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Darwin Correspondence Project

To J. D. Dana   5 December [1849]

Down Farnborough Kent

Dec. 5th

My dear Sir

I have not for some years been so much pleased, as I have just been by reading your most able discussion on coral-reefs.— I thank you most sincerely for the very honourable mention you make of me.— This day I heard that the Atlas1 has arrived & this completes your munificent present to me.— I have not yet come to the chapter on subsidence, & in that I fancy we shall disagree, but in the descriptive part, our agreement has been eminently satisfactory to me, & far more than I ever ventured to anticipate.— I consider that now the subsidence theory is established.—

I have read about half through the descriptive part of the volcanic Geology (last night I ascended the peaks of Tahiti with you, & what I saw in my short excursion was most vividly brought before me by your descriptions) & have been most deeply interested by it: your observations on the Sandwich craters strike me as the most important & original of any that I have read for a long time. Now that I have read you, I believe I saw at the Galapagos, at a distance, instances of those most curious fissures of eruption. There are many points of resemblance between the Galapagos & Sandwich isds (even to the shape of the mound-like hills) viz in the liquidity of the lavas, absence of scoriæ & tuff-craters.—2 Many of your scattered remarks on denudation have particularly interested me; but I see that you attribute less to sea & more to running water than I have been accustomed to do.— After your remarks in your last very kind letter, I could not help skipping on to the Australian valleys, on which your remarks strike me as exceedingly ingenious & novel, but they have not converted me: I cannot conceive how the great lateral bays could have been scooped out, & their sides rendered precipitous by running water.3 I shall go on & read every word of your excellent volume.—

I have been endeavouring to get the papers &c, which you want. I have procured the 4 first Parts of Thompson Researches;4 the 5th part has been lost, & even the Publisher knows not how;—this I hope you will allow me to give you.— Professor Bell has sent me for you copies of all his Papers;5 I have applied elsewhere, but whether I shall succeed I know not. In the course of two or three weeks I will send all off to you through Delf—6 I will gratify myself by including copies of several Geolog. papers of my own.

If you look over my Geolog. Instructions,7 you will be amused to see that I urge attention to several points, which you have elaborately discussed. I lately read a paper of your’s on Chambers’ book8 & was interested by it— I really believe that facts of the order described by Chambers, occur in S. America, which I have described in my Geolog. Volume. This leads me to ask you, (as I cannot doubt that you will have much Geolog. weight in N. America) to look to a discussion at p. 135 in that volume, on the importance of subsidence to the formation of deposits, which are to last to a distant age.9 This view strikes me as of some importance.

When I meet a very goodnatured man, I have that degree of badness of disposition in me, that I always endeavour to take advantage of him: therefore I am going to mention some desiderata, which if you can supply I shall be very grateful, but if not no answer will be required. I want much a specimen of Coronula denticulata of Say on the Kings Crab of U. States.—10 I especially want any species of the genus Scalpellum11 (of course I wd. return any specimens only lent me, only I require to open one specimen of each kind). How far south in Antarctic sea did you meet any Anatifas; I have Sir J. Ross’ collection12 but there are no precise localities: the common Antartic Anatifa I have called australis; it differs from all northern forms.—

Do you know any Crustacean which bores in calcareous rocks or shells?13 Do you know any crust, whose oviducts open at or near the antennæ? Did you discover where the ovaria are situated in Phyllosoma?14 Lastly can you tell me whether any list has been published of the plants found on Elevated coral islands; or could you procure me such a list.— Now can you forgive me asking you all these questions; please observe, that I beg you not to answer, without you can inform me on these points (which I well know is not likely) or help me with respect to above specimens.—

I do not know whether Sir C. Lyell has as yet seen your Report, but I wrote to him yesterday & told him how much many parts of your volume would interest him. What an unfortunately short time you were permitted to stay at many of the places, yet how much you managed to see!

With my most sincere thanks for the honour you have done me & the gratification you have afforded me | Pray believe me | Yours very sincerely | C. Darwin

Thank you for your Conspectus Crust,15 but I am sorry to say I am not worthy of it; though I have always thought the Crustacea a beautiful subject.


The Atlas to Dana 1849a.
From Volcanic islands, p. 112, it is clear that CD intended to say that the islands were alike in the absence of scoriae and the presence of tuff craters.
John Vaughan Thompson’s Zoological researches and illustrations was published in parts between 1828 and 1834, some of which soon became difficult to procure. This is the work in which the larval stages of cirripedes was first described (J. V. Thompson 1830).
The papers referred to are probably those Thomas Bell published on Crustacea between 1835 and 1846. Dana was at work on a two-volume monograph on Crustacea, Dana 1852–3.
Thomas Delf, a London bookseller.
CD’s chapter on geology in Herschel ed. 1849 (Collected papers 1: 227–50).
Either Dana 1849b or 1849c, almost identical reviews of Robert Chambers’s Ancient sea margins (Chambers 1848).
South America, p. 135.
See letter to A. A. Gould, 3 September [1848], for CD’s interest in the Coronula dentulata described by Thomas Say, and his request for a specimen.
Scalpellum was of particular interest to CD bacause of its peculiar sexual relations (see Living Cirripedia (1851): 281–93).
That is, the collections made during the Antarctic voyage of the Erebus and Terror, under James Clark Ross’s command.
CD was interested in the boring mechanisms of certain genera of cirripedes and sought for comparison analogous cases in the Mollusca and Crustacea (see letter to Albany Hancock, [29 or 30 October 1849]).
Phyllosomes are larvae of certain decapod crustaceans but at this time had been classed as a group of abberrant stomatopods. In Living Cirripedia (1854): 18–19, CD compared Cirripedia to other sub-classes of Crustacea, noting their general affinity to the Entomostraca, yet remarking that in the higher sub-class Podopthalmia there was: ‘one aberrant group of low organisation, namely, that including Phyllosoma … in which more points of resemblance to Cirripedes may be detected, than, as I believe, in any other group whatever’ (p. 18).
Dana 1847–9. There is no copy of this work in the Darwin Library.


Chambers, Robert. 1848. Ancient sea margins. Edinburgh.

Collected papers: The collected papers of Charles Darwin. Edited by Paul H. Barrett. 2 vols. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. 1977.

Dana, James Dwight. 1847–9. Conspectus crustaceorum, quæ in orbis terrarum circumnavigatione, Carolo Wilkes e classe Reipublicæ Fœderatæ duce, lexit et descripsit J. D. Dana. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.

South America: Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1846.

Thompson, John Vaughan. 1830. Memoir IV. On the cirripedes or barnacles; demonstrating their deceptive character; the extraordinary metamorphosis they undergo, and the class of animals to which they indisputably belong. In Zoological researches, and illustrations; or, natural history of nondescript or imperfectly known animals. 6 vols. Cork. 1828-34. Facsimile reprint. London:

Volcanic islands: Geological observations on the volcanic islands, visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle, together with some brief notices on the geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. Being the second part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN, during the years 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1844.


Comments on JDD’s book [Geology (1849)]. Is sending copies of various geological papers. Their agreements and differences on coral reefs, volcanic geology, denudation, and subsidence.

Comments on Robert Chambers’ book [Ancient sea-margins (1848)].

Asks to borrow cirripede specimens.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
James Dwight Dana
Sent from
Source of text
Yale University Library: Manuscripts and Archives (Dana Family Papers (MS 164) Series 1, Box 2, folder 43)
Physical description
ALS 5pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1276,” accessed on 22 March 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 4