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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Farrer   23 September 1877

Abinger Hall, | Dorking. | (Gomshall S.E.R. | Station & Telegraph.)

23 Sept/77

My dear Mr Darwin

I send you my worm journal up to today.1 If I get anything more I will send it. One remarkable thing is the pertinacity with which upwards of 40 holes are kept open, whilst not above 8 regular castings are made. I am sure I have not over counted the holes.

Sincerely yrs | T H Farrer


25 August. Mr Darwin left.2 No fresh holes

26 — After very heavy rain. 40 holes washed clear— one worm coming out— 4 holes on v through east wall. No holes visible in the solid part of the concrete, where the water lay.

27 Aug to 5 Sept. absent from Abinger3

5 Sept. Not so many holes, but many tracks— 5 or 6 worm casts.

6 — No new casts— many tracks

7 — No new casts— Worms seem at work again— many casts in meadow and lawn.

8 — 2 or 3 new casts

9 — No new casts

10 to 11. no observation

12. 10 fresh holes or casts. I defaced all the casts and raisings of the soil— The first sign of a hole is a lifting or cracking of the soil.

13. Soft wet weather. 31 freshly made casts and holes shewn by raising of the soil. I defaced them all

14 Mild soft weather. 34 freshly made casts & holes shewn as above— I defaced all—

15 Sept. Mild damp weather. 44 freshly made holes— ground raised largely— Not above 5 actual castings. Some of the holes in wall. I defaced all. holes & castings.

The holes and castings when defaced—are made again in the same places.

16 & 17 away

18. Cool with North East wind. 43 freshly made holes. 8 distinct castings. 2 worms visible— They do not get through the solid concrete but they do get through the wall. I defaced the castings—not the holes.

(Worms are now fully at work on the lawn & in the fields. Many on the old lawn: and in the meadows—not on deep recently moved soil. Plenty on the gravel paths though these are laid with beds of brick bats & lime rubbish. Very few on the peaty paths on the rough. Not many in the poor barren sand.)

19 Cool and dry— 40 holes— 8 distinct castings. I defaced the castings.

20. Wet night & day. 5 new castings. I defaced them

21. Fine cold night. after very wet day (20th)— 34 holes— very few castings— one worm dead— I defaced nothing

22. with George Darwin. Fine fresh day after cold night 43 holes: Defaced all.

23. Damp day after damp cool night. 44 holes. 8 castings defaced all.

N.B. As castings I have counted only the earth or mud casts which bear the marks of having been through the worms body. There are often little piles of large grains of sand or small stones round the mouths of the holes  These I have not counted—but they are I think less numerous than the castings—

It is obvious from the great disproportion of castings to holes—that the worms come to the surface for some purpose other than that of merely getting rid of their castings.

CD annotations

3.2 4 holes … wall.] underl blue crayon and red crayon
14.2 Some … wall.] underl red crayon
17.2 solid] underl red crayon
17.2 they … wall. 17.3] underl red crayon

First CD note:

Sept 25— 1877 | Farrer writes 50 worm-holes were counted yesterday

Second CD note:

In letter from Farrer dated Oct 13th. 77 He says he counted 61 open worm holes on the old space.4


See letter from T. H. Farrer, 5 September 1877 and n. 3. Farrer’s observations are summarised in Earthworms, pp. 186–8.
CD was visiting Farrer when the excavation of the villa was begun on 20 August 1877; this followed the discovery of archaeological remains on a neighbouring site the previous year (Earthworms, pp. 178–9).
Farrer was on holiday in Shropshire during this period (letter from T. H. Farrer, 5 September 1877).
CD added the information in these notes to his account of Farrer’s observations (see Earthworms, p. 188).


Earthworms: The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1881.


Sends "worm journal" – observations of earthworm activity at Abinger.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Farrer, 1st baronet and 1st Baron Farrer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Abinger Hall
Source of text
DAR 64.2: 50–1, DAR 164: 84
Physical description
ALS 1p, encl 3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11150,” accessed on 1 March 2024,