05-Sep-1831: Darwin meets his ‘beau ideal of a Captain’

On 5th September 1831, Darwin and Fitzroy met for the first time. The following day, Darwin wrote to his sister:

… I write all this as if it was settled but it is not more than it was.—excepting that from Cap. FitzRoy wishing me so much to go, & from his kindness I feel a predestination I shall start.— I spent a very pleasant evening with him yesterday: he must be more than 23 old. he is of a slight figure, & a dark but handsome edition of Mr. Kynaston.—& according to my notions preeminently 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£!!, & never to go on shore anywhere without loaded ones.— & he is doubting about a rifle.— he says I cannot appreciate the luxury of fresh meat here.— Of course I shall buy nothing till every thing is settled: but I work all day long at my lists, putting in & striking out articles.— This is the first really cheerful day I have spent since I received the letter, & it all is owing to the sort of involuntary confidence I place in my beau ideal of a Captain.—

In his autobiography written towards the end of his life, Darwin added:

Afterwards, on becoming very intimate with Fitz-Roy, I heard that I had run a very narrow risk of being rejected, on account of the shape of my nose! He was an ardent disciple of Lavater, and was convinced that he could judge of a man's character by the outline of his features; and he doubted whether any one with my nose could possess sufficient energy and determination for the voyage. But I think he was afterwards well satisfied that my nose had spoken falsely.

Fitzroy was a keen amateur physiognomist.

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

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