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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Karl von Scherzer   13 February 1877

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | Railway Station | Orpington S.E.R.

Feb. 13/1877

My dear Sir

Thanks for the extracts, which I will look at; but I received some time ago the [Hardman’s] Darwin book from the author, & have never found time to read it.1 In fact owing to the kindness of authors I receive 10 times as many books, as I can possibly read, though there are very many which I shd. much like to read.—

I have, however, made time to read a very large part of the Novara voyage, & I found it very pleasant reading.2 You have collected an astonishing amount of diversified information.

I was very glad to hear about the old places which I had visited, but more especially about the new places. The parts which interested me most were those on Amsterdam & the atoll in the Caroline Archipelago.—3 I always wanted to have a true history of the French Proceedings in Tahiti, for I thought that the English newspapers had probably exaggerated the case. Your account made me burn with indignation.4 It is really a scandal how the French behaved.

With many thanks for your valuable present, I remain, my dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Charles Darwin


The extracts have not been found. Scherzer evidently sent CD a copy of Eduard von Hartmann’s Wahrheit und Irrtum im Darwinismus (Truth and error in Darwinism; Hartmann 1875). Two copies of Hartmann 1875 are in the Darwin Library–Down.
The Austrian Novara expedition (1857–9) circumnavigated the globe, exploring parts of South America and the South Pacific that CD had visited on the Beagle voyage. Scherzer was the author of the Narrative of the expedition (Scherzer 1861–3).
Amsterdam Island is in the southern Indian Ocean (see Scherzer 1861–3, 1: 323–35). The Caroline Islands are in the western Pacific, north of New Guinea. Scherzer described the ring-shaped coral reefs or atolls in the archipelago, and remarked on the evidence supporting CD’s theory of coral-reef formation (Scherzer 1861–3, 2: 556–8 and 585).
According to Scherzer’s Narrative, French naval officers visiting Tahiti in 1842 had declared the island a French colony on the false pretext that the islanders had insulted France by flying the British flag. Although the actions of the officers were not officially supported by the French crown, thereafter Tahiti became a French protectorate (Scherzer 1861–3, 3: 206–9).


Hartmann, Eduard von. 1875. Wahrheit und Irrthum im Darwinismus. Berlin: Carl Duncker.

Narrative: Narrative of the surveying voyages of His Majesty’s ships Adventure and Beagle, between the years 1826 and 1836. [Edited by Robert FitzRoy.] 3 vols. and appendix. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Novara expedition. 1861–75. Reise der österreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859 unter den Befehlen des Commodore B. von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. 9 vols. in 19. Vienna: Kaiserlich-Königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei.

Scherzer, Karl von. 1861–3. Narrative of the circumnavigation of the globe by the Austrian frigate Novara (Commodore B. von Wullerstorf-Urbair), undertaken by order of the imperial government, in the years 1857, 1858, & 1859, under the immediate auspices of his I. and R. Highness, the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian. 3 vols. London: Saunders, Otley, & Co.


Has read a large part of the Novara voyage [Narrative of the circumnavigation of the globe by the Austrian frigate "Novara" (1861–3)] with pleasure. CD was particularly interested in the scandalous French behaviour at Tahiti.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10843,” accessed on 2 December 2020,