The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin – Day 66 of 188

Charles Darwin to Miss Susan Darwin.

17 Spring Gardens, Tuesday,
[September 6, 1831.]

My dear Susan,

Again I am going to trouble you. I suspect, if I keep on at this rate, you will sincerely wish me at Tierra del Fuego, or any other Terra, but England. First I will give my commissions. Tell Nancy to make me some twelve instead of eight shirts. Tell Edward to send me up in my carpet-bag (he can slip the key in the bag tied to some string), my slippers, a pair of lightish walking-shoes, my Spanish books, my new microscope (about six inches long and three or four deep), which must have cotton stuffed inside; my geological compass; my father knows that; a little book, if I have got it in my bedroom–‘Taxidermy.’ Ask my father if he thinks there would be any objection to my taking arsenic for a little time, as my hands are not quite well, and I have always observed that if I once get them well, and change my manner of living about the same time, they will generally remain well. What is the dose? Tell Edward my gun is dirty. What is Erasmus’s direction? Tell me if you think there is time to write and receive an answer before I start, as I should like particularly to know what he thinks about it. I suppose you do not know Sir J. Mackintosh’s direction?

I write all this as if it was settled, but it is not more than it was, excepting that from Captain Fitz-Roy wishing me so much to go, and from his kindness, I feel a predestination I shall start. I spent a very pleasant evening with him yesterday. He must be more than twenty-three years old; he is of a slight figure, and a dark but handsome edition of Mr. Kynaston, and, according to my notions, pre-eminently good manners. He is all for economy, excepting on one point–viz., fire-arms. He recommends me strongly to get a case of pistols like his, which cost 60 pounds!! and never to go on shore anywhere without loaded ones, and he is doubting about a rifle; he says I cannot appreciate the luxury of fresh meat here. Of course I shall buy nothing till everything is settled; but I work all day long at my lists, putting in and striking out articles. This is the first really cheerful day I have spent since I received the letter, and it all is owing to the sort of involuntary confidence I place in my beau ideal of a Captain.

We stop at Teneriffe. His object is to stop at as many places as possible. He takes out twenty chronometers, and it will be a “sin” not to settle the longitude. He tells me to get it down in writing at the Admiralty that I have the free choice to leave as soon and whenever I like. I dare say you expect I shall turn back at the Madeira; if I have a morsel of stomach left, I won’t give up. Excuse my so often troubling and writing: the one is of great utility, the other a great amusement to me. Most likely I shall write to-morrow. Answer by return of post. Love to my father, dearest Susan.

C. Darwin.

As my instruments want altering, send my things by the ‘Oxonian’ the same night.

Charles Darwin to Miss Susan Darwin.

London, Friday Morning, September 9, 1831.

My dear Susan,

I have just received the parcel. I suppose it was not delivered yesterday owing to the Coronation. I am very much obliged to my father, and everybody else. Everything is done quite right. I suppose by this time you have received my letter written next day, and I hope will send off the things. My affairs remain in statu quo. Captain Beaufort says I am on the books for victuals, and he thinks I shall have no difficulty about my collections when I come home. But he is too deep a fish for me to make him out. The only thing that now prevents me finally making up my mind, is the want of certainty about the South Sea Islands; although morally I have no doubt we should go there whether or no it is put in the instructions. Captain Fitz-Roy says I do good by plaguing Captain Beaufort, it stirs him up with a long pole. Captain Fitz-Roy says he is sure he has interest enough (particularly if this Administration is not everlasting–I shall soon turn Tory!), anyhow, even when out, to get the ship ordered home by whatever track he likes. From what Wood says, I presume the Dukes of Grafton and Richmond interest themselves about him. By the way, Wood has been of the greatest use to me; and I am sure his personal introduction of me inclined Captain Fitz-Roy to have me.

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