Auction recap: 183-year-old letter written aboard HMS Beagle remains unsold

A collection of six letters written by a royal marine aboard the HMS Beagle in 1833 (as well as the HMS Adelaide and HMS Warspite ) remains unsold after an auction in New Zealand last week.

Lot 1197 of Mowbray Collectables’ International Public Stamp Auction, held Oct. 15, also included an original letter from the Admiralty dated Feb. 15, 1835; however, the lot was highlighted by one letter written by Private Thomas Burgess and dated May 9, 1833. It was directed to his parents, who lived in Cheshire, England.


Dear father and Mother

I ham take they oppertunity of writeing a
few lines to you hopeing they will find you
in good health as it leaves me at present
I did not receive your letter untill they 26th Apr
April I ham now lying at Montovedio after
a five months cruize and I shall Teell you a
bit of a story of what I Saw after leaving
Reo De Janaro we anchard at Montevedio in
They River Plate wich is a Capital Place for living for
you will get good beef at they rate of a
Penny Per Pound from ther we went to Bays
Blanco and Survyed they Bay. It is on they
Coast of Patagonia there you will get beef
Almost for carrying away and deer you may
Shoot So Many as you like and and Ostrich
to for they Patagonians are very fond of horse
flesh for they will kill one of There horses
and kut it up and cook it and eat it on they
Spot wich I thout rather curious I must now
of go to Terre Del Furego wich is they most
frightful coa coast I every saw for they verry high ….
and they top is covered with Snow and they
verry high la heavy winds wich make it
terrible to Ships and they inhabitants are
they most miserable beings in existance
I belive for they have not neither


The famed brig-sloop known as the HMS Beagle is perhaps best known for carrying British naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin on a five-year trip around the world in the 1830s. Darwin eventually wrote On the Origin of Species, which included material gathered on the Beagle expedition. It would lay the groundwork for evolutionary biology.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to acquire a rare collection which may be the only surviving correspondence from Charles Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle in private hands,” reads the auction catalogue. “It is attractively presented and includes transcripts of the original correspondence.”


The lot, which had a pre-sale estimate of $50,000 NZD (about $45,000 Cdn.), is available for sale at a reserve price of 70 per cent of its estimate.

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