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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Anthony Rich   4 February 1882

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

Feb. 4th. 1882

My dear Mr Rich

It is always a pleasure to me to receive a letter from you. I am very sorry to hear that you have been more troubled than usual with your old complaint.1 Anyone who looked at you would think that you had passed through life with few evils, & yet you have had an unusual amount of suffering. As a turnkey remarked in one of Dickens’ novels “Life is a rum thing”.2 As for myself I have been better than usual until about a fortnight ago, when I had a cough, & this pulled me down & made me miserable to a strange degree; but my dear old wife insisted on my taking Quinine, & though I have very little faith in medicine, this, I think, has done me much good.3 Well we are both so old that we must expect some troubles: I shall be 73 on Feb. 12th.

I have been glad to hear about the pine-leaves & you are the first man who has confirmed my account that they are drawn in by the base with a very few exceptions.4 With respect to your Wandsworth case I think that if I had heard of it, before publishing, I would have said nothing about the ledges; for the Grisedale case, mentioned in my book & observed whilst I was correcting the proof-sheets, made me feel rather doubtful. Yet the Corniche case shows the worms at least aid in making the ledges. Nevertheless I wish I had said nothing about the confounded ledges.5 The success of this worm-book has been almost laughable. I have, however, been plagued with an endless stream of letters on the subject; most of them very foolish & enthusiastic, but some containing good fact, which I have used in correcting yesterday the “Sixth Thousandth”.6

Your friend George’s work about the viscous state of the earth & tides & the moon has lately been attracting much attention, & all the great judges think highly of the work.7 He intends to try for the Plumian Professorship of Mathematicks & Nat. Philosophy at Cambridge, which is a good & honourable post of about 800£ a year. I think that he will get it, when Challis is dead & he is very near his end; but G. says he does not care much about it, as it will interfere with his own original work.8 He has all the great men Sir W. Thompson, Adams, Stokes &c on his side.—9 He has lately been chief examiner for the mathematical Tripos, which was tremendous work; & the day before yesterday he started from Southampton for a 5 weeks tour to Jamaica for complete rest to see the Blue Mountains & escape the rigour of the early spring.10 I believe that George will some day be a great scientific swell.

The war-office has just offered Leonard a post in the Government survey at Southampton & very civilly told him to go down & inspect the place & accept or not as he liked. So he went down, but has decided that it wd not be worth his while to accept, as it wd. entail his giving up his expedition (on which he had been ordered) to Queensland in Australia to observe the Transit of Venus.11

Dear old William at Southampton has not been very well, but is now better. He has had too much work—a willing horse is always overworked—& all the arrangements for receiving the Brit. Assoc. there this summer have been thrown on his shoulders, other idle men having shirked the work.—12 But good Heavens, what a deal I have written about my sons. I have had some hard work this autumn with the microscope; but this is over, & I have only to write out two papers for Linnean Society.—13 We have had a good many visitors; but none who wd have interested you, except probably Mrs. Ritchie, the daughter of Thackeray, who is a most amusing & pleasant person.—14

I have not seen Huxley for some time, but my wife heard this morning from Mrs. Huxley, who wrote from her bed, with a bad account of herself & of several of her children; but none I hope are at all dangerously ill.15 Farewell my kind good friend— Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin

Many thanks about the picture, which if I survive you & this I do not expect, shall be hung in my study as a perpetual memento of you.—16


