skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From John Lubbock   23 August 1862

15, Lombard Street. E.C.

23 August 1862

My dear Mr. Darwin

I am very sorry to hear so sad an account of your family, but hope that you are now getting out of your troubles.1 Atherley called here the other day & gave a flourishing account of William, but leaving him for a fortnight was even more complimentary.2

My Swiss tour was most successful;3 besides spending a week in the mountains with Tyndall & Huxley,4 which was capital fun, I visited nearly all the collections of Lake antiquities & saw five of the Pfahlbauten themselves.5 Three of them, those at Nernier, Thonon, & Morges in the Lake of Geneva I saw from a boat. The water was from 8 to 12 ft. deep, but so clear that I could see quite well, the piles & other things at the bottom.

We thought we saw a hatchet and I undressed & dived for it. After two or three ineffectual attempts we poked at it with a pole, & it turned out to be only a bit of wood. At Wauwyl the old floor is covered by three or four feet of peat, and the lake has been drained. We spent several hours in digging & got three hatchets, three or four implements in bone & a great many bits of pottery & more or less broken bones. There also the beams forming the floor are preserved in the peat, & one could stand, as it were, on the old floor.

I have got a hymenopterous insect which uses its wings to swim with in the water! Probably it is looking for a victim on which to lay eggs; but it strikes me as a most curious adaptation & one which would interest you much.6

I have also a case of dimorphism in Psocus, but have not yet been able to make out much about it. It had been already suspected by Westwood.7

Your case of trimorphism makes ones mental mouth water for more information.8

Let me know when you return as I am very anxious for a talk with you.9

Yours affec | John Lubbock

P.S. I send a subscription to Martin10


See letter to John Lubbock, 21 August [1862]. Lubbock refers to George Atherley, William Erasmus Darwin’s partner in the Southampton and Hampshire Bank; in 1861, Lubbock had helped to arrange William’s partnership with Atherley (see Correspondence vol. 9).
Lubbock had visited Switzerland in July and early August (Hutchinson 1914, 1: 55–6; John Lubbock’s diary (British Library, Add. Ms. 62679: 64 r.)).
According to John Lubbock’s diary (British Library, Add. Ms. 62679: 64 r.), Lubbock spent ten days with Thomas Henry Huxley and John Tyndall, who were in Switzerland for a holiday (Eve and Creasy 1945, p. 92; L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 234).
According to his diary (British Library, Add. Ms. 62679: 64 r.), Lubbock spent the latter part of his visit to Switzerland with the Swiss archaeologist, Charles Adolphe Morlot, studying the recently discovered remains of prehistoric lake-dwellings or ‘Pfahlbauten’. Lubbock had described the remains from written reports, in a paper for the January 1862 number of the Natural History Review (Lubbock 1862b). He gave details of his own observations in his book Pre-historic times (Lubbock 1865, pp. 119–70).
In October 1862, Lubbock read an account of this insect, which he proposed to name Polynema natans, and of a second, unrelated, aquatic species of Hymenoptera, before the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Cambridge (Lubbock 1862d). He reported that he had found the insects ‘on one of the early days in August’ in water from a pond near his house (Lubbock 1862d, p. 110). Lubbock described the species in greater detail in Lubbock 1863e.
Lubbock refers to the entomologist John Obadiah Westwood; the reference has not been further identified.
CD, Emma, and Leonard Darwin were staying with William in Southampton (see letter to John Lubbock, 21 August [1862]). According to CD’s ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II), they did not return to Down until 30 September.
William Charles Linnaeus Martin; see letter to John Lubbock, 21 August [1862] and n. 8.


JL’s Swiss tour with Tyndall and Huxley.


Letter details

Letter no.
John Lubbock (4th baronet and 1st Baron Avebury)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Lombard St, 15
Source of text
DAR 170: 31
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3698,” accessed on 29 June 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10