« PreviousContinue »
maker to look after the chronometers.* Captain Fitz-Roy's wish was to take “some well-educated and scientific person" as his private guest, but this generous offer was only accepted by my father on condition of being allowed to pay a fair share of the expense of the Captain's table; he was, moreover, on the ship's books for victuals.
In a letter to his sister (July 1832) he writes contentedly of his manner of life at sea :-“I do not think I have ever given you an account of how the day passes. We breakfast at eight o'clock. The invariable maxim is to throw away all politeness—that is, never to wait for each other, and bolt off the minute one has done eating, &c. At sea, when the weather is calm, I work at marine animals, with which the whole ocean abounds. If there is any sea up I am either sick or contrive to read some voyage or travels. At one we dine. You shore-going people are lamentably mistaken about the manner of living on board. We have never yet (nor shall we) dined off salt meat. Rice and peas and calavanses are excellent vegetables, and, with good bread, who could want more ? Judge Alderson could not be more temperate, as nothing but water comes on the table. At five we have tea. The midshipmen's berth have all their meals an hour before us, and the gun-room an hour afterwards."
The crew of the Beagle consisted of Captain Fitz-Roy, "Commander and Surveyor," two lieutenants, one of whom (the first lieutenant) was the late Captain Wickham, Governor of Queensland; the present Admiral Sir James Sulivan, K.C.B., was the second lieutenant. Besides the master and two mates, there was an assistant-surveyor, the present Admiral Lort Stokes. There were also a surgeon, assistant-surgeon, two midshipmen, master's mate, a volunteer (1st class), purser, carpenter, clerk, boatswain, eight marines, thirty-four seamen, and six boys.
There are not, I believe, many survivors of my father's old ship-mates. Admiral Mellersh, Mr. Hamond, and Mr. Philip
* Either one or both were on the books for victuals.
King, of the Legislative Council of Sydney, and Mr. Usborne, are among the number. Admiral Johnson died almost at the same time as my father.
He retained to the last a most pleasant recollection of the voyage of the Beagle, and of the friends he made on board her. To his children their names were familiar, from his inany stories of the voyage, and we caught his feeling of friendship for many who were to us nothing more than names.
It is pleasant to know how affectionately his old companions remembered him.
Sir James Sulivan remained, throughout my father's lifetime, one of his best and truest friends. He writes :"I can confidently express my belief that during the five years in the Beagle, he was never known to be out of temper, or to say one unkind or hasty word of or to any one.
You will therefore readily understand how this, combined with the admiration of his energy and ability, led to our giving him the name of the dear old Philosopher.'
Admiral Mellersh writes to me :-“Your father is as vividly in my mind's eye as if it was only a week ago that I was in the Beagle with him ; his genial smile and conversation can never be forgotten by any who saw them and heard them. I was sent on two or three occasions
in a boat with him on some of his scientific excursions, and always looked forward to these trips with great pleasure, an anticipation that, unlike many others, was always realised. I think he was the only man I ever knew against whom I never heard a word said ; and as people when shut
up in a ship for five years are apt to get cross with each other, that is saying a good deal. Certainly we were always so hard at work, we had no time to quarrel, but if we had done so, I feel sure your father would have tried (and have been successful) to throw oil on the troubled waters.”
* His other nickname was " The Flycatcher.” I have heard my father tell how he overheard the boatswain of the Beagle showing another boatswain over the ship, and pointing out the officers : " That's our first lieutenant ; that's our doctor ; that's our flycatcher.”
Admiral Stokes, Mr. King, Mr. Usborne, and Mr. Hamond, all speak of their friendship with him in the same warmhearted way.
Of the life on board and on shore his letters give some idea. Captain Fitz-Roy was a strict officer, and made himself thoroughly respected both by officers and men. The occasional severity of his manner was borne with because every one on board knew that his first thought was his duty, and that he would sacrifice anything to the real welfare of the ship. My father writes, July 1834, “We all jog on very well together, there is no quarrelling on board, which is something to say. The Captain keeps all smooth by rowing every ne in turn." The best proof that Fitz-Roy was valued as a commander is given by the fact that many * of the crew had sailed with him in the Beagle's former voyage, and there were a few officers as well as seamen and marines, who had served in the Adventure or Beagle during the whole of that expedition.
