The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 81 of 188

Charles Darwin to C. Whitley.

Valparaiso, July 23, 1834.

My dear Whitley,

I have long intended writing, just to put you in mind that there is a certain hunter of beetles, and pounder of rocks still in existence. Why I have not done so before I know not, but it will serve me right if you have quite forgotten me. It is a very long time since I have heard any Cambridge news; I neither know where you are living or what you are doing. I saw your name down as one of the indefatigable guardians of the eighteen hundred philosophers. I was delighted to see this, for when we last left Cambridge you were at sad variance with poor science; you seemed to think her a public prostitute working for popularity. If your opinions are the same as formerly, you would agree most admirably with Captain Fitz-Roy,– the object of his most devout abhorrence is one of the d–d scientific Whigs. As captains of men-of-war are the greatest men going, far greater than kings or schoolmasters, I am obliged to tell him everything in my own favour. I have often said I once had a very good friend, an out-and-out Tory, and we managed to get on very well together. But he is very much inclined to doubt if ever I really was so much honoured; at present we hear scarcely anything about politics; this saves a great deal of trouble, for we all stick to our former opinions rather more obstinately than before, and can give rather fewer reasons for doing so.

I do hope you will write to me: (‘H.M.S. Beagle, S. American Station’ will find me). I should much like to hear in what state you are both in body and mind. ?Quien Sabe? as the people say here (and God knows they well may, for they do know little enough), if you are not a married man, and may be nursing, as Miss Austen says, little olive branches, little pledges of mutual affection. Eheu! Eheu! this puts me in mind of former visions of glimpses into futurity, where I fancied I saw retirement, green cottages, and white petticoats. What will become of me hereafter I know not; I feel like a ruined man, who does not see or care how to extricate himself. That this voyage must come to a conclusion my reason tells me, but otherwise I see no end to it. It is impossible not bitterly to regret the friends and other sources of pleasure one leaves behind in England; in place of it there is much solid enjoyment, some present, but more in anticipation, when the ideas gained during the voyage can be compared to fresh ones. I find in Geology a never-failing interest, as it has been remarked, it creates the same grand ideas respecting this world which Astronomy does for the universe. We have seen much fine scenery; that of the Tropics in its glory and luxuriance exceeds even the language of Humboldt to describe. A Persian writer could alone do justice to it, and if he succeeded he would in England be called the ‘Grandfather of all liars.'”

But I have seen nothing which more completely astonished me than the first sight of a savage. It was a naked Fuegian, his long hair blowing about, his face besmeared with paint. There is in their countenances an expression which I believe, to those who have not seen it, must be inconceivably wild. Standing on a rock he uttered tones and made gesticulations, than which the cries of domestic animals are far more intelligible.

When I return to England, you must take me in hand with respect to the fine arts. I yet recollect there was a man called Raffaelle Sanctus. How delightful it will be once again to see, in the Fitzwilliam, Titian’s Venus. How much more than delightful to go to some good concert or fine opera. These recollections will not do. I shall not be able to-morrow to pick out the entrails of some small animal with half my usual gusto. Pray tell me some news about Cameron, Watkins, Marindin, the two Thompsons of Trinity, Lowe, Heaviside, Matthew. Herbert I have heard from. How is Henslow getting on? and all other good friends of dear Cambridge? Often and often do I think over those past hours, so many of which have been passed in your company. Such can never return, but their recollection can never die away.

God bless you, my dear Whitley,
Believe me, your most sincere friend,
Chas. Darwin.

Charles Darwin to Miss C. Darwin.

Valparaiso, November 8, 1834.

My dear Catherine,

My last letter was rather a gloomy one, for I was not very well when I wrote it. Now everything is as bright as sunshine. I am quite well again after being a second time in bed for a fortnight. Captain Fitz-Roy very generously has delayed the ship ten days on my account, and without at the time telling me for what reason.

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