skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   [23 January 1847]1



My dear Lyell

Would you be so good, (if you know it) as to put Maclaren’s address on the enclosed letter & post it.2 It is chiefly to enquire in what paper he has described the Boulders on Arthur’s Seat.—3 Mr D. Milne in the last Edin. New Phil. Journal has a long paper on it; he says “some glacialists have ventured to explain the transportation of boulders, even in the situation of those now referred to, by imagining that they were transported on ice-flows”4 &c He treats this view & the scratching of rocks by icebergs as almost absurd; he makes some most foolish remarks, & he has finally stirred me up so, that (without you wd. answer him) I think I will send a paper in opposition to the same Journal.—5 I can thus introduce some old remarks of mine & some new & will insist on your capital observation in N. America.—6 It is a bore to stop one’s work,7 but he has made me quite wrath.—

I have been delighted by finding in the New. Eding. a short letter from Studer to Forbes,8 saying that he has proved the layers in gneiss have nothing to do with stratification in the Alps.— I think this one of the newest things in my Book—but Studer does not guess that this foliation of the gneiss, mica-slate &c, is only much developed cleavage.9 Would you tell Mr. Horner of this; for he asked me what I thought new in my volume with respect to his Address shd he chance to introduce this subject.10 & I pointed out this subject & here are my conclusions, to a certain extent, arrived at quite independently.

You cannot think how much I enjoyed your visit here;11 I don’t believe you could have lost much time, so I heartily hope we shall see you here early next summer

With kindest remembrances to Mrs Lyell. Ever Yours | C. Darwin


The conjectured date is based on CD’s reference to Studer 1847b and is the Saturday following his letter to Bernhard Studer, 20 January [1847].
Charles Maclaren. CD’s letter to him has not been found.
Maclaren 1839, p. 47. Arthur’s Seat is a volcanic formation near Edinburgh.
Milne 1847a, p. 167. The crux of David Milne’s argument against the iceberg hypothesis was the presence of boulders deposited at levels higher than the levels of their parent rocks. He held that floating icebergs could not accomplish such transportation, and he also argued that the boulders would not have been embedded in the clay substratum if they had been dropped by melting icebergs. CD was a leading proponent of the theory that boulders were transported by floating ice (see ‘On the distribution of the erratic boulders … of South America’, Collected papers 1: 145–63).
CD’s rejoinder was not sent to the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal but developed into the paper ‘On the transportal of erratic boulders from a lower to a higher level’ (Collected papers 1: 218–27), read before the Geological Society on 19 April 1848.
C. Lyell 1845, 2: 98–9, 173–5, giving evidence of iceberg action. CD cited Lyell on the subject in ‘On the transportal of erratic boulders’ (Collected papers 1: 222–3).
CD was at work on the anatomy of the Cirripedia (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I).
South America, pp. 140–68. See particularly pp. 140–5, on gneiss, and pp. 162–8, in which CD concluded that both foliation and cleavage were products of the same process and independent of stratification. See also letter to Charles Lyell, [on or before 20 January 1847], n. 2.
Leonard Horner did not refer to CD’s contributions on foliation and cleavage, choosing instead to emphasise his work on elevation and subsidence (Horner 1847).
Charles Lyell had visited CD at Down House on 16 January 1847. See Correspondence vol. 3, letter to J. D. Hooker, [December 1846 – January 1847], for CD’s intention to invite Lyell.


Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Horner, Leonard. 1847. Anniversary address of the president. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 3: xxii-xc.

Maclaren, Charles. 1839. A sketch of the geology of Fife and the Lothians, including detailed descriptions of Arthur’s Seat and Pentland Hills. Edinburgh and London: Adam and Charles Black.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.


Asks CL to address a letter to Charles Maclaren.

Discusses recent publication by David Milne on erratic boulders [Edinburgh New Philos. J. 42 (1847): 154–172].

Views of Bernhard Studer on foliation of gneiss in the Alps. Asks CL to tell Leonard Horner of Studer’s views.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.65)
Physical description
ALS 4pp & C

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1051,” accessed on 2 April 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4