Darwin: GUM to the life

the book:

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

published 1839  chapter 3

[Naturalist Charles Darwin is in a village in Uruguay, part of his voyage of exploration]

At night we stopped at a pulperia, or drinking-shop. During the evening a great number of Gauchos came in to drink spirits and smoke cigars: their appearance is very striking; they are generally tall and handsome, but with a proud and dissolute expression of countenance. They frequently wear their moustaches, and long black hair curling down their backs. With their brightly-coloured garments, great spurs clanking about their heels, and knives stuck as daggers (and often so used) at their waists, they look a very different race of men from what might be expected from their name of Gauchos, or simple countrymen. Their politeness is excessive; they never drink their spirits without expecting you to taste it; but whilst making their exceedingly graceful bow, they seem quite as ready, if occasion offered, to cut your throat.

observations: Elsewhere in the book, Darwin says the gauchos wear white boots, broad drawers, scarlet chilipa and poncho. The chilipa, he says, is a petticoat, but the only references to this garment apparently occur in this book.

It is a fascinating read (in the bits that don’t need skimming). Such an adventure – he goes off on the Beagle, thinking he’ll be gone a couple of years, and ends up staying away nearly five. He has quite a heartfelt description at the end of the book as to why that was NOT a good thing – along with an impassioned and empathetic attack on slavery. There are long descriptions of wildlife and geology which are of specialist interest, but his take on the people he meets is impressive - he’s good on telling details and the ways people differ. His character comes through clearly, for example in a funny bit about people accepting, or not accepting, money from guests. CD says the Chileans are more civilized and less cut-throat, but he obviously can’t get over his sneaking preference for the gauchos, whom he describes improbably as gentlemen. You think, what a nice man.

Links on the blog: Darwin is Great Uncle Matthew from Ballet Shoes to the life, down to the long beard* and long disappearances. (Darwin not known to have brought back babies, but it wouldn’t surprise you). Gwen Raverat was his granddaughter. Gaucho trousers for an aristocratic lady here, and a drugstore cowboy in Lowry’s Mexico

* in later years, when he looked rather like the gaucho in the photo.

The picture was taken in 1868, is in the collection of the Library of Congress, and is considered to be one of the finest images on Wikimedia Commons


  1. Moira - I've always thought Charles Darwin's voyage on the Beagle was one of the most interesting stories. In my opinion he was far ahead of his time in terms of meeting different kinds of people and learning about them and from them. I wish his story were more often read these days.

  2. It is my favorite stories. It is so interesting and lesson-able stories.

  3. as black tea, green tea match. Two tea's name fully reflects the traditional long evening dress Chinese culture, the language of the United States pay attention to symmetry. Therefore, we can see, for the Chinese


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