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Darwin Correspondence Project

To John Price1   26 [August 1854]2

Down, Farnborough, Kent


My dear Price

I am much obliged for your note. The oil-cloth with Bal. crenatus is very curious, and I would have given a guinea for the specimen 6 weeks ago, before my 2nd vol. was printed off, for it demonstrates what I have printed as my belief, that in Coronula and the Turtle-barnacles,3 the young shell first simply indents, though surprisingly deeply, (by the gradual growth of the basal edges of the shell), the supporting surface, which at last cracks from being stretched so much, and then the shell continuing to grow outwards and downwards turns up a flap all round. Unfortunately I doubted whether the pressure did not in the case of living supporting animals check the formation of the epidermis, which from seeing your specimen, I believe now to be a superfluous belief.4 On dissolving by acid one of your shells, whilst attached in the very middle, under the basal plate, the same colours, as those all round on the oil-cloth can be seen; and this is the fact which so much interests me. I shall deposit the specimen in the British Museum.

I am extremely sorry to hear of the illness of your children: those fevers are terrible. We had heard how kind you had been to Miss Meek and her sister,5 for which, I am sure, all their friends must feel much obliged to you. I shall come to Liverpool, if I keep well, but my health is extremely fickle:6 I shall have much pleasure in seeing you again.

Till we meet (if I come) believe me yours sincerely | C. Darwin.

P.S. Do take the trouble to read what I have said on the sexual relations of Ibla and Scalpellum;7 the case appears to me very curious.

Would you take the trouble sometime to tell me whether you could help me with the great Balani? I should not want them for 5 or 6 months.8

As I live so retired in the country I am not likely to hear of anyone wanting your House.


Price and CD had been friends and correspondents since their Shrewsbury School days. During CD’s work on Cirripedia, Price had helped him by correcting the Latin descriptions of the species. CD’s Account book (Down House MS) has several entries of payments to Price.
Dated by CD’s reference to planning to visit Liverpool (see n. 6, below) and to having his second volume (Living Cirripedia (1854)) ‘printed off’. CD recorded completing the final revision of the proofs on 15 July 1854 (‘Journal’; Correspondence vol. 5, Appendix I).
Species of the genus Coronula attach themselves to whales; those of Chelonobia and Platylepas are generally found embedded in the carapaces of turtles. CD explained the method of attachment of these genera in his descriptions in Living Cirripedia (1854): 135–43, 145–6, and 390–2. Because these parasites were frequently found to be deeply embedded in the skin or carapace of their hosts, some naturalists had supposed they possessed a burrowing mechanism. CD could detect no suitable structure for burrowing in the shell of Coronula, but for some time he entertained the possibility that the pupa might be able to bury itself deeply. Upon examining a number of specimens still attached to their host, however, he realised ‘that the attachment is as much owing to the upward growth of the whale’s skin, as to the downward growth of the Coronula.’ (Living Cirripedia (1854): 411–12).
See the discussion of the attachment of Chelonobia caretta (a syonym of Chelonibia caretta) in Living Cirripedia (1854): 390–2.
There is a payment of £3 to Miss Meek recorded on 16 November 1854 in CD’s Account book (Down House MS). Mary Ann Meek lived with her sister, Margaret Grantham.
The British Association for the Advancement of Science was to meet in Liverpool during the last week in September. CD did not attend the meeting.
See Living Cirripedia (1851): 281–93, where CD summarised the nature and relations of the males and complemental males of Ibla and Scalpellum.
CD may have wanted Price to write the Latin descriptions of specimens he was presenting to the British Museum. Balanus psittacus, found off the South American coast, was referred to in Living Cirripedia (1854) as the ‘great Balani’. It was described as ‘much the largest known species of the genus’ and was highly esteemed by inhabitants of these regions ‘as a delicious article of food’. (Living Cirripedia (1854): 208, 209).


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

Living Cirripedia (1851): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Lepadidæ; or, pedunculated cirripedes. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1851.

Living Cirripedia (1854): A monograph of the sub-class Cirripedia, with figures of all the species. The Balanidæ (or sessile cirripedes); the Verrucidæ, etc. By Charles Darwin. London: Ray Society. 1854.


Discusses specimen of Balanus crenatus.

Sorry JP’s children are ill.

Will come to Liverpool if well [for meeting of BAAS].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
John Price
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 272
Physical description
C 2pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1582,” accessed on 21 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 5