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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   [before 1 August 1880]1


My dear F.

I have just been reading a notice (& must refer to several original German papers) on very ancient furrowed fields in Germany & Scandinavia & Scotland—believed to be prehistoric.2 They are on mountain sides & apparently at a considerable elevation.— Did you not tell me of some such old furrowed land in N. Wales. I wish you wd. enquire & have a look at any such place. It is a bad time of year, & too soon for many castings. Could you take a light spade & see if you can find worms? If such places are not distant wd. Mrs Atkins3 look in Autumn at them & see if there are castings on the old furrowed land? If there are many, it is a most serious difficulty in the way of my belief of the smoothing power of worms.— I see in my notes I cd. see no castings where there is much Heath growing: Is this true? I have been miserably compelled to take up my worm-notes.

C. D.—

Are there more castings at the bottom of the furrows than on the summits or convex part?

Thanks for today’s pleasant acct4 | ED


The date is established by the relationship between this letter, the letter to Francis Darwin, 28 July [1880], and the letter from Francis Darwin, [1 August 1880].
CD refers to Edward Burnett Tylor’s presidential address to the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, in which Tylor discussed recent archaeological work on German ‘high-fields’ and their similarity to Scottish ‘elf-furrows’ and tilled plots in Swedish forests (Tylor 1880, p. 451). CD cited Tylor 1880 in Earthworms, p. 293 n.
This sentence was added at the top of the letter by Emma Darwin. The letter containing the pleasant account has not been found; it may have been addressed to Emma.


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

Tylor, Edward Burnett. 1880. President’s address. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 9: 443–58.


Are there old furrowed fields on hillsides in N. Wales, if so can FD look for earthworm activity?

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 211: 64
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12645,” accessed on 18 May 2022,