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Darwin Correspondence Project

To James Geikie   26 October 1876

Down. | Beckenham Kent

Oct 26.— 76.

My dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for so kindly sending me your “Great Ice Age”  It is a most acceptable present, as I have long intended to read the first Edit: but have never yet found time—1 The Subject is one which fascinates me, chiefly owing to a little incident which I will mention as showing the grand progress of Geology— When I was a boy an acute old Gentleman who had attended to Geology & Natural history showed me a boulder in Shropshire & assured me solemnly that the world would pass away before any one could explain how this great stone came from Cumberland or Scotland—2 This made a deep impression on me & you may believe how delighted I was some 40 years ago, when floating ice action was first broached. to be followed some years afterwards by glacier action—3

With very sincere thanks. | I remain Dear Sir. | Yours faithfully | Charles Darwin.


There is an annotated copy of the second edition of Geikie’s Great ice age and its relation to the antiquity of man (J. Geikie 1877) in the Darwin Library–CUL (see Marginalia 1: 299–300). The first edition was J. Geikie 1874.
Richard Cotton (see ‘Recollections’, p. 373).
Charles Lyell had discussed the role of floating ice in depositing erratic boulders in Principles of geology (C. Lyell 1837, 4: 46–7), and Louis Agassiz had proposed glacier action in Agassiz 1838.


Agassiz, Louis. 1838. On the erratic blocks of the Jura. Edinburgh New Journal 24: 176–9.

Geikie, James. 1874. The great ice age and its relation to the antiquity of man. London: W. Isbister.

Geikie, James. 1877. The great ice age and its relation to the antiquity of man. 2d edition. London: Daldy, Isbister & Co.

Marginalia: Charles Darwin’s marginalia. Edited by Mario A. Di Gregorio with the assistance of Nicholas W. Gill. Vol. 1. New York and London: Garland Publishing. 1990.

‘Recollections’: Recollections of the development of my mind and character. By Charles Darwin. In Evolutionary writings, edited by James A. Secord. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.


Comments on JG’s book [The great ice age and its relation to the antiquity of man, 2d ed. (1877)]. Recalls erratic boulder he knew in Shropshire as a boy.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Murdoch (James) Geikie
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 144: 330
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10655,” accessed on 12 June 2021,

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