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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Sophy Wedgwood   8 October [1880]1


Oct 8th.

My dear Sophy.

Will you be so kind in any of your walks as to observe whether there ⁠⟨⁠      ⁠⟩⁠ any or many worm castings in the midst of Heath. It would be best to look where any grass-covered path crosses Heath, for if there are castings on the grass-covered paths or road & not amongst the Heath, it would show that heath is somehow unfavourable for worms. I ask, because I find a memorandum in my notes, that “there does not appear to be any worms amongst the Heath on Hayes common”.—2 If Lucy is with you, I know that she would readily look from her well-known affection for worms—3 I am also becoming deeply attached to worms.— Can Lucy remember what sort of lantern she used when she looked at the worms. We find that the light frightens them.4

Give my best love to your Mother; I do hope that she is better5 | Yours affectionately | C. Darwin


The year is established by the references to CD’s work on worms.
CD’s memorandum has not been found, but there are notes dated 15 October 1880 noting the lack of worms on the patch of heath on Keston Common near Hayes (DAR 64.1: 51). In Earthworms, p. 10, CD stated that hardly any worms were found in heath. Hayes Common was near Bromley, Kent.
Lucy Caroline Harrison was Sophy’s sister. In 1872 she had helped CD ascertain the angle of worm burrows on slopes using a knitting needle; she also observed wormcasts on Leith Hill common (see Correspondence vol. 20, letters to L. C. Wedgwood, 5 January [1872]) and 21 January [1872]). Her detailed results were given in the letters from L. C. Wedgwood, [8 February 1872] and [15 June 1872?] (ibid.).
CD discussed worms’ responses to light in Earthworms, pp. 19–25.
Caroline Sarah Wedgwood, CD’s sister, had been ill at the start of October (see letter to T. H. Farrer, 1 October 1880 and n. 9).


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


Asks her to look for worm-castings in heath. Thinks heath conditions may be unfavourable. CD is sure Lucy would look with her, from her well-known affection for worms. Asks what sort of lantern Lucy used.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Katherine Elizabeth Sophy (Sophy) Wedgwood
Sent from
Source of text
Cambridge University Library (MS Add 4251: 335)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12745,” accessed on 19 June 2024,