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Darwin Correspondence Project


To John Price    29 November [1842–55]1

Down | Bromley | Kent

Nov. 29th

Dear Price

I shd have answered your letter of the 12th sooner, had I not lately been much engaged.— I am sorry to say that I am not likely to be able to assist you in the manner you point out, as I do not happen to know any schoolmaster in this part of the country.2

Nor can I answer your Zoological question, but I shd suppose your two Serpulæ were distinct: it is now certainly known, that animals of quite distinct species & even genera, inhabit & form serpula-shells, which in external form are indistinguishably alike.3

Yours very truly | C. Darwin


The date range is inferred from the address, which CD used from September 1842, when the family moved to Down, to May 1846, when he began to use ‘Down, Farnborough, Kent’. In October 1855, the address was again changed to ‘Down, Bromley, Kent’. The reference to not yet knowing any schoolmaster near Down also suggests that the letter was written before 1850, when William Erasmus Darwin reached school age.
Price had been a friend of CD and his brother Erasmus Alvey Darwin at Shrewsbury School and at Cambridge University. He was a private tutor in Chester.
Serpula is a genus of sedentary polychaetes, commonly known as fanworms.


Not able to assist JP as he knows no schoolmaster in the area.

Cannot answer zoological question but thinks the two Serpulae are distinct.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Price, John
Sent from
Source of text
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (BANC MSS 74/78 z)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1786,” accessed on 24 October 2016,