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Darwin Correspondence Project

To W. E. Darwin   19 February [1881]1

My dear W.

It is very good of you to take so much trouble about the Cottages.2 & shall be extremely glad to put the whole affair in your hands.— I have signed & despatched the note to Mr Higgins.—3

Uncle Ras4 had got considerably better, but still in bed & Etty5 found him quite cheerful & talkative, but since then he has had a little return of fever & cannot eat much & I do not like this.

The Doctor maintained he was not much amiss— We go up next Thursday, so I shall then see him.—6 The Galtons & W. Marshall are coming here this evening & Margaret Shaen is here.—7

I have just worked in your Rhododendron case with good effect, & my experiments with paper triangles are progressing well. I feel almost sure that worms though blind can judge by touch accurately of the shape of a new object & drag it into their burrows in the best way & this must be intelligence & very surprising the whole case is to me.8

Your affect. Father | C. Darwin

Feb 19th Down.


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from W. E. Darwin, 18 February 1881.
The note to John Higgins has not been found.
Emma Darwin and CD travelled to London on Thursday 24 February; they stayed there until 3 March (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).
Margaret Shaen was at Down on 17 February (letter from Emma Darwin to H. E. Darwin, 17 February 1881 (DAR 219.9: 258)). She probably left on 22 February. Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242) records that Shaen stayed for five days, but the entries appear to be made one week out and incorrectly give the days as 10 to 15 February; Emma also incorrectly recorded that Francis Galton and William Cecil Marshall came to dinner on Saturday 12 February instead of Saturday 19 February. Both Galton and Marshall were still at Down on 20 February; Louisa Jane Galton, Galton’s wife, did not visit owing to a bilious attack (letter from Elizabeth Darwin to G. H. Darwin, 20 February [1881] (DAR 251: 1413)).
See letter from WE. Darwin, 6 February 1881 and n. 1. CD gave the conclusions he drew from these experiments in Earthworms, pp. 82–93.


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


Uncle Erasmus is ill.

Thanks WED for his trouble about the cottages.

He has signed the note to Higgins.

CD has used WED’s Rhododendron case in Earthworms [p. 69].

Is using paper triangles in experiments on intelligence of worms.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
William Erasmus Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
Houghton Library, Harvard University (Autograph File, D)
Physical description
ALS 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13058,” accessed on 30 November 2023,