’ strict quarantine. We had made a short passage, so “Up jib,” and away for St. Jago. You will say all this sounds very bad, and so it was; but from that to the present time it has been nearly one scene of continual enjoyment. A net over the stern kept me at full work till we arrived at St. Jago. Here we spent three most delightful weeks. The geology was pre-eminently interesting, and I believe quite new; there are some facts on a large scale of upraised coast (which is an excellent epoch for all the volcanic rocks to date from), that would interest Mr. Lyell.

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