Posted by: Rob Viens | August 25, 2013

“My Dear Philos”

On the 24th, Darwin got word that the Beagle was back in Bahia Blanca:

“The Ship was seen; its figure curiously altered by the refraction over the widely extended mud banks.” (Aug 24)

Although it would be a couple of days before Darwin was able to meet up with the ship in person, I’m sure he was excited to encounter his countrymen after a couple of weeks on his own.

HMS Beagle by Owen Stanley (from the 3rd voyage)
HMS Beagle by Pwen Stanley

But what I’d really like to share today is a letter Captain FitzRoy wrote to his friend Darwin upon arrival in Bahia Blanca.  I think it shows, more than anything so far, the close friendship the men were developing and suggests that FitzRoy, when taken away from the pressures of his command, was actually a rather funny guy.  One could almost see sharing a beer with him in an Argentine pub.

Read on (recalling that Darwin’s nickname was Philos):

“My dear Philos

Trusting that you are not entirely expended,—though half starved,— occasionally frozen, and at times half drowned—I wish you joy of your campaign with Genl. Rosas— and I do assure you that whenever the ship pitches (which is very often as you well know) I am extremely vexed to think how much sea practice you are losing;—and how unhappy you must feel upon the firm ground.

Your home (upon the waters) will remain at anchor near the Montem Megatherii until you return to assist in the parturition of a Megalonyx measuring seventy two feet from the end of his Snout to the tip of his tail—and an Ichthyosaurus somewhat larger than the Beagle.—

Our wise ones say that you are not enough of an Archimedes to accomplish the removal of this latter animalcule.

I have sent,— by Chaffers,—to the Commandant.— On your account,—and on behalf of our intestines,—which have a strange inclination to be interested by beef.

If you have already departed for the Sierra Ventana— tanto mejor—I shall stay here,—at the old trade—“quarter-er-less four”—

Sancho goes with Chaffers in case you should require his right trusty service.

Send word when you want a boat—we shall send, once in four days.

Take your own time —there is abundant occupation here for all the Sounders,—so we shall not growl at you when you return. | Yours very truly | Robt: FitzRoy

P.S. I do not rejoice at your extraordinary and outrageous peregrinations because I am envious—jealous,—and extremely full of all uncharitableness. What will they think at home of “Master Charles” “I do think he be gone mad”— Prithee be careful —while there’s care there’s no fear —says the saw.” (Correspondence from Robert FitzRoy, August 24, 1833)

I have no idea what he is talking about regarding the “72 ft megalonyx” (an extinct ground sloth which was never close to that large).  At first I thought he was referring to the Beagle, but that is about 90 ft long.  I think he is just trying to entice Darwin back to the ship.

In any case, it is definitely interesting to see FitzRoy let his guard down a bit and just be a “regular guy”. (RJV)


  1. […] Martens came on board sometime back in September – while Darwin was traveling overland across northern Argentina. He first shows up in a letter from FitzRoy to Darwin (during Darwin’s long time away from the ship). The tone is familiar –  much like FitzRoy’s earlier letter to his friend (see “My Dear Philos”): […]

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