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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   26 November [1880]1

Ridgemount, | Basset, | Southampton.

Nov 26

My dear Father,

I have today looked both here and at Rogers’s at the worm heap near the Robinias.2

I have examined 7 to 9 in all. Owing to the wet they are battered and decayed, and the leaves broken and doubled in in some cases, and some of the leaves seemed to have been pulled in sideways. On the whole I think there were decidedly more drawn in by the tips of the leaves than by the stalk end; in 3 cases if not in 4 almost all the leaves were drawn down point first, but in these cases there were also some broken bits in a sideways position or crumpled, so that I could not say what would be the proportion in any one heap; but I certainly saw none where any large proportion of the leaves had been drawn in stalk downwards, in several cases they seemed to be almost equally divided. A month or so ago one could have decided the proportion fairly well.

I looked at all I could find but no doubt I could find more if you would like me to look again.

I return George’s note which is interesting, and I should like to hear if he makes out the law of the distances from crest to crest of the ripples.3 Please thank mother for her letter. We shall be a very small Christmas party and I fear we shall not have Horace & Ida.4

There was a long notice in the Standard yesterday, it is not worth looking at. It opened in a civil but condescending tone. I shall like to see Dr Hooker’s when at Down—.5

Your affect son | W E. Darwin

I find Sara has returned George6

CD annotations

4.1 I return … Down— 5.3] crossed blue ink


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, 23 [November 1880].
In his letter of 23 [November 1880], CD had asked William to observe how worms drew the petioles of the leaves of Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust or false acacia) into the mouths of their burrows in his own garden and William Henry Rogers’s garden.
See letter from G. H. Darwin, 19 November 1880; George Howard Darwin’s paper ‘On the formation of ripple-mark in sand’ discussed the distance between crests and the factors that affected wavelength (G. H. Darwin 1883, pp. 40–1).
The letter from Emma Darwin to William has not been found. Both Horace and Ida Darwin and William and Sara Darwin were at Down for Christmas 1880 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
A review of Movement in plants appeared in the Standard, 25 November 1880, p. 2. In CD’s letter to William of 23 [November 1880], CD described Hooker’s letter about receiving a copy of Movement in plants as ‘very buttery’ (letter from J. D. Hooker, 22 November 1880).
Sara Darwin; see n. 4, above.


Darwin, George Howard. 1883. On the formation of ripple-mark in sand. [Read 22 November 1883.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 36 (1883–4): 18–43.

Movement in plants: The power of movement in plants. By Charles Darwin. Assisted by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1880.


Observations on worms’ pulling leaves into their burrows.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 162: 110
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 12861,” accessed on 4 June 2023,