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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Marius Koch   3 January 1879


3 Jan. 1879.—

Dear Sir!

By the present I take the liberty to accost you on some grave subject, hoping you will forgive an indiscreet young man, who wishes to receive some counsels from the celebrated foundator of the theory of the development himself.— I Studied since several years your works, “Descent of man” “the Origin of the species” etc etc & I am now one of your most diligent disciples & you can be assured that when I had time as much as I wished to have, I would do all my possible by writing & speaking to spread & to instruct your doctrine.— To my great regret I am merchant & have no much time! Nevertheless I use every moment and write sometime little articles.— The last one I wrote was titulated, “Men with tails” in which I spoken about the communications of some travellers, who had seen some men with this difformity & who heard about whole nations in the interior of New Guinea who possesses a tail & where every child who is borned without this ornament is died instantly!—1 I don’t say all those relations are true but I believe that this difformity is not absolut impossible and that a selection and a cruising of tailed individus can be the origin of a tailed people.— As I said above it is not the question if this people exists or not, but only if such a difformity is possible? Dear Sir will you be so kind now to write me your opinion in that subject & to say me if you have heard perhaps of one of your many correspondents about tailed men!

Wishing you a very happy year, I remain, after many thanks | your most obedient servant | M Koch

M. Koch | care off Koch & Vlierboom | Rotterdam2


For the story about people with tails on islands off the coast of New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea), see The Times, 29 December 1876, p. 4; it originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 1876, p. 3.
Koch’s parents were Ferdinand Koch and Johanna Cornelia Vlierboom; the firm of Koch & Vlierboom were East India merchants.


A young disciple wishes to know if reports of people with tails in New Guinea could be true.

Letter details

Letter no.
Marius Koch
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 48
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 11819,” accessed on 20 March 2023,