skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To G. R. Waterhouse   4 March [1855]

Down Farnborough Kent

March 4th.—

My dear Waterhouse

I heartily wish your prophecy could be verified. But I have again looked over every single page (not sheet) & positively text is missing.—1 I opened the parcel with my own hands; the Bundle of maps has never been moved from one table in my study, except when I have been studying them in my own, the same room: and it is physically impossible it cd. have been mislaid in this House. Have you not lent it some one? or could it have got amongst maps?

I most truly hope that you will succeed in getting a copy;2 & thank you very much for your kind offer of giving me one, if you get several.—

I am very sorry for your troubles about the reversed cones of Mammalia3 &c &c but I am such a brute that I actually hope & expect to live to see Carboniferous, & perhaps Silurian, Mammifers!4

Most truly yours | C. Darwin

I shall remember your explanation of your Province with no Rodents,5 whenever I get the Text; but this very remark of yours did catch my attention when looking at the maps & text in the Athenæum Club; & I was then surprised at it.—

I have several questions to ask you whenever we meet.— I much enjoyed what little we say of each other in London.—


Waterhouse’s article on ‘Mammiferous animals: orders Rodentia and Ruminantia’ in the section on ‘Zoological Geography’ for Alexander Keith Johnston’s new edition of The physical atlas of natural phenomena (A. K. Johnston ed. 1856). CD’s copy of the text of Waterhouse’s article is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. CD’s notes on the earlier edition (A. K. Johnston ed. 1848) are in DAR 72: 32–56 and include notes on Waterhouse’s text (ff. 38–43).
Probably a copy of A. K. Johnston ed. 1856.
CD refers to the form of the cusps on mammalian teeth. Teeth were the main evidence for classifying fossil vertebrates: indicating affinities to living forms and providing information on diet, and hence lifestyle and morphology. The unusual dentition of the earliest mammals had prompted much debate about their taxonomic status (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 25 August 1854, n. 11, and letter to J. D. Hooker, 7 September [1854], n. 8).
Opinions on the antiquity of mammals were based on the disputed evidence of the earliest fossils (see n. 3, above). The earliest mammalian remains known were isolated fossils from the Stonesfield Oolitic deposits, which were much more recent than the the Silurian and Carboniferous formations. CD, in seeking a long period over which natural selection could have acted to produce the existing diversity of forms, found himself in line with anti-progressionists, most notably Charles Lyell, who believed ancient mammals would undermine any notion of the progressive development of animal types over time.
In discussing the geographical distribution of rodents, Waterhouse had stated that Polynesian islands comprised a zoological province in which there were no rodents, ‘at least none but such as there is good reason to believe have been introduced by shipping’ (A. K. Johnston ed. 1850, p. 93). In the revised edition (A. K. Johnston ed. 1856, p. 91) the remarks are unaltered.


A page of [unspecified] text is missing from a parcel of material received from GRW.

CD "hopes and expects to live to see Carboniferous, & perhaps even Silurian, mammifers!"

Has several questions to ask whenever they meet.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
George Robert Waterhouse
Sent from
Source of text
Natural History Museum, Library and Archives (Archives DF PAL/100/7/29)
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1641,” accessed on 28 February 2024,

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