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Letter 1713

Darwin, C. R. to Waterhouse, G. R.

8 July [1855]

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    Asks GRW if there is any easy systematic work on Lepidoptera for his sons. Considers making out the names from descriptions fine practice for the intellect; mere collecting is idle work.

Transcription

Down Farnborough Kent

July 8th

My dear Waterhouse

Two of my Boys are become ardent Lepidopterists, & I want much to know whether there is any systematic work on Lepidoptera, tolerably easy. I really shd be very much obliged if you could inform me. I look at it as fine practice for the intellect making out the names from descriptions, & but idle work, mere collecting or comparing with mere figures.— I have Stephens work, but he uses such dreadfully hard words; & there is no Synopsis. Westwood in his “Modern Classification” has a Synopsis at end, but there it is most extraordinary but he gives no characters for the Families & Sub-families, only generic descriptions.—

John Lubbock has lent me Humphreys & Westwoods magnificent work, but here again there is nothing like a Synopsis; & it would take hours to go dipping through the volume to find the several Families, & pick out the essential characters out of the diffuse descriptions. Does a Book such as I want, exist on British Lepidoptera?

How strange if such does not exist. Will you be so kind as to illuminate me.—

Yours most truly | C. Darwin

For the Butterflies Stephens does pretty well, as he gives some sort of a Synopsis; but what wretched latinised English he does use.

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 1713.f1
    William, aged 15, and George, aged 10. See letter to W. E. Darwin, [25 April 1855].
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    f2 1713.f2
    Stephens 1829. A lightly annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL. CD used this catalogue when he was an enthusiastic collector during his undergraduate years at Cambridge.
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    f3 1713.f3
    Westwood 1839–40. CD's annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
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    f4 1713.f4
    Westwood 1841, arranged and illustrated by Henry Noel Humphreys.
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    f5 1713.f5
    From CD's comments it is probable that he refers to Stephens 1828–46, pt 2, Haustellata. Volume four, which deals with the Lepidoptera, has a brief synopsis of the group on pp. 398–402.
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