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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. E. Darwin   30 January [1881]1

Ridgemount, | Basset, | Southampton.

Jany 30

My dear Father,

I am sorry that you have had so much writing to do about the Geolog: Soc: but I hope it is over now.2 I am very glad to hear that you have been able to make up your mind as to the rounding of the particles from Beaulieu, it is a very curious thing and proves what an effect worms must have to preparing supplies of mould.3 I mean to look at the castings that are white on St Catherines hill, and see if the particles of chalk are rounded. I should have thought there was nothing definite enough made out as to St Catherines or Teg Down to make mention of.4 I think what Geo. says about the paths being very short if they were horizontal instead of following the slope of the valley is quite true about the small slope I examined, when I go again I will remember the point as to the larger space covered with ledges.5

The Brokers cannot get hold of any Southampton Dock Deb: Stock yet, what do you say to the preference 5 per cent stock at 110 or so—the ordinary pays 4 percent—& perhaps might be bought—or I will look out something else.6 We were greatly amused by Romanes’ article in Nature on Butler, it is very clever and treats Butler with proper contempt; and Krause’s letter is very satisfactory.7 There need be no more worry about such vermin whatever he says or does.

I am very glad old Geo. got off, it was plucky of him to start;8 here the snow except in the ditches is almost all washed away by the rain; but no doubt you have plenty in the lanes still.

Sara9 & I were greatly struck with Brights’ & Gladstone’s speeches,10 I wonder what deadly poison R & Hen.11 will manage to find in them. I hear that the guards are doubled at the Ordnance Office & Netley Hospital for fear of the Fenians & dynamite.12

Goodbye dear Father I ought to have written before but I have been a slave for last 8 days on a Relief Comee. for the distress in the Town.13

Sara sends her best love, she is pretty well, but delighted that it no longer necessary to huddle over the fire.

We shall be glad to hear that Bessy14 thinks of coming soon

Your affect son | W E Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter to W. E. Darwin, 25 January 1881.
CD had collected signatures for a certificate for William’s application for membership of the Geological Society of London (see letter to W. E. Darwin, 25 January 1881). William was elected on 9 March 1881 (Proceedings of the Geological Society of London 37 (1880–1): 236).
William had suggested buying shares in the Southampton Dock Company (see letter from W. E. Darwin, 1 January [1881], and letter to W. E. Darwin, 3 January [1881]).
George John Romanes’s review of Samuel Butler’s Unconscious memory (Butler 1880) was published in Nature, 27 January 1881, pp. 285–7; Ernst Krause’s reply to Butler was published in the same issue, p. 288.
George had taken a steamer from Dartmouth to Madeira (letter to W. E. Darwin, 25 January 1881).
John Bright was a member of the Cabinet in William Ewart Gladstone’s ministry; both men spoke in the House of Commons in favour of the Protection of Persons and Property Bill, which involved the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland to combat ‘agrarian crime’ and the ‘violence and intimidation’ of the Irish Land League. Extracts from Bright’s and Gladstone’s speeches were published in The Times, 29 January 1881, p. 9.
The Ordnance Survey Office was in Southampton; Netley Hospital was a large military hospital near Southampton. On the Fenian dynamite campaigns, see Kenna 2011.
On the extreme cold and heavy snow in Britain during the third week of January, see, for example, The Times, 17 January 1881, p. 12, and 24 January 1881, p. 10. William served on a relief committee in Southampton (Southampton Herald, 22 January 1881, p. 4).


Butler, Samuel. 1880. Unconscious memory: a comparison between the theory of Dr. Ewald Hering, … and the ‘Philosophy of the unconscious’ of Dr. Edward von Hartmann. London: David Bogue.

Kenna, Shane. 2011. The Fenian dynamite campaign and the Irish American impetus for dynamite terror, 1881–1885. Inquiries 3: 1.


Discusses his election to the Geological Society, worm researches, GHD’s travels, investments,G J Romanes on Samuel Butler, the snow, politics.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Erasmus Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Cornford Family Papers (DAR 275: 87)
Physical description
ALS 6pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13033F,” accessed on 1 April 2023,