See letter from Anthony Rich, 1 February 1882. Rich had described his ailment as inducing an ‘inertness of mind’.
CD probably misremembered a statement by the character Mr Roker, the warder at Fleet prison, in Charles Dickens’s Pickwick papers (Dickens 1837, p. 447), ‘What a rum thing time is, ain’t it, Noddy?’
At this time, quinine was a fairly common ingredient in home remedies such as Warburg’s tincture.
In his letter of 1 February 1882, Rich had described earth slippage on slopes near Wandsworth Common and speculated that the cause might not be worm-related. CD had described a case of slippage in the Corniche Road, Nice, in which worm activity seemed to be involved (see Earthworms, pp. 276–8), and another in Grisedale, Westmorland, in which no such activity was present (ibid., pp. 281–3).
A fifth thousand of Earthworms with several corrections had been published in December 1881. A sixth thousand, with corrections, was published in 1882; a seventh thousand, corrected by Francis Darwin, also appeared in 1882 (Earthworms (1882)).
George Howard Darwin had been praised as the ‘discoverer of tidal evolution’ by Robert Stawell Ball in a lecture, the text of which appeared in Nature, 24 November 1881 (Ball 1881, p. 81; see also Correspondence vol. 29, letter to G. H. Darwin, 8 June [1881]). For George’s recent work on the viscous state of the earth and tides, see, for example, G. H. Darwin 1880 and G. H. Darwin 1881a.
James Challis was Plumian Professor of astronomy and experimental philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Although he was reported to be near death in November 1881, Challis did not die until December 1882 (ODNB; see Correspondence vol. 29, letter from G. H. Darwin, 17 November 1881).
The written examinations of the mathematical tripos took place over several days, beginning on the first Tuesday after 30 December, which in 1882 was 3 January; George was an additional examiner (Cambridge University Reporter, 24 May 1881, p. 589; Cambridge University calendar 1882). George arrived in Jamaica on 15 February 1882 (letter from Emma Darwin to G. H. Darwin, [20 February 1882] (DAR 210.3: 40)). The Blue Mountains are the longest mountain range in Jamaica, extending almost thirty miles on the eastern part of the island.
Leonard Darwin took part in the expedition to observe the transit of Venus on 5 December 1882 from the station at Jimbour, on the Darling Downs in Queensland, Australia. On the day, clouds prevented the team from making any observations. For Leonard, it was the second time he was at a location where the transit could not be observed due to cloudy conditions; in 1874, he had been photographer to the expedition to New Zealand (see Airy ed. 1881, p. 484; see also Correspondence vol. 22). A report on all the British expeditions was published in Nature, 21 December 1882, pp. 177–9.
William Erasmus Darwin. The British Association for the Advancement of Science held their annual meeting for 1882 in Southampton, from 23 to 30 August.
Anne Isabella Ritchie, the daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, had visited Down with her husband, Richmond Thackeray Willoughby Ritchie, from 21 to 23 January 1882 (Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
The picture was one drawn by Rich, but no further details have been found (see letter from Anthony Rich, 1 February 1882 and n. 6).


‘Action of carbonate of ammonia on chlorophyll’: The action of carbonate of ammonia on chlorophyll-bodies. By Charles Darwin. [Read 6 March 1882.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 19: 262–84.

‘Action of carbonate of ammonia on roots’: The action of carbonate of ammonia on the roots of certain plants. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 March 1882.] Journal of the Linnean Society of London (Botany) 19: 239–61.

Airy, George Biddell, ed. 1881. Account of observations of the transit of Venus, 1874, December 8: made under the authority of the British government: and of the reduction of the observations. [London]: H.M. Stationery Office, under the authority of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury.

Ball, Robert Stawell. 1881. A glimpse through the corridors of time. Nature, 24 November 1881, pp. 79–84, 1 December 1881, pp. 103–7.

Cambridge University calendar: The Cambridge University calendar. Cambridge: W. Page [and others]. 1796–1950.

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

Darwin, George Howard. 1880. On the analytical expressions which give the history of a fluid planet of small viscosity, attended by a single satellite. [Read 18 March 1880.] Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 30 (1879–80): 255–78.

Darwin, George Howard. 1881a. On the tidal friction of a planet attended by several satellites, and on the evolution of the solar system. [Read 20 January 1881.] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 172: 491–535.

Dickens, Charles. 1837. The posthumous papers of the Pickwick Club. London: Chapman and Hall.

Earthworms (1882): The formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms: with observations on their habits. By Charles Darwin. Seventh thousand (corrected by Francis Darwin). London: John Murray. 1882.

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

ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


Exchanges news on health.

Thanks AR for his worm observations.

George Darwin’s work is attracting attention; he intends to try for Plumian Professorship at Cambridge. Adds other news of George and of CD’s sons Leonard and William.

CD has finished his microscopic work and has only to write up two papers for the Linnean Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Anthony Rich
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 92: A44–7
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 13659,” accessed on 13 July 2024,