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Darwin Correspondence Project

From A. B. Buckley   12 February 1876

1 St Mary’s Terrace | Paddington W.

Feb 12. 1876.

Dear Mr. Darwin,

Thank you so much for your kind appreciative letter. It has given me very great pleasure for I never expected that you would even read such a simple little book as mine, much less read it through & take the trouble to comment upon it.1 I have been thinking that I ought to have said something of Murchison & now you suggest it I will work it in to the next edition—2 Mrs. Lyell also had already lamented to me the absence of botany in the 19th. century & I am very glad to know of a book to which I can apply for information.3 I tried to say what I thought was true about Natural Selection but it was impossible to do it justice (even for beginners) in a few pages & without details.4

Would you take the trouble on p 322 line 17 to substitute the words “an incandescent gas” for “an ordinary gas flame” It is not true as it stands but one of those stupid mistakes one discovers afterwards—5

I hope you are feeling well & able to do a fair share of work   I often miss not hearing how you are & what you are doing, as I did in past times—6

Please remember me very kindly to Mrs. Darwin & with many many thanks for your kind letter | Believe me | Yours very sincerely | Arabella B Buckley

PS. Have you seen Monteiro’s “Angola & the River Congo”   I made his acquaintance at the British Museum & found him a very intelligent observer. He says he has now had those copper-tailed birds in confinement two or three years & the copper still appears on the tail & is easily washed off—7


In his letter to Buckley of 11 February [1876], CD had commented on her book A short history of natural science (Buckley 1876).
See letter to A. B. Buckley, 11 February [1876] and n. 3. Buckley added a brief description of Roderick Impey Murchison’s work in stratigraphy to the second edition of her book (Buckley 1879, pp. 431–2).
Katherine Murray Lyell had written A geographical handbook of all the known ferns (K. M. Lyell 1870) and collected plants in India (R. Desmond 1994). CD had recommended Julius Sachs’s Geschichte der Botanik (Sachs 1875b) as a source for information on botany (letter to A. B. Buckley, 11 February [1876] and n. 4)
Buckley had written, ‘You can see this by looking at an ordinary gas flame through Browning’s little spectroscope’ (Buckley 1876, p. 322). She changed the text to read, ‘You can see this by putting a pinch of salt into a candle-flame, and examining it through Browning’s little spectroscope’, in her second edition (Buckley 1879, p. 332).
Buckley had been Charles Lyell’s secretary from 1864 until his death in 1875 (ODNB), so would have heard about CD’s activities from him.
In Angola and the river Congo (Monteiro 1875, 2: 75–9), Joachim John Monteiro discussed the pigment, turacin, in the feathers of ‘plantain-eaters’, the local name for the birds Corythaix paulina (a synonym of Tauraco erythrolophus, the red-crested turaco) and Corythaix livingstonii (a synonym of Tauraco livingstonii, Livingstone’s turaco). He described birds of both species that he kept as pets. Turacin, a pigment containing about six per cent copper, soluble in alkaline liquids, is found only in turacos (family Musophagidae).


Buckley, Arabella Burton. 1876. A short history of natural science and of the progress of discovery from the time of the Greeks to the present day: for the use of schools and young persons. London: John Murray.

Buckley, Arabella Burton. 1879. A short history of natural science and of the progress of discovery from the time of the Greeks to the present day. 2d edition. London: Edward Stanford.

Desmond, Ray. 1994. Dictionary of British and Irish botanists and horticulturists including plant collectors, flower painters and garden designers. New edition, revised with the assistance of Christine Ellwood. London: Taylor & Francis and the Natural History Museum. Bristol, Pa.: Taylor & Francis.

Lyell, Katharine Murray. 1870. A geographical handbook of all the known ferns with tables to show their distribution. London: John Murray.

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Thanks CD for letter complimenting her book. Responds to his comments on botany and geology in book.

Letter details

Letter no.
Arabella Burton Buckley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 160: 365
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10389,” accessed on 4 March 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 24