Darwin in Rio – 1832


A 23-year old Charles Darwin, in his travels around the world aboard the Beagle, went to Brazil in 1832, and stayed in the state of Rio de Janeiro from April 4th to July 5th. The actual time he lived in the city itself is hard to track down, but from what I can tell, it was apparently from April 4th til the 8th, and from April 23rd or 25th til July 5th. The last link at the bottom has a section talking about how Darwin received a guided tour of the city by a friend.

His diary, on the day he arrived in the city of Rio, is as follows:

“The winds being very light we did not pass under the Sugar loaf till after dinner: our slow cruise was enlivened by the changing prospect of the mountains; sometimes enveloped by white clouds, sometimes brightened by the sun, the wild & stony peaks presented new scenes. — When within the harbour the light was not good, but like to a good picture this evenings view prepared the mind for the morrows enjoyment. — In most glorious style did the little Beagle enter the port & lower her sails alongside the Flag ship. We were hailed that from some trifling disturbances we must anchor in a particular spot. Whilst the Captain was away with the commanding officer, we tacked about the harbour & gained great credit from the manner in which the Beagle was manned & directed. — Then came the ecstacies of opening letters, largely exciting the best & pleasantest feelings of the mind; I wanted not the floating remembrance of ambition now gratified, I wanted not the real magnificence of the view to cause my heart to revel with intense joy; but united with these, few could imagine & still fewer forget the lasting & impressive effect.”

Around April 23rd or 25th, he went to live in Botafogo, for which he had the following to say:

“During the remainder of my stay at Rio, I resided in a cottage at Botofogo Bay. It was impossible to wish for anything more delightful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country.

Every one has heard of the beauty of the scenery near Botofogo. The house in which I lived was seated close beneath the well-known mountain of the Corcovado. It has been remarked, with much truth, that abruptly conical hills are characteristic of the formation which Humboldt designates as gneiss granite. Nothing can be more striking than the effect of these huge rounded masses of naked rock rising out of the most luxuriant vegetation.”

Parting Thoughts

“It was impossible to wish for any thing more delightful than thus to spend some weeks in so magnificent a country. In England any person fond of natural history enjoys in his walks a great advantage, by always having something to attract his attention; but in these fertile climates, teeming with life, the attractions are so numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all.” – Charles Darwin

On the flip side, upon leaving, he vowed to never again visit a slave country due to the horrors he witness regarding poor treatment of slaves.

You can find all of his diary entries, by date, in the archives of this blog (here’s a detailed version in Portuguese, as well as a shorter mapped version). There’s also a nice post on Darwin’s time in inland and coastal Rio here.


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