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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Francis Darwin   20 May 1881

Down, | Beckenham, Kent. | (Railway Station | Orpington. S.E.R.)

May 20 1881

My dear F.

Bernard is quite jolly: as Bessy is away & mother has been headachy & is in bed to day, the house is very dull for him, but I never in all my life saw so contented a little man, for he seems quite happy.— One great amusement is scheming about an army with elephants, camels, cannons—Bombs & God knows what, to besiege Strasburg, until at last Dr. De Bary is compelled to say “Mr. Dada you must go home at once”.—1

I have been working the whole of this morning at your corrections of Ch., II. They are all excellent, & all but one accepted.—2 You make everything as clear as daylight, but it distresses me that you shd. have such labour.— I think that I could find the pencil crosses; but you certainly save me all trouble.— I hope Ch. III. despatched yesterday will not be so troublesome; anyhow it is shorter.—

There is a roll of old & very dirty M.S. from the Linnean Socy. come addressed to you, all about the machine—clinostat—with the old drawings—3 I suppose that you do not want it, but it shall be preserved.—

I am very tired—so good Bye. | C. Darwin


Bernard Darwin was Francis’s son; Elizabeth Darwin was Francis’s sister, and lived at Down House. Francis was working in the laboratory of Anton de Bary in Straßburg (Strasbourg).
CD and Francis had recently begun correcting proof-sheets for Earthworms (see letter from Francis Darwin, 14 May 1881).
The manuscript about the clinostat (klinostat; a rotating plant-holder used to test the influence of gravity) has not been identified. Horace Darwin had built a version of the apparatus that Francis used in his experimental work; it is described in detail and with several diagrams in F. Darwin 1880a, pp. 449–55. See also A. Secord 2019, pp. 103–4.


Darwin, Francis. 1880a. On the power possessed by leaves of placing themselves at right angles to the direction of incident light. [Read 16 December 1880.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 18 (1881): 420–55.

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

Secord, Anne. 2019. Specimens of observation: Edward Hobson’s Musci Britannici. In The Whipple Museum of the History of Science: objects and investigations, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of R. S. Whipple’s gift to the University of Cambridge, edited by Joshua Nall et al. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Thanks FD for his excellent corrections [to MS of Earthworms].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Francis Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 211: 74
Physical description
ALS 3pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13169,” accessed on 19 April 2024,