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Letter 1984

Darwin, C. R. to Lyell, Charles

10 Nov [1856]

    Summary Add

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    Illnesses of Mrs Horner and Emma Darwin.

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    Death of Sarah Elizabeth Wedgwood.

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    Mentions work on his "Big Book" [Natural selection].

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    Remarks on J. A. H. de Bosquet's discovery of a Chthamalus in the Chalk.


Down Bromley Kent

Nov. 10th

My dear Lyell

I am writing to you in order to answer Lady Lyells note to Emma,—as she find writing or indeed doing anything whatever a considerable exertion.

We have been most sincerely grieved to hear such very indifferent accounts of Mrs Horner: paradoxical as it may appear, I think, illness after so many years of good health, seems all the more to be deplored.— I had hoped to have come to London this week, & I had calculated on the very great pleasure of seeing you & Lady Lyell; but several combined circumstances will stop me; & chiefly Emma's state. I do not suppose I shall see you till January.—

Last week my Aunt, Mrs Wedgwood, expired here quite suddenly & easily.;—a great relief to her, as her life had become a heavy burthen to her.—

I wish I could see you sooner than I shall, for I shd like to hear what you have been about.— I suppose the Madeira paper will soon be sent in.—

I am working very steadily at my big Book;—I have found it quite impossible to publish any preliminary essay or sketch; but am doing my work as complete as my present materials allow, without waiting to perfect them. And this much acceleration I owe to you.

I know you like all cases of negative geological evidence being upset. I fancied that I was a most unwilling believer in negative evidence; but yet such negative evidence did seem to me so strong that in my Fossil Lepadidæ I have stated, giving reasons, that I did not believe there could have existed any Sessile Cirripedes during the Secondary ages. Now the other day Bosquet of Maestricht sends me a perfect drawing of a perfect Chthamalus, (a recent genus) from the Chalk! Indeed it is stretching a point to make it specifically distinct from our living British Species.— It is a genus not hitherto found in any Tertiary bed.

Farewell | Yours most truly | C. Darwin

    Footnotes Add

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    f1 1984.f1
    Dated by the reference to the death of Sarah Elizabeth (Sarah) Wedgwood (see n. 3, below).
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    f2 1984.f2
    Anne Susan Horner, Charles Lyell's mother-in-law.
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    f3 1984.f3
    Sarah Wedgwood died on 6 November 1856 (Emma Darwin 2: 161). She had broken her hip in an accident in September (see letter to W. D. Fox, 3 October [1856]).
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    f4 1984.f4
    Lyell had been working for several years on an analysis of the volcanic geology of Madeira and intended to publish a paper in collaboration with Georg Hartung (see K. M. Lyell ed. 1881, 2: 232, 282). The paper was eventually abandoned, but Hartung later published most of their results (Hartung 1864).
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    f5 1984.f5
    Lyell had urged CD to publish a short sketch of his theory in order to establish his priority (letter from Charles Lyell, 1–2 May 1856).
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    f6 1984.f6
    See letter to J. A. H. de Bosquet, 9 September [1856].
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