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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Charles Lyell   [8 June 1850]

Down Farnborough | Kent


My dear Lyell

I have myself seen ripple mark only 6 to 10 feet below low-water mark on coast of Australia: in my Volcanic Isd Book, I give reference on subject at p 1341 —on authority of Mr Siau2 who describes broad ripples at depth of 60 to 70 feet.— You will see by last sentence that I suspect that width of ripples bears relation to depths,3 but how to show this I know not:—it wd be interesting if it could be done.— Many thanks for Theodore Parker,4 which I found at my Brother’s.5 Emma sends many thanks to Lady Lyell for her letter full of news to us.

We are not in the least surprised at her not recognizing Annie, considering how little likely it was that she should be there.—6 I am very glad that you approved of my Paper.—7

Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin

Agassiz has sent me his Lake Superior Book,8 —is not that an immense Honour! [From Emma Darwin to M. E. Lyell]

My dear Mary

I suppose the Hipp. causes a great run upon the gardens9 for Eras. asked Ch. to send him some tickets & therefore these are all he has left which he is very glad you will make use of as we are sure not to want them. We set out for Malvern on Tuesday & shall stay about a week.10 Many thanks for your kind note. yours affectly | E. D. I am very glad your sister Kath. is going on comfortably.11


In the third edition of the Elements, renamed A manual of elementary geology (C. Lyell 1851), Lyell discussed ripple-marks for the first time. Their presence in sandstone strata was taken to be evidence of a former beach (p. 17). In his discussion Lyell referred to CD’s Volcanic islands, p. 134, for evidence of exceptions to the rule that ripple-marks occur only in shallow water.
The sentence reads: ‘One may, therefore, be allowed to suspect, from the appearances just mentioned in the New Red sandstone, that at greater depths, the bed of the ocean is heaped up during gales into great ripple-like furrows and depressions, which are afterwards cut off by the currents during more tranquil weather, and again furrowed during gales’ (Volcanic islands, p. 134).
Possibly Theodore Parker’s A letter to the people of the United States touching the matter of slavery (Parker 1848) or one of his anti-slavery articles of 1847–50 in the Massachusetts Quarterly Review (DAB).
CD recorded his trip to London in his Account Book (Down House MS) entry for 6 June 1850.
Anne Elizabeth Darwin, then nine years old. Emma Darwin’s diary records that, on 25 May, ‘Miss T[horley] & Annie went to town’, but does not detail the purpose of the trip.
‘On British fossil Lepadidae’, read 5 June 1850 at the Geological Society, Collected papers 1: 251–2.
Agassiz 1850. CD’s annotated presentation copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL. CD recorded it in his list of books read on 16 August 1850 (DAR 119; Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix IV).
Emma’s note refers to the hippopotamus recently acquired by the Zoological Society for their gardens, and a great attraction. Gideon Algernon Mantell recorded on 1 June 1850: ‘to the Zoological Gardens in the Regent’s Park to see the live Hippopotamus just arrived. He is a fine lively young animal, and was gambolling in the water with great glee. His Arab keeper in attendance.’ (Curwen ed. 1940, p. 254).
CD recorded in his ‘Journal’ (Correspondence vol. 4, Appendix I) a stay at Malvern from 11 to 18 June 1850.
Katharine Murray Lyell, who was expecting her first child; Leonard Lyell was born on 21 October 1850.


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

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DAB: Dictionary of American biography. Under the auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies. 20 vols., index, and 10 supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons; Simon & Schuster Macmillan. London: Oxford University Press; Humphrey Milford. 1928–95.

Parker, Theodore. 1848. A letter to the people of the United States touching the matter of slavery. Boston.

Siau. 1841. On the action of waves at great depths. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal 31: 245–6.

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.


Discusses depths at which ripple-marks appear on sea-floor.

Personal and social comment.

Mentions receiving Agassiz’s Lake Superior [1850].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Charles Lyell, 1st baronet
Sent from
Source of text
American Philosophical Society (Mss.B.D25.94)
Physical description
ALS 3pp, encl 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1337,” accessed on 1 June 2023,

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