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Letter 7381

Kovalevsky, V. O. to Darwin, C. R.

22 Nov 1870


Sofya Kovalevsky not admitted to University in Berlin.

Translating the four sheets CD sent. When will book [Descent] be printed?

Alexander [Kovalevsky] has gone to the Red Sea to study corals.

Will work on live Scalpellum at Naples in spring.

Bemoans England’s Prussian sympathies. Paris will fall without bombardment.


Berlin 7. Georgienstrasse.

22 Nov. 1870.

Dear Sir

I did not write You such a long Time not beeing quite sure shallI remain at Berlin or go to Leipsic, and although my wife wasnot admitted to the University here we resolved to remain at Berlinthere beeing here so many means of pursuing studies privately.f1 I hopeYour intended visit did You good and delayed a little the printingof Your book what I most fervently wish as I am a little backwardwith the translation; still, the four sheets You kindly sent me aresoon finished and I pray You dear Sir to send me some more if thereis any printed.—f2 Could You not inform me when do You hope thatboth volumes will appear in England.—f3

From my brother I had news before yesterday, he could not procurehimself live Scalpellum’s and hopes to get them in the spring, when as thepescatori assured him they are much more abundant.f4 He received an offerfrom the Kiev University to send him for 5 months to the Red Sea andstarted the 8 Nov. from Naples, I have letters from Alexandria, wherehe arrived safe the 11 of November and got the same day to Suez; I expecthe will remain the whole time at Tor (Tûr) on the west side of theSinai peninsula and work there on the coral reefs.f5

It seems dear Sir that we are going to have a fight with You, thatcomes all from Your Prussian sympaties; now You allowed Your bestand truest ally to be murdered, who shall prevent Russia & Prussia todivide Austria and trottle the Sick man.f6 We are very anxious aboutthe state of Paris, as my sister in Law is shut up there; the siege isdrawing to the close as the provisions become scanty, so Paris willsurrender without bombardement, one is happy even at this.—f7My wife send You her compliments and prays to remember her toMrs Darwin and the ladies

Yours | Very truly | W. Kowalevsky.—

P.S. The proof sheets can be sent under cover by post, it is generallya safer way.—

DAR 169: 85



Kovalevsky’s last letter to CD is dated 11 October [1870]. SofiaVasilyevna Kovalevskaya was studying privately in Berlin with KarlTheodor Wilhelm Weierstrass (Tee 1976–7, pp. 122–3).
CD had been at Leith Hill Place, the home of his brother-in-lawJosiah Wedgwood III, and Ightam Mote, from 13 to 20 October 1870 (see‘Journal’ (Appendix II)). Kovalevsky was translating Descent fromthe corrected proof-sheets.
Descent was published on 24 February 1871 (see R. B. Freeman 1977).
Kovalevsky refers to Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky; see letterfrom V. O. Kovalevsky, 15 September 1870 and n. 2. Pescatori:fishermen (Italian). Scalpellum is a barnacle genus.
For more on A. O. Kovalevsky’s plans for work in Egypt, see letter fromV. O. Kovalevsky, 28 February [1870].
The French government declared war on Prussia in July 1870. French hopesthat other German states would seize the opportunity to turn onPrussia proved unfounded, and most supported the Prussians; Austriaseemed divided in its hostility to both parties and maintainedneutrality. The Russian government maintained friendly relations withPrussia, and, in September, announced that it repudiated an article inthe Paris Treaty of 1856 referring to the neutrality of the BlackSea. This deeply alarmed the Turkish government, who recognised it asa prelude to the establishment of a Russian fleet in the BlackSea. The Ottoman (Turkish) empire was at the time sometimes referredto as the ‘sick man of Europe’. Collusion between the Russians and thePrussians at a time of French weakness was suspected, and the BritishGovernment rejected any adjustment of the terms of thetreaty. (Annual Register (1870): 109 (United Kingdom); 154–221(France); 233 (Germany); 251 (Austria); 284–5 (Russia); 288(Turkey).)
Paris came under siege by the Prussians in September 1870. InOctober, Otto von Bismarck hadannounced his intention of reducing the city by famine rather thanbombardment (Annual Register (1870): 187). Sofia’s sister was Anna Korvin-Krukovskaya.
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