Valparaiso, November 8th, 1834

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.

We have had some strange proceedings on board the "Beagle", but which have
ended most capitally for all hands. Captain Fitz-Roy has for the last two
months been working EXTREMELY hard, and at the same time constantly annoyed
by interruptions from officers of other ships; the selling the schooner and
its consequences were very vexatious; the cold manner the Admiralty (solely
I believe because he is a Tory) have treated him, and a thousand other,
etc. etc.'s, has made him very thin and unwell. This was accompanied by a
morbid depression of spirits, and a loss of all decision and resolution...
All that Bynoe [the Surgeon] could say, that it was merely the effect of
bodily health and exhaustion after such application, would not do; he
invalided, and Wickham was appointed to the command. By the instructions
Wickham could only finish the survey of the southern part, and would then
have been obliged to return direct to England. The grief on board the
"Beagle" about the Captain's decision was universal and deeply felt; one
great source of his annoyment was the feeling it impossible to fulfil the
whole instructions; from his state of mind it never occurred to him that
the very instructions ordered him to do as much of the West coast AS HE HAS
TIME FOR, and then proceed across the Pacific.

Wickham (very disinterestedly giving up his own promotion) urged this most
strongly, stated that when he took the command nothing should induce him to
go to Tierra del Fuego again; and then asked the Captain what would be
gained by his resignation? why not do the more useful part, and return as
commanded by the Pacific. The Captain at last, to every one's joy,
consented, and the resignation was withdrawn.

Hurrah! hurrah! it is fixed the "Beagle" shall not go one mile south of
Cape Tres Montes (about 200 miles south of Chiloe), and from that point to
Valparaiso will be finished in about five months. We shall examine the
Chonos Archipelago, entirely unknown, and the curious inland sea behind
Chiloe. For me it is glorious. Cape Tres Montes is the most southern
point where there is much geological interest, as there the modern beds
end. The Captain then talks of crossing the Pacific; but I think we shall
persuade him to finish the Coast of Peru, where the climate is delightful,
the country hideously sterile, but abounding with the highest interest to a
geologist. For the first time since leaving England I now see a clear and
not so distant prospect of returning to you all: crossing the Pacific, and
from Sydney home, will not take much time.

As soon as the Captain invalided I at once determined to leave the
"Beagle", but it was quite absurd what a revolution in five minutes was
effected in all my feelings. I have long been grieved and most sorry at
the interminable length of the voyage (although I never would have quitted
it); but the minute it was all over, I could not make up my mind to return.
I could not give up all the geological castles in the air which I had been
building up for the last two years. One whole night I tried to think over
the pleasure of seeing Shrewsbury again, but the barren plains of Peru
gained the day. I made the following scheme (I know you will abuse me, and
perhaps if I had put it in execution, my father would have sent a mandamus
after me); it was to examine the Cordilleras of Chili during this summer,
and in winter go from port to port on the coast of Peru to Lima, returning
this time next year to Valparaiso, cross the Cordilleras to Buenos Ayres,
and take ship to England. Would not this have been a fine excursion, and
in sixteen months I should have been with you all? To have endured Tierra
del Fuego and not seen the Pacific would have been miserable...

I go on board to-morrow; I have been for the last six weeks in Corfield's
house. You cannot imagine what a kind friend I have found him. He is
universally liked, and respected by the natives and foreigners. Several
Chileno Signoritas are very obligingly anxious to become the signoras of
this house. Tell my father I have kept my promise of being extravagant in
Chili. I have drawn a bill of 100 pounds (had it not better be notified to
Messrs. Robarts & Co.); 50 pounds goes to the Captain for the ensuing year,
and 30 pounds I take to sea for the small ports; so that bona fide I have
not spent 180 pounds during these last four months. I hope not to draw
another bill for six months. All the foregoing particulars were only
settled yesterday. It has done me more good than a pint of medicine, and I
have not been so happy for the last year. If it had not been for my
illness, these four months in Chili would have been very pleasant. I have
had ill luck, however, in only one little earthquake having happened. I
was lying in bed when there was a party at dinner in the house; on a sudden
I heard such a hubbub in the dining-room; without a word being spoken, it
was devil take the hindmost who should get out first; at the same moment I
felt my bed SLIGHTLY vibrate in a lateral direction. The party were old
stagers, and heard the noise which always precedes a shock; and no old
stager looks at an earthquake with philosophical eyes...

Good-bye to you all; you will not have another letter for some time.

My dear Catherine,
Yours affectionately,

My best love to my father, and all of you. Love to Nancy.

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