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Darwin Correspondence Project

From V. O. Kovalevsky   18 January [1882]1

Paris, 11 Rue de la Tour | des Dames

18 January

Dear Sir!

I have received Your very kind letter yesterday, and I and my wife are quite ashamed of being spoken in such kind terms by the greatest of living naturalists.—2

The trifle I send You is a copy from a Russian genre-picture by Swertchkoff and is simply gilt and oxydised silver, it was made by Sasikoff, who is a sort of Russian Elkington3

We had the intention of going to Cannes for three weeks for a holiday “basking in the sun” as my brother with all his children is staying this winter in Villafranca, but unhappily a telegram from Moscow stopped us, and we remain a certain time in Paris, till all is clear ahead and we may have our minds at rest.—4

I began here, at the Institut, a party move to get some Darwinians in, and hope to succeed,—5 one of these days I will make a public communication on some very strange and new fossil mammal from the Eocene, but this fossil beast is only a pretense to admister some good blows to the mammals of the Instituts,—as no Frenchman dares to do it, so some of my friends have put me on this business.6

I hope to return once more to London and see the Electrical Exibition,7 in this case, if convenient, I will call upon You at Down.

I have a great service to beg of You,— is it not possible to have, for a few day the paper of Your son, George about the Moon,8 I could not get it in London as it is out of print,— if Your son has some spare copies I will feel most obliged if he may spare one for me.

My wife presents You her best compliments, and believe me | Dear Sir | Your most truly | W. Kowalevsky

CD annotations

2.1 copy] underl pencil
2.1 Russian … Swertchkoff] underl pencil
End of letter: ‘A New Year gift 1882 from the palæontologist W. Kowalevsky’ pencil


The year is established by reference to the electrical exhibition (see n. 7, below).
CD’s letter has not been found. He had last met Kovalevsky and his wife, Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya, in London in December 1880 (see Correspondence vol. 29, letter to V. O. Kovalevsky, 1 and 6 January 1881).
See Correspondence vol. 29, letter from V. O. Kovalevsky, 30 December 1881. Nikolai Yegorovich Sverchkov was best known for his paintings of horses and horse and carriage scenes. Sazikov was a Russian jewellery firm. George Richards Elkington was a leading manufacturer of silver plate.
Kovalevsky’s brother was Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky. Alexander’s wife was Tatiana Kirillovna Semenova, whom he married in 1867, and their children were Vera, Vladimir, and Lidia. V. O. Kovalevsky was an associate professor at Moscow University. Villefranche-sur-Mer is on the French Riviera near Nice; a research laboratory was established there in 1882 (see letter from Jules Barrois, 6 March [1882] and n. 3).
CD’s views remained highly controversial among French scientists, especially within the Institut de France; although he had been elected a corresponding member of the botanical section in 1878, he had failed to be elected to the zoological section six times (see Corsi and Weindling 1985 and Stebbins 1988).
Kovalevsky published eight monographs on the palaeontology of ungulates showing their adaptation to their environment (see Vucinich 1988, pp. 62–8). He had previously commented on the opposition to Darwinism in France in his letter of 19 August [1871] (Correspondence vol. 19).
The International Electric Exhibition opened on 25 February 1882 at the Crystal Palace in London (The Times, 24 February 1881, p. 8).
The paper was probably G. H. Darwin 1879b; Sofia Kovalevskaya was interested in George Howard Darwin’s work on the rotation of elastic bodies (see Correspondence vol. 28, letter to G. H. Darwin, 9 December [1880] and n. 3).


Corsi, Pietro and Weindling, Paul J. 1985. Darwinism in Germany, France and Italy. In The Darwinian heritage, edited by David Kohn. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press in association with Nova Pacifica (Wellington, NZ).

Darwin, George Howard. 1879b. On the secular changes in the elements of the orbit of a satellite revolving about a tidally distorted planet. [Read 18 December 1879.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 171 (1880): 713–891.

Stebbins, Robert E. 1988. France. In The comparative reception of Darwinism, edited by Thomas F. Glick. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Vucinich, Alexander. 1988. Darwin in Russian thought. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Trying to get some Darwinians into the Institut de France.

Letter details

Letter no.
Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (Владимир Онуфриевич Ковалевский)
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 169: 100
Physical description
ALS 4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13624,” accessed on 13 September 2023,