skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Horace Darwin   7 October 1880

66 Hills Road Cambridge

Oct. 7th. 1880

Dear Father,

I enclose the drawing, and a couple of samples of grass and shading, which perhaps you might like to see.1 I am quite sure there is no mistake in the drawing this time. I could do the shading more carefully if you wished it done. I also send the Gravetye notes, but I dont think they will be much good.2 If you want me to ask Mr. Easton anything, I shall be in London early next week & could do so.3 He was away when I took the notes. This morning I went to the place I told you about where I had seen the worm castings. It is a little back street called Saint Tibbs Row.4 On one side there is a wall which comes down to the pavement, leaving a crack between the flags and the bricks of the wall from 12 in. to 112 in. wide   It is on the earth in this crack where I found the castings. There are some trees on the other side of the wall, but I saw no leaves about, but there were plenty of bits of straw, & grass lying near the castings. Also several small grasses were growing near the castings and on the wall there was moss. I suppose from this that this is of no use to you, shall I observe anything more about it.

We are getting a little more settled here, but things are very much upside down still, & there is plenty to do.5 George is back but I have not seen him yet, when I do I hope to hear a better account of Mother.6

Your affec son | Horace Darwin

[Enclosure 1]


[Enclosure 2]


[Enclosure 3]

Sep 10th. 1878

Gravetye Manor.

I was told that the S.W. corner of the house had settled, & I went into the cellar to see if I could see any worms at work. I found a good many at work between the stones   they were small castings. The floor was damp. & I believe water lodges sometimes or rather used to lodge there, there are drains made in the floor. I only found castings near the S.W. corner, the floor having been repaved over a good piece of the cellar. There was a root between the stones in one place. In some other parts of the pavement it was possible to force anything down between the stones for a few inches, there being nothing between them or only very loose earth. The ground had been opened at the S.W. corner outside the house to a depth of about 4 feet to see if anything could be found out about the sinking but with what result I do not know.


This section7 shows the start of a paving stone next to the wall, which I thought at first might be due to the worms, but I think it most likely it is not so, because the floor has gutters in it, & there is one running parallel to this wall about 14″ from it, and a little beyond the point where the section is taken, hence this stone might have been placed in the position in which I found it, so as to form the beginning of the gutter.

CD annotations

Enclosure 1:
Top of page: ‘Fig. 4.’ ink circled ink and red crayon
Top of diagram: ‘This grass ridiculous to be done in conventional manner’ ink circled red crayon
Middle of diagram: ‘Mould | Usual Dark for mould’ pencil over erased illeg
Bottom of diagram: ‘Oblique shading undisturbed subsoil’ ink; ‘1/20’ ink del ink
Below diagram: ‘undefined’ pencil; ‘Three kinds of fragments—white smooth pebbles—fragments of marl—& black very irregular coal-cinder’ pencil circled red crayon
Bottom of page: ‘Section at Maer’ ink del ink; ‘see Back’ pencil del ink
Enclosure 2:
Top of page: ‘Fig. 5.’ ink circled ink
Upper diagram: ‘This grass too untidy & too dark’ pencil circled pencil; ‘A A. Level of Field’ pencil del pencil; ‘See fig. 6. About the kind of shading’ ink circled red crayon
Lower diagram: ‘This is merely to show kind of shading’ ink, double scored red crayon

CD note:

Enclosure 1 verso:


Section in field at Maer Hall

Reduced to 12 natural scale

A. Turf 12 inch

B. fine vegetable mould 212 inches

C. Mould with fragments (describe) 21 12

D. Substratum of black peaty soil with grey pebbles


Enclosure 1 was reproduced as figure 5 in Earthworms, p. 133, and used to show the amount by which a layer of burnt marl and cinders that had been strewn on newly drained land fifteen years previously had sunk by 1837 owing to the action of worms. The two other drawings (enclosure 2) portray a boulder near Leith Hill Place in Surrey, illustrating how large stones sink in the ground owing to worm activity; these drawings form the basis of figure 6 in Earthworms, p. 151. See also plates on pp. 322–3.
See enclosure 3. Horace’s observations at Gravetye Manor in Sussex were included in Earthworms, pp. 105–6, although CD does not give the name of the house.
Edward Easton was the owner of Gravetye Manor, West Hoathly (Post Office directory of the six home counties 1878). He was a partner in the engineering firm Easton and Anderson, where Horace Darwin had served an apprenticeship from 1874 to 1877 (ODNB).
St Tibbs Row is in Cambridge.
Horace and Ida Darwin had recently moved to their new home at 66 Hills Road, Cambridge.
George Howard Darwin, Horace’s brother, lived in Trinity College, Cambridge (F. Darwin 1916). Emma Darwin had been ill on 3 and 4 October 1880; she was ill again from 9 to 13 October (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
The diagram is reproduced here at 90 per cent of its original size.


Darwin, Francis. 1916. Memoir of Sir George Darwin. In Scientific papers, by George Howard Darwin. Vol. 5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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


Worm-castings. Encloses notes about worm activities at Gravetye Manor.

Letter details

Letter no.
Horace Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 65: 99, 100; DAR 162: 72, 73
Physical description
ALS 2pp †, encl 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12742,” accessed on 17 May 2022,