My father speaks of the officers as a fine determined set of men, and especiaily of Wickham, the first lieutenant, as a "glorious fellow." The latter being responsible for the smartness and appearance of the ship strongly objected to his littering the decks, and spoke of specimens as “d-d beastly devilment,” and used to add, “If I were skipper, I would soon have you and all your d-d mess out of the place.”
A sort of halo of sanctity was given to my father by the fact of his dining in the Captain's cabin, so that the midshipmen used at first to call him “Sir," a formality, however, which did not prevent his becoming fast friends with the younger officers.
He wrote about the year 1861 or 1862 to Mr. P. G. King, M. L. C., Sydney, who, as before stated, was a midshipman on board the Beagle :-" The remembrance of old days, when we used to sit and talk on the booms of the Beagle, will always, to the day of my death, make me glad to
* Voyage of the Adrentur, and Beagle,' vol. ii. p. 27.
hear of your happiness and prosperity." Mr. King describes the pleasure my father seemed to take " in pointing out to me as a youngster the delights of the tropical nights, with their balmy breezes eddying out of the sails above us, and the sea lighted up by the passage of the ship through the never-ending streams of phosphorescent animalcula."
It has been assumed that his ill-health in later years was due to his having suffered so much from sea-sickness. This he did not himself believe, but rather ascribed his bad health to the hereditary fault which came out as gout in some of the past generations. I am not quite clear as to how much he actually suffered from sea-sickness; my impression is distinct that, according to his own memory, he was not actually ill after the first three weeks, but constantly uncomfortable when the vessel pitched at all heavily. But, judging from his letters, and from the evidence of some of the officers, it would seem that in later years he forgot the extent of the discomfort from which he suffered. Writing June 3, 1836, from the Cape of Good Hope, he says: “It is a lucky thing for me that the voyage is drawing to its close, for I positively suffer more from sea-sickness now than three years ago.” Admiral Lort Stokes wrote to the Times, April 25, 1883 :
May I beg a corner for my feeble testimony to the marvellous persevering endurance in the cause of science of that great naturalist, my old and lost friend, Mr. Charles Darwin, whose remains are so very justly to be honoured with a resting place in Westminster Abbey ?
"Perhaps no one can better testify to his early and most trying labours than myself. We worked together for several years at the same table in the poop cabin of the Beagle during her celebrated voyage, he with his microscope and myself at the charts. It was often a very lively end of the little craft, and distressingly so to my old friend, who suffered greatly from sea-sickness. After perhaps an hour's work he would say to me, ‘Old fellow, I must take the horizontal for it,' that being the best relief position from ship motion ; a stretch out on one side of the table for some time would enable him to resume his labours for a while, when he had again to lie down.
"It was distressing to witness this early sacrifice of Mr. Darwin's health, who ever afterwards seriously felt the illeffects of the Beagle's voyage.”
Mr. A. B. Usborne writes, “He was a dreadful sufferer from sea-sickness, and at times, when I have been officer of the watch, and reduced the sails, making the ship more easy, and thus relieving him, I have been pronounced by him to be 'a good officer,' and he would resume his microscopic observations in the poop cabin." The amount of work that he got through on the Beagle shows that he was habitually in full vigour; he had, however, one severe illness, in South America, when he was received into the house of an Englishman, Mr. Corfield, who tended him with careful kindness. I have heard him say that in this illness every secretion of the body was affected, and that when he described the symptoms to his father Dr. Darwin could make no guess as to the nature of the disease. My father was sometimes inclined to think that the breaking up of his health was to some extent due to this attack.
The Beagle letters give ample proof of his strong love of home, and all connected with it, from his father down to Nancy, his old nurse, to whom he sometimes sends his love.
His delight in home-letters is shown in such passages as :"But if you knew the glowing, unspeakable delight, which I felt at being certain that my father and all of you were well, only four months ago, you would not grudge the labour lost in keeping up the regular series of letters.”
Or again-his longing to return in words like these :“It is too delightful to think that I shall see the leaves fall and hear the robin sing next autumn at Shrewsbury. My feelings are those of a schoolboy to the smallest point; I doubt whether ever boy longed for his holidays as much as I do to see you all again. I am at present, although nearly