It’s #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. In honor, and because I had the day off work and am procrastinating from other tasks, I spent the morning artistically imagining The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin* for a young audience.
Voyage of the Beagle
Have you ever dreamed of having a truly grand adventure? Then this story is for you. But you must be prepared. You will sail across oceans, climb to the tops of mountains, come face to face with wild creatures, and have only the stars to guide you on the darkest of dark nights. Each day will have challenges and rewards. You will conquer your fears. You will make discoveries. This is the life of an explorer. Are you ready?
It was the wish of Captain Fitz-Roy to have a dog on board Her Majesty’s ship, a ten-gun brig, scheduled to sail from Devonport on the 27th of December, 1831, on a journey around the world. You see, dogs, especially hounds, were quite useful on expeditions such as this. Hounds are known for their friendship and steady assistance, as well as their keen sense of smell. The Captain did not himself own a dog, so it was through the kindness of the hydrographer, Captain Beaufort, who had recently acquired a young beagle that a dog was gotten for the voyage. Captain Beaufort had purchased the hound for his niece whose mother had died and who was under the care of her father. An offer was made by Beaufort of giving up part of his own accommodations so that the dog could accompany the Captains on their expedition, and this was sanctioned by the Lords of the Admirality. It was not, however, sanctioned by Henrietta, Captain Beaufort’s niece.
You see, though it had been but 10 days since the dog was gifted to Etty, the two had formed a substantial bond. The girl’s uncle did not doubt the strength of this connection, due to the aforementioned friendship so characteristic of such hounds and the child’s recent loss. The death of Etty’s mother one month prior certainly dictated that another loss in the child’s life would be a misfortune and could do harm. For this reason, Captain Beaufort requested that the child be granted permission to join him and the dog on the upcoming voyage.
You will not be surprised to learn that Etty’s father did not approve of this request. He included in a letter to Captain Beaufort the following list of concerns:
September XX, 1831
- It will be disreputable to my character as a father hereafter to allow a young girl to take part in such a wild scheme.
- To allow a young child on such a journey it must be a useless undertaking.
- The accommodations would be most uncomfortable for a child.
- I would consider it a distraction from Henrietta’s studies.
- Furthermore, a ten-gun brig is no place for a dog.
The same day, the Captain replied to the letter with what occurred to him upon reading each of the objections.
September XX, 1831
- I should not think it will be in any way disreputable to your character as a father, as I, the child’s uncle shall be responsible for her care and well-being on this expedition.
- Looking upon the child as a girl of enlarged curiosity, it affords her the opportunity of seeing people and things as happens to few.
- If sanctioned by the Admirality, we have a claim to be as well accommodated as the vessel will allow.
- The child would have definite objects on which to engage herself, and might acquire and strengthen habits of thought, and I should think would be as likely to do so as in any way in which she is likely to learn in the next two years at home. I can assure you her pursuit of knowledge in the expedition would be in the same track as she would have to follow otherwise.
- It is at the request of Captain Fitz-Roy that a young hound of the finest quality and character accompany the expedition and lend assistance, by its loyal tendencies and advanced nature of olfaction, to the Naturalist, one Mr. Charles Darwin.
*Note – Much of this text is taken directly from The Voyage and from The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (Barlow, 1958). I did not seek, nor have I received, reproduction permission for the adopted text, so I do not claim this as original writing, though the creative imagining is an original idea (including the characters of Henrietta, her father, and the hound). Since I do not claim that all of these words are my own, you should not attribute all of them to me. Any original text is copyrighted to the owner of this blog (C.M.S.) and may not be reproduced without permission.