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HUMANITIES, March/April 2009, Volume 30, Number 2

From Charles Darwin: The Beagle Letters, a volume by the editors of the Charles Darwin Correspondence Project, which has been supported by NEH. As a young man fresh out of Cambridge, Darwin, over his father’s initial objections, took his place on HMS Beagle, whose crew was charged with completing a hydrographical study of South American waters. Over the long journey, he kept up a voluminous correspondence with family, friends, and scholars. He wrote to his younger sister, Catherine, on July 5, 1832, from Rio de Janeiro.

My dear Catherine
I have only ¼ of an hour to write this—Sullivan will put it in his parcel, so that it will only cost common postage.—I have received your letter directed Monte Video & previous to it one from Caroline from Maer.—Tomorrow we sail for Mon: Video.—If the wind is not directly against us, we shall touch at Cape Frio, the celebrated scene of diving for the Thetis wreck.—They have fished up 900000 dollars.—If we are lucky enough (& it is very probable) to have a gale off St Catherines we shall run there.—I expect to suffer terribly from sea-sickness—as we are certain to have bad weather.—After lying a short time at MV: we cruise to the South—but not I believe below Rio Negro—The geography of this country is as little known as interior of Africa. —I long to put my foot, where man has never trod before—And am most impatient to leave civilized ports:—We are all very anxious about reform: the last news brought intelligence that Lord Grey would perhaps re-continue in.—Would ask Erasmus to add to the books—Pennants quadrupeds (if not too late) in my bedroom. —& Humboldt tableaux de la nature.—You cannot imagine what a miser-like value is attached to books, when incapable of procuring them.—

We have been 3 months here: & most undoubtedly I well know the glories of a Brazilian forest.—Commonly I ride some few miles, put my horse & start by some track into the impenetrable—mass of vegetation.—Whilst seated on a tree, & eating my luncheon in the sublime solitude of the forest, the pleasure I experience is unspeakable.—The number of undescribed animals I have taken is very great—& some to Naturalists, I am sure, very interesting.—I attempt class after class of animals, so that before very long I shall have notion of all.—so that if I gain no other end I shall never want an object of employment & amusement for the rest of my life.—(Sullivan only gives me 5 minutes more—).—I am now writing in my own snug corner.—& am as comfortable as man can be. —I am only obeying orders in thus writing a short letter.—When on the deserts coasts of Patagonia.—you will be a long time before hearing from me.—My journal is going on better; but I find it inconvenient having sent the first part home on account of dates—

Give my best love to my Father & all others Most affection Chas Darwin.—

© Cambridge University Press 2008. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press.