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Darwin Correspondence Project

DCP-LETT-1713

To G. R. Waterhouse   8 July [1855]

Down Farnborough Kent

July 8th

My dear Waterhouse

Two of my Boys1 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,2 but he uses such dreadfully hard words; & there is no Synopsis. Westwood in his “Modern Classification”3 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,4 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.5

Footnotes

1
William, aged 15, and George, aged 10. See letter to W. E. Darwin, [25 April 1855].
2
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.
3
Westwood 1839–40. CD’s annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
4
Westwood 1841, arranged and illustrated by Henry Noel Humphreys.
5
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.

Summary

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.

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-1713
From
Darwin, C. R.
To
Waterhouse, G. R.
Sent from
Down
Physical description
4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1713,” accessed on 28 July 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-1713

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