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Darwin Correspondence Project

From L. C. Wedgwood   20 November [1871]1

Leith Hill Place. Dorking.

Nov 20th.

My dear Uncle Charles

Thank you very much indeed for sending me such a full account of the worm castings which I was deeply interested to read. What a wonderfully accurate guess of yours about the amount! The 16 tons an acre is the most astonishing part.2

I have just been teazing the turkey cock— none of us have ever seen one rattle his feathers, wing or tail, but only scrape the wings along the ground, at the same time making a slight sound, apparently from the throat. What he did when angry with me was to puff out all his feathers, spreading tail and wings, but not in the same manner as when shewing off, indeed as Papa remarked quite the reverse, for instead of stiffening his wings, he let them hang down quite loose;—and there was no rattling.3

I saw him make 3 attempts to pick up a grain of corn before he cd. succeed, for his fleshy nose appendage!4

Yr. afft. niece | Lucy Wedgwood

CD annotations

1.1 Thank you … part. 1.3] crossed pencil


The year is established by the reference to worm castings (see n. 2, below).
CD’s account has not been found (see, however, letter to Henry Johnson, 23 December 1871). Worm castings were collected between October 1870 and October 1871 by Wedgwood from two separate square yards of ground marked out near her home in Leith Hill Place; the last collections were made on 14 and 27 October 1871. Based on the weight of the dried castings from one of the squares, CD calculated that worms could raise 16.1 tons of earth annually on an acre of land (see Earthworms, pp. 165–9).
In Descent 2: 60–1, CD had described the courtship displays of male turkeys, noting that they scraped their wings against the ground, though birds of paradise and peacocks rattled their quills.
The fleshy nose appendage (or snood) is much larger in male than in female turkeys.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.

Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.


Displays in turkeys.

Letter details

Letter no.
Lucy Caroline Wedgwood/Lucy Caroline Harrison
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Leith Hill Place
Source of text
DAR 181: 62
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7377,” accessed on 20 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19