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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Gilbert Nicholas Smith1   [c. 15 August 1840]


Whether Mr Smith be willing I read his paper to Geolog. Socy. in Autumn, as I think it well worth communicating. (President being willing constant proviso)—2 If so give me Christian name &c &c. It appears to me highly desirable if he will add information, as far as his in his power on following points.—

(1. Were any bones of any of the skeletons found in proper relative 〈p〉osition, as if animal had been washed in whole.—3

〈2.〉Are bones rounded, or broken.4

(3) Are there any stones, angular, or rounded, of limestone or of foreign rock in mud.—5 Are there horizontal lines of deposition in mud.6

(4) Distance of Caldy Isd from main7 & depth of channel.—8

(5) Particularly describe whether beaks of birds were embedded actually with Elephants bones, or chiefly in upper part of fissure.9

(6) Describe same for fishes bones.10

It would be a very valuable present 〈to〉 Geologl. Socy. if Mr. Smith would send some of these beaks & breast bones or bones of leg to Somerset House, directed to me. And if any can be spared, teeth of lion & horse &c, or any bones which are tolerably perfect with their articulations nearly perfect.—

If Mr Smith has no duplicates to spare., if he would send the birds beaks & bones to my house, I would (as soon as pretty well) get them described & examined & account written by good anatomist & append account to his paper & most carefully return them to him, or to any one who would lend them him for this purpose, & pay carriage And without they are examined by Anatomist, they are almost useless to science


The letter was actually written to CD’s sister-in-law, Elizabeth Wedgwood, who was asked to send a note with the questions to G. N. Smith. As the letter from Frances Allen to G. N. Smith, 19 August [1840], explains, she thought it better to send the letter itself to Smith. Elizabeth had built a school on Caldy Island and presumably knew Smith personally (Emma Darwin 2: 106).
The Geological Society did not publish the paper, but Smith later described the fossils at the British Association meeting in Oxford (G. N. Smith 1860).
Answer inserted by Smith: (No)
Answer inserted by Smith: (Broken.)
Answer inserted by Smith: (Angular Limestone.)
Answer inserted by Smith: (Near Top earth mixt with recent shells— | Earth like rotten bones. | Caves 50 feet above sea mark.)
Answer inserted by Smith: 34 of mile—
Answer inserted by Smith: (14 ft to 4–18 ft)
Answer inserted by Smith: In upper part— 2 or 3 feet under the surface—
Answer inserted by Smith: Ditto


Questions GNS on remains found in caves on Caldy Island. [CD’s pencilled queries sent via Frances Allen].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Gilbert Nicholas Smith
Sent from
Physical description
Amem 4pp ††

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 576,” accessed on 24 August 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 2