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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. T. Moggridge   9 October [1872]1


Oct. 9

My dear Mr. Moggridge

I have just received your note, forwarded to me from my home. I thank you very truly for your intended present, and I am sure that your book will interest me greatly.2 I am delighted that you have taken up the very difficult and most interesting subject of the habits of insects, on which Englishmen have done so little. How incomparably more valuable are such researches than the mere description of a thousand species.— I dare say you have thought of experimenting on the mental powers of the spiders, by fixing their trapdoors open in different ways and at different angles, and observing what they will do.3

We have been here some days and intend staying some weeks, for I was quite worn out with work and cannot be idle at home.4

I sincerely hope that your health is not worse.5

Believe me | Your’s very truly | Ch. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. T. Moggridge, 6 October 1872.
See letter from J. T. Moggridge, 6 October 1872. CD refers to Moggridge’s book, Harvesting ants and trap-door spiders (Moggridge 1873).
Moggridge performed experiments in which he tried to force open the trapdoor and described how the spider resisted, holding the door shut with the claws attached to the tarsi of its legs (see Moggridge 1873, pp. 94–6). He also described the door-building and repairing activities of captive spiders (ibid., pp. 118–21).
CD stayed in Sevenoaks from 5 to 26 October 1872 (see ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Moggridge, John Traherne. 1873. Harvesting ants and trap-door spiders: notes and observations on their habits and dwellings. London: L. Reeve & Co.


Discusses JTM’s research on habits of insects. "How incomparably more valuable are such researches than the mere description of a thousand species."

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Traherne Moggridge
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 146: 378
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8550,” accessed on 20 October 2019,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20