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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Arthur Nicols   10 November 1875

11. Church Row | N. W | Hampstead

Nov 10th. 1875

My dear Sir.

I am infinitely obliged to you for finding my poor MS.1 It really was not worth troubling you for a moment: since I, at 35 years of age, ought to have ample time to repeat everything. The tone of your letter distresses me beyond measure, and since this is probably the last letter which will pass between us (for I will not add one grain to your labours) I will speak my whole mind. I am only one of many thousands of men who have taken from you the line of investigation which should lead to the true understanding of this complex life of man and the animals & plants from which he must have sprung.

You, in what you term “old age” have given no doubt the true solution of the case of the rats with the leaden pipe.2 They heard the trickling water (as you say) no doubt, and bored into the lead until they reached it. But this testifies to their intelligence and experimental knowledge, I venture to believe.

This solution of the circumstance is due to you, and I can see no other— I have the perforated pipe here, and I shall deposit it in one of the museums of the country. Perhaps the B.M. would not accept it.

It may interest you to know that I am trying in my small way to bring the past of our earth within the ken of the populace by a series of articles on the Tertiary vertebrata in comparison with living (and perhaps representative) forms—for “Frazer” or “Blackwood”.3

Let me subscribe myself—perhaps for the last time— yours faithfully & affectionately, | R. Arthur Nicols.


The manuscript has not been identified; however, CD had encouraged Nicols to write a short paper on his observations of animal communication in Australia (see Correspondence vol. 20, letter from Arthur Nicols, 23 August 1872).
See letter from Arthur Nicols, [before 10 November 1875]. He wrote to CD about the case again in his letter of 8 December 1875.
No articles by Nicols have been found in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine or Fraser’s Magazine. He later wrote two popular histories of geology and palaeontology (Nicols 1877 and 1880; see Correspondence vol. 24, letter from Arthur Nicols, 24 February 1876).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Nicols, Arthur. 1877. The puzzle of life and how it has been put together: a short history of vegetable and animal life upon the earth from the earliest times: including an account of pre-historic man, his weapons, tools, and works. London: Longmans, Green & Co.


Apologises for troubling CD to look for his lost MS.

Letter details

Letter no.
Robert Arthur (Arthur) Nicols
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 172: 63
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10255,” accessed on 23 